Putting Milk In First Makes Tea Taste Better, Scientists Say

by : Lucy Connolly on : 19 Sep 2020 15:02
Putting Milk In First Makes Tea Taste Better, Scientists SayPA Images/Pexels

It’s an age-old debate, and one that’s controversial at best and contentious at worst: should milk go in a cup of tea first or last?

Now, I’ll be honest with you. Up until people started talking about it, I’d never even considered putting milk in the cup first. Why would I? I’m not some alien creature from Mars.


You don’t put the milk in first with anything else, so why should it be any different with tea? I mean, come on. Could you even imagine putting your Special K in the bowl, milk already sitting there? No. Nope. Just no.

cup of teaPexels

Regardless, it seems I’m about to be proven wrong by science, with research suggesting putting milk into your cuppa first makes it taste better. I know, I’m not sure I believe it either.

In fact, scientists supposedly settled this debate more than 17 years ago, with Dr Stapley, a chemical engineer from Loughborough University, establishing once and for all that putting the milk in after the boiling water is incorrect.


Dr Stapley noted, as per The Guardian:

If milk is poured into hot tea, individual drops separate from the bulk of the milk, and come into contact with the high temperatures of the tea for enough time for significant denaturation – degradation – to occur.

This is much less likely to happen if hot water is added to the milk.

milk being poured into teaPexels

Dr Stapley didn’t stop there though, noting in his study that pouring the milk in last resulted in a less pleasant taste, a point that was later backed up by one keen Guardian reader who said they had conducted a similar tea experiment.


After alternating between cups of tea that milk had been poured into first vs. last, the reader concluded that ‘milk-first makes the tea taste slightly richer, whereas milk-last makes the tea taste slightly more bitter’.

So, it seems, everyone in the ‘milk last’ camp is wrong. Or are we? Even with the research, surely the measure of how something tastes is a subjective opinion, and not something that can be measured by science?

milk being poured into teaPexels

Either way, Brits remain overwhelmingly convinced that putting milk in their cuppas last is the right way to do things, not first. According to a YouGov poll on the matter, four times as many Brits (79%) prefer to add milk last compared to just 20% who are in the ‘milk first’ camp.


Notably, older generations are more likely to add the milk first – maybe they learned from their previous mistakes? – with 32% of those older than 65 doing so. In contrast, only 4% of 18-24 did the same.

I guess we’ll just never learn, hey?

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Lucy Connolly

A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).

Topics: Food, Food and Drink, Life, Now, Science, tea


The Guardian and 2 others
  1. The Guardian

    How to make a perfect cuppa: put milk in first

  2. The Guardian

    What is the difference, if any, between cups of tea prepared by putting in the tea or the milk first?

  3. YouGov

    Should milk go in a cup of tea first or last?