For those tea drinkers who like to mellow their strong black teas with a bit of milk or cream the cream pitcher is the unsung hero of their tea time. For those of you who like your tea straight, cream pitchers make great vases for the shorter stemmed flowers such as a nice bunch of violets.
Many tea drinkers ask me, “Why would you ever want to add milk or cream to your tea?” My standard reply is to protect my tummy from the tannins in the tea. Quite frankly, though, it tastes scrumptious, nice and smooth. Since warm milk tends to make people a bit sleepy, my guess is that milk in hot tea can counter the caffeine, which explains in part why I don’t get jittery. (Tea also contains L-Theanine which is said to have a calming effect, so combined with the milk, a nice cuppa helps me deal with the trials and tribulations of the day.)
Not all teas can take milk in them. Those black Orange Pekoe teas certainly can, as well as CTC Assams like in most Irish Breakfast blends. An Assam/Keemun blend like Scottish Breakfast is another good option, its ruby-colored liquid having just the right malty yet slightly smoky quality that stands up to milk.
Milk is also a very important part of some types of teas. Having a masala chai without milk just isn’t authentic. However, since it is best made on the stovetop like this, a creamer is hardly necessary.
Strong taste is definitely key to adding milk to your tea. Lighter, more delicate tasting teas are smothered by the milk with none of the tea flavor coming through. White teas like Pai Mu Tan (White Peony), green teas of any kind, and oolongs are total milk no-nos. (The exception is if you are having bubble tea which can be made with green teas, oolongs, or black teas.)
Lemon and milk together in tea definitely don’t mix. The milk will curdle. However, I find that some teas flavored with citrus such as the oil of bergamot in Earl Grey have such a low amount of citrus that the milk does fine.
There seems to be a strong cultural element to adding milk to tea. In the UK and other European countries, it is fairly common. Here in the U.S., not so much so. In India, most tea is made with milk, while in most Asian countries hot tea is drunk straight and milk being only used in bubble tea. (This is a general observation. I’m sure lots of people in these countries are exceptions to the rule.)
Such an important part of your tea time certainly deserves to be served from an appropriately styled vessel — a cream pitcher that reflects that status. Pouring from the plastic milk jug from the grocery store doesn’t quite seem to measure up. A cute creamer brings a smile and adds a touch of whimsy. A futuristic stainless steel creamer makes you feel ahead of your time while watching that white “moo juice” swirl in the dark amber to ruby red hued tea. A gentle dollop or two of milk or cream poured from a porcelain creamer will give your tea time that certain “something” worthy of your best table manners. Make your tea time sunny and blooming with a creamer decorated with sunflowers. Or a cute kitty shaped creamer is the cat’s whiskers, as the saying goes.
By the way, we don’t want to forget that most cream pitchers would be lost without their matching sugar bowls, sort of like this set or like me without my hubby. Enjoy!
© 2015 A.C. Cargill photos and text