Tea, milk & fine china

Discussion on virtually any teaware related item.

Tea, milk & fine china

Postby Proinsias » Sep 25th, '07, 15:48

Talking to my dad the other day he asked me if I knew why he put milk in before the tea. I said of course 'it's so the milk is not scalded by the hot tea'.

Apparently not, according to dad.

I mentioned using milk to water down the tea when tea was a rare commodity, if that makes any sense and was informed I was still wrong.

My Dad's theory is that people, in the UK, used to use the finest, thinest china to serve the tea and that boiling hot tea would crack the china hence the addition of milk. My reaction was that he was talking a whole load of expletives but before throwing my weight behind this I wondered if anyone here had any opinions sympathetic to my dad.

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Postby Space Samurai » Sep 25th, '07, 17:20

I've heard all three before.

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Postby scruffmcgruff » Sep 25th, '07, 17:28

I have also heard your father's explanation, but slightly differently. I heard that cheap china would crack more easily, instead of the more expensive higher quality stuff that the rich could afford.

I'm pretty sure your first reason is the most applicable today, though.

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Postby Mary R » Sep 25th, '07, 22:24

I've heard all three, and they all have merit...and I'll throw a fourth one out to you.

The addition of milk to tea also has a socioeconomic basis. Tea was a very expensive commodity back in the day, so to stretch their stock out, the less-affluent added some much-cheaper milk. I think I read this in Liquid Jade, but it was a mark of distinction to be served a milkless cup in many social circles.

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Postby Proinsias » Sep 25th, '07, 23:20

Cheers for the responses.

Scruff: I think you may have hot the nail on the head, the finest china my relatives used in the 50's & 60's may not have been particularly fine. I suspect that the word 'fine' was used to accentuate the china part and does not necessarily mean that they were exceptional in the medium.
I own a wafer thin gaiwan I subject to bubbly, excited water several times a week and it doesn't seem to mind.

Mary R: Yeah I see what you mean, I suppose not breaking the china was also a socioeconomic factor. That's kinda what I was getting at, unsuccessfully, when I mentioned 'watering down' tea with milk.

At least if one of my tea wares crack due to boiling water I can console myself with the fact that they weren't very good anyway. I reckon my life will be easier when I come up with a explanation for my clumsiness.

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Re: Tea, milk & fine china

Postby skywarrior » Sep 26th, '07, 02:44

Proinsias wrote:My Dad's theory is that people, in the UK, used to use the finest, thinest china to serve the tea and that boiling hot tea would crack the china hence the addition of milk. My reaction was that he was talking a whole load of expletives but before throwing my weight behind this I wondered if anyone here had any opinions sympathetic to my dad.


Actually I've heard this too. I think I read it in one of my tea books. So, your dad may be right.

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Postby Mary R » Sep 26th, '07, 08:50

Proinsias wrote: I suppose not breaking the china was also a socioeconomic factor.


Not as much as you'd think...you've got to have the bank to afford china before you can worry about breaking it. :)

Your teaware shouldn't break with the addition of hot water. Porcelain breakage in days of yore was usually due to flaws in the pieces rather than their delicacy. Porcelain's pretty hardy...chemists use it for their crucibles, which get more abuse than any teaware ever will.

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