Milk is one of the most common additions to tea. It is a simple and readily available ingredient that can take the tea drinking experience to new heights. Simple doesn't mean boring. Even though milk tea sounds like a standard beverage, there are many different options when adding milk to your tea.

Milk tea takes on different forms across the globe. Indian, Chinese, and British influences all affect the flavor of this beverage. Find out more about milk tea and discover the best types right here.

Looking for tea you can add a splash of milk to? Check out our collection of the best teas to pair with milk right here.

Why Milk?

Milk has long been a staple of the tea drinking experience. One of the reasons for this is that milk is readily available to most households — even thousands of years ago. Milk is most frequently added to black tea and other strong teas. That's because the creamy, silky taste and texture of milk helps to balance out strong or bitter tea tastes.

The addition of milk also opens up new flavor profiles. Milk contains binding agents that help mellow out astringent tastes and can also draw out other flavors such as citrus notes. Milk also adds a delightful texture that makes drinking tea feel more indulgent.

Types of Milk Tea

British Milk Tea: Tea With Milk

Milk tea from Great Britain is simple and straightforward. Black tea leaves are infused in hot water and then a splash of milk is added to the teacup. The most popular black tea varieties for British milk tea include Earl Grey, Lipton tea, and English Breakfast tea. In Britain, the term “milk tea” is not used. Instead, any blend of tea leaves and milk is called “tea with milk”.

Earl Grey is a black tea infused with bergamot orange rinds. The tea boasts a distinct earthy and citrus flavor that is perfect for afternoon tea. Breakfast black teas are also ideal as the strong flavor profile is balanced by the creamy texture of the cold milk. Some English tea drinkers use half and half in place of milk for a richer texture.

Indian Milk Tea: Masala Chai

Milk tea in India is a cultural staple that can be found from street markets to wedding receptions. The tea is an integral part of Indian life and reflects the tastes of society.

Masala chai is made by blending black tea leaves, spices, and milk. The black tea leaves are typically the Ceylon, Darjeeling, or Assam tea varieties. Traditional brews use buffalo milk, but modern options include both nut milks and dairy milk. The brew includes five staple spices including cloves, cardamom, black pepper, ginger, and cinnamon. Regional variations include other spices such as star anise and vanilla.

To brew masala chai, begin by steeping loose leaf tea in boiling water. While tea leaves are the traditional favorite, you can also make this tea using tea bags. Add your preferred milk to the tea and simmer for a few minutes. Strain the leaves using a fine mesh strainer and sweeten using simple syrup or brown sugar as needed.

Japanese Milk Tea: Hokkaido Milk Tea

Hokkaido milk tea, or royal milk tea, is made with black tea leaves and milk produced in the Hokkaido province. The tea is enjoyed with fresh milk in the Japanese region, but can also be enjoyed in other Asian and western countries by using evaporated milk from the region.

This milk tea is often sweetened with brown sugar or caramel syrup for a more indulgent flavor. The milk is added to the tea concentrate and allowed to simmer to maintain a high tea temperature. The beverage can be served immediately as a hot drink or cooled to create a tasty iced tea.

Japan is famous for its green teas and less known for black teas. While there are some Japanese black teas such as Benifuji, Izumi, and Hatsumomiji, most Hokkaido milk tea is made using Indian or Chinese black teas. That's because theses types of tea are more readily available.

Hong Kong Milk Tea

Hong Kong-style milk tea is made using milk and a blend of black tea leaves. Traditionally the black teas leaves included Pu Lei and Ceylon tea varieties. Today, the blends are more varied and can include British varieties as well. What sets this milk tea apart from the others is the use of a sackcloth bag in the brewing process.

Water is boiled and then tea leaves are added to simmer for 1 to 3 minutes. The tea leaves are placed in sackcloth bags, which are used to strain the tea. The tea leaves are repeatedly heated and removed to create a smooth tea with a deep brown hue. The nature of the cloth strainers lends names such as silk stocking tea and pantyhose tea to the concoction.

The tea is then flavored using either evaporated milk or condensed milk. The benefits of evaporated milk is that it allows the tea drinker to add as much sweetener as desired. Since condensed milk already contains sugar, the tea comes out sweeter naturally. Iced milk tea is served in tall glasses with ice cubes while the hot version is typically served in ceramic teacups.

Taiwanese Milk Tea: Boba Milk Tea

Boba tea is also known as bubble tea, pearl milk tea, and bubble milk tea. The beverage rose to fame from the night markets of Taiwan and can now be found in most corners of the globe.

The tea is made using black tea leaves, milk, and tapioca pearls. This milk tea is an iced tea served with ice cubes and an extra large straw that can accommodate the tapioca balls.

Boba can be flavored hundreds of different ways and is even served as a dessert with a dollop of ice cream. Popular flavors of this milk tea include taro, matcha, and lychee. Other options include citrus fruits, mango, and strawberry.

Thai Tea

Thai tea is a milk tea that blends milk with sugar and tea leaves. It can be consumed hot or as an iced tea. The beverage is popular across Southeast Asia. The tea uses Indian and Sri Lankan black teas such as Assam and Ceylon tea, which is then blended with cane sugar or brown sugar and thick, condensed milk. The tea is topped with coconut milk or whole milk just after it is served.

Thai tea can be played up with the addition of star anise or orange blossoms. It offers a rich, creamy taste that features a tropical accent thanks to the addition of coconut milk. The tea is also typically served with crushed ice rather than ice cubes.

Got Milk? Make Tea!

Most milk tea is made using black tea leaves, but you can mix things up and use green tea, herbal tea, or oolong tea instead. Keep in mind that mild flavored teas may be overwhelmed by the addition of milk. Stick to teas with pronounced flavor profiles to get the most out of this tea pairing.

You'll love how milk changes tea flavors and creates a new tea drinking experience. Experiment with milk tea recipes from across the globe and discover sweet tea and tea latte tastes that will rock your world. Pour yourself a cup of hot tea or iced tea and discover what milk can do today.