Herbata z mlekiem? Dlaczego?

Tea with milk? Why?

There's nothing more British than a cup of tea, right? Us Brits love a brew (I prefer black coffee myself) but I'd say pretty much every Brit I know, drinks their tea with milk. Some like their tea very strong with a lot of milk, others enjoy weak tea with just a drop; but pretty much all of us have at least some milk in our tea.

The Poles tend to find this all a bit odd though. Polish people are also partial to a cup of tea but drink their's black, with a slice of lemon. Some have sugar and others use honey. Either way - no milk!

Does the idea of tea with milk turn your stomach? Do you prefer a slice of lemon?

Every time my Mother-in-law comes to visit, I offer coffee or tea. If she answers that she would like tea, I always follow up with "z mlekiem"? (with milk) to which, every time, she turns her nose up as if I have asked her the most hideous question! It always makes me laugh.

Coffee is consumed in Poland with milk or without, so I am not sure why tea is not. Likewise, Brits often drink black coffee , but never black tea. There are a few stories about why British people have milk in their tea although I'm not sure how accurate they are. One states that in the 17th and 18th centuries the delicate china cups tea was served in would crack from the hot tea. Milk was added to cool the tea and therefore reduce the cracking of the china. Apparently, this is why many British folk add milk to their cups before pouring the tea! Allegedly, people would also use milk as it reduced the staining of their precious china.

Above: My parent's metal tea pot

Nowadays in the UK, tea is often made in a cup with a single tea bag and the milk is added at the end. It was traditionally (and often still is - even by my parents) brewed in a pot. Each cup already having a little milk inside, would then be filled with the tea from the pot. The pot of tea would often be placed back on the table with a 'tea cosy' (Think winter hat) covering it. The 'tea cosy' or 'tea warmer' is used to insulate the pot and keep the tea warm. This means that often people will (especially my Dad) go back to the pot for a second cup. When I was a kid, I remember my Grandmother would knit or crochet her tea cosy.

Above - A more modern tea cosy

I was surprised last week when I was having my Polish lesson. I greeted my teacher as always, we spoke about our weekends and the weather. Then she lifted up her cup and said "Piję herbatę z mlekiem" (I'm drinking tea with milk). I was shocked, I had never seen a Polish person drinking tea with milk before!

I suppose if I did research on tea drinking across the world, every country would have it's own traditional way to drink it. It's a cultural thing and I'm not saying one way is correct and the other ways are wrong. I just find it interesting, especially when my friends from the UK come to Poland and order tea in a cafe - they look at me like 'Where's the milk'? When I ask for it, the staff give me that look; 'Milk. why'? It's a bit like when my Mum came to Poland and asked for some butter to put on her potatoes.

So how do you drink yours? Z mlekiem albo bez mleka? (with milk or without milk)?

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