Have you ever had one of those eureka moments when suddenly something just makes sense, a light switches on and – ah hah – you’ve got it! Well that happened to me a few weeks ago when I was contemplating tea. Well, we can’t drink wine all of the time after all. Now, I came to tea quite late in life – for many years coffee was my hot drink of choice (actually still is most of the time). It took me a while to appreciate the flavour and bitter tannin of tea. I know, rather surprising from a wine lover when I drink tannic red wine quite regularly, but somehow that is different. I am still amazed by people who drink tea black – milk is definitely key from my point of view to give a sweeter taste and less tannin. And that is when it struck me: adding milk actually changes the structure of the tea and removes some of the tannins – leaving those gritty bits at the bottom of your mug. And this is where the link to wine is – when making red wine winemakers will often ‘fine’ the wine to soften it and remove some of those bitter tannins. And one of the ways to do that is to add milk. It’s not often that my geeky wine knowledge can have some practical aspects outside of wine so I was pretty pleased with myself when I made this connection.
Now, please don’t get confused and think the next bottle of red wine you drink may contain milk. We’re not talking cheap ‘beef’ that has been mixed with horse meat in order to cut costs. In fact the process of fining removes the milk protein from the wine – the positively charged milk protein binds to the negatively charged tannins and together they settle out of the wine. Rather like those bitter, gritty bits you find at the bottom of your mug of tea. All the winemaker then has to do is remove the wine from the sediment (or in winemaking terms rack it) and – hey presto – you have smoother wine that is ready for drinking.
So there you go, geeky winemaking knowledge as applied to a cup of tea. As to whether milk should be added to the cup before or after the tea, well that’s entirely up to you.
Right, time to put the kettle on…..