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Tea with milk - adventures with food and drink

Last night we had dinner at Carmen Mirador de Aixa. I've had no problem getting tea (black, English breakfast type) in Spain but have found it difficult to get milk for the tea. After dinner I ordered "tea with milk" and got a whole pot of hot milk and a tea bag - no hot water! DH and I had a good laugh and you know, it wasn't half bad! You never know exactly what you're going to get, and I love that.

(Now in Cordoba in Hotel Mezquita. Mezquita view room - so close I feel as though I could stretch my RS clothesline over to attach!)

Posted by
518 posts

Oh, you gotta just LOVE these kind of travel experiences. Sounds to me like you went in and came back out with a positive attitude, despite the misunderstanding. The hallmark of a great traveler.

Posted by
518 posts

Your story reminds me of my trip to Hong Kong last year. Every time the server in the breakfast room of the hotel came by to offer me a refill on my coffee, I'd wave my hand as to gesture "no" but actually say, "no, I'm good." Here in the States, I'm so used to saying, "no, I'm good" as a substitute for "no, thank you." Every morning, he'd continue to pour me coffee even after I'd say this and by the second to last day I realized that despite th fact that he spoke fluent English, and despite my hand waving, all he was registering was the word "good" which of course, he was obviously interpreting as a "yes, I'll take more coffee." So finally, I retrained myself to say, "No, thank you."

Posted by
11450 posts

Ha. funny..

I know the first time we went to Spain I didn't know about their thing with tomatoes and bread.

Went down to buffet breakfast in Tossa De Mar.. and by the bread station their were all these cut up sqished up tomatoes.. I am thinking.. wow.. that's weird.. all these tomato halves look like they are squished .. So.. I took a nice whole tomato and cut it into slices and put on my plate.. the whole time thinking how rude some folks must have been to leave those squashed halves of tomatoes ..

It wasn't till next day when waiting for bread that I noticed the man and woman in front of me.. speaking Spanish.. took a tomato from the bowl of tomatoes there , cut it in half, then they rubbed the cut face of the tomato on their bread.. its a thing apparently there.. tomato juice soaked into your bread.. who knew.. lol
They then put the "juiced" tomato down.. and left it..

Travel is fun.

Posted by
16877 posts

I know that one of our British tour guides in France always orders her morning tea quite specifically as "tea with cold milk." Also, Pakistanis of my acquaintance sometimes boil tea leaves directly in whole milk (the richer the better).

Posted by
102 posts

I love these experiences too! My fiance and I were just in Granada and he ordered what he thought was a bowl of fresh bananas and oranges. Instead he got a cup of sliced bananas in orange juice! Either way it was delicious and we learned something new :)

Posted by
2581 posts

A bit of background guys...

Tea is not really a popular drink in these shores. Having said that, for the past decade, specialty tea shops have been popping up everywhere in the big cities and a tea culture has been slowly growing up. Moreover taking into account the large influx of migrants arriving from countries where tea is a popular drink (ie. Pakistan, Morocco, China...) Still, it's an oddity here rather than the norm, coffee is still the norm. These days it's not so rare to ask for a tea in a cafe/bar and have a decent range of teas available... in the past, the unpalatable Lipton lemon tea sachet was pretty much the only available in many cafes. Yet @Andrea, note that one needs to know where one is when ordering his tea... unless is a 'proper' cafe don't expect much, LOL! It's a bit like asking for wine in a joint... if you really appreciate wine that's the last place you'd be ordering one, right?

Posted by
2581 posts

...and as per tomato bread, here you've touched a fiber very close to home dear @pat :)... "pa amb tomaquet" is something almost exclusive to Catalonia -albeit, like many other things related to food, living in this global world, nothing is any more limited to the area where it first saw the light. Having said that, there are similar dishes in other Mediterranean areas (Pan-bagnat in Nice, Meze dakos in Crete...)

The story behind this practice in Catalonia, which is as common among Catalans as tea is among English, lays in a necessity. Back in the 18th century, Catalonia was suffering a brutal repression from the Spanish King Philip V after having lost the war of 1701-1714. Taxation on property (cadastro) had been introduced to punish those territories that fought for their freedoms against the absolutist regime of the crown of Castille. Among those suffering the most (as always!) were the farmers. In those dark days, everything was scarce, including grain to make fresh bread, so rural families baked their bread once a week only in large loafs appropriately called "pa de pagès" (Catalan for "farmers' bread"). As the week advanced, the bread became progressively stale, so by the end of it the bread had gone too hard and dry to be eaten. Here the ingenuity of the farmers comes into scene: by soaking the stale bread by rubbing a tomato (which btw had been introduced to Europe from the Americas just two centuries earlier), the remains of the loaf could be eaten until the next batch would be baked the following week. On top of the tomato, a pinch of salt and a generous measure of olive oil (of course!) -all of the Mediterranean countries are lands of olives- would create the delicious side dish we all know and love.

These days, "bread with tomato Catalan-style" -or tomato bread as is called by some, albeit technically is not- is served as a side dish in many restaurants in other countries too. Note though that under that banner I've encountered absolute aberrations in my travels, like spreading liquid tomato onto the bread (ugh!), inserting slices of tomato instead of rubbing it... The proper way is to take a "tomacó" (also known as a tomaquet de penjar", Catalan for 'tomato for hanging' -literally! It has this name because is a type of tomato that is best preserved hanging without touching any surface. It's a special breed of tomato that has a soft pulp that can be better rubbed onto the bread and very little water, after all drowning the bread is not the aim!), then a loaf of "pa de pagès" or similar (this bread has a bit of consistency so one can energetically rub the tomato without breaking the loaf. The famous ciabatta can be a really good substitute too) which you should toast a bit in a pan, a measure of good strong olive oil (no, you can't make tomato bread with corn or palm oil, sorry!) and a pinch of salt. The end result should resemble something like this. A variation also very common here in Catalonia is adding a bit of garlic, which confers a pungent taste. A garlic clove is to be gently rubbed onto the bread BEFORE rubbing the tomato.

I'm getting peckish... sorry guys, gotta go to make some now :))

Posted by
5662 posts

For your health's sake, don't do milk in your tea:

Turns out, there seems to be a consensus about one thing: Milk
proteins can bind with the beneficial plant compounds known as
flavonols in tea. (You may have heard these compounds referred to by
specific names such as catechins.) And, according to some scientists,
the binding may make it tough for the body to absorb the flavonols and
get the health benefits.

There are lots of potential health benefits of tea. Take, for
instance, weight maintenance. Rick Hursel of Maastricht University
Medical Centre in Holland has published a review study that finds
green tea may slightly increase metabolism.

"We've shown that green tea is able to increase your energy
expenditure, so the amount of calories you burn, and also to increase
the amount of fat you are burning," says Hursel.

While the antioxidant action of tea is promising, some research
suggests that the protein and possibly the fat in milk may reduce the
antioxidant capacity of tea. Flavonoids, the antioxidant component in
tea, are known to bind to proteins and “de-activate,” so this theory
makes scientific sense.

One study that analyzed the effects of adding skimmed, semi-skimmed,
and whole milk to tea concluded that skimmed milk significantly
reduced the antioxidant capacity of tea. The fattier milks also
reduced the antioxidant capacity of tea, but to a lesser degree.
Overall, it’s important to keep in mind that tea – even tea with milk
– is a healthy drink. To reap the full antioxidant benefits of tea,
however, it may be best to skip the milk.
[6. Ryan L, Petit S. Addition of whole, semiskimmed, and skimmed
bovine milk reduces the total antioxidant capacity of black tea. Nutr
Res. 2010;30:14-20.
7. Arts MJ, Haenen GR, Wilms LC, et al. Interactions between flavonoids and proteins: effect on the total antioxidant capacity. J
Agric Food Chem. 2002;50:1184-7.]

Posted by
95 posts

Thanks to Enric for letting us know how pa amb tomaquet originated. I personally like it a lot, and find it is healthier than other "easy" spreads like peanut butter, a slice of cheese.

As to tea with milk.... why add the milk? Is there a story behind the origins of this drink? I can think of these possible reasons:

  1. Tea is too hot, need to bring down the temp so it can be drunk instantly. We do this with hot coffee.
  2. Give some additional flavor, although originally it must have been cream instead of milk, since cream has more flavor. However, by adding the dairy, you are covering the aroma of the tea itself.
  3. To "thicken" the tea water, so there is more texture to the hot liquid, in other words, fattier so it is creamier to the palate.
  4. To economize. Used too few tea leaves, not enough tea flavor, so need to enhance with dairy flavor.
  5. Or, the opposite, used too much tea, need to dilute it.

In Asia, where the main drink is tea, no dairy or sugar is added. But I can understand this, since Asians don't normally use dairy and are dairy intolerant. They just drink tea for the flavor itself. Maybe because there is no sugar and no dairy, it is considered a "diet" drink? That makes sense.

Posted by
95 posts

Adding on to the stories, we had one in Istanbul. The tour hotel has a table in the lobby with a turkish tea pot, very nicely laid out with tulip shaped teacups, different bagged teas to choose from. However, the tea in the teapot is already "brewed". We always found it welcoming, since after returning to the home base, we are oftentimes thirsty. The tea smelled and tasted great. So, we asked the front desk what kind of tea they were serving, hoping to go out and purchase some to take back with us, thinking it would be a Turkish souvenir. He said it was Turkish tea , so we kept asking what brand, where can you get it? He went to the kitchen and brought out the box to show us. It was LIPTON tea!!! We felt foolish, but, it DID taste good at the time.

Posted by
1273 posts

Ah Emma you are right about tea in the U.S., although things are improving.

You ought to try tea in Canada. You can get a great builder's tea here (or there, since I am writing this in Spain!). Perhaps because the Queen is on our money too!

Posted by
11450 posts

Thank you Enric for that explanation about the tomato bread !!

As for Tea.. I never order it out.. the water never comes hot enough.. and too many places give out crap tea bags like Liptons or Red Rose.. I am an English or Irish Breakfast tea person.. or even Tetley Bold or Yorkshire tea girl myself.
I like it strong.. with milk and sugar.. yum.

Posted by
5662 posts

I never order it out.. the water never comes hot enough....

While there is no "exact" best water temperature for the proper brewing of tea, the general consensus is the more delicate teas (fine greens and whites) should be brewed at gentler temperatures than the harsher black teas and always below boiling (under 100C).

For example:

Best Temperatures for Different Teas
Low temperature(70℃ - 80℃): to
brew some of green teas which have tender buds, such as Ming Qian
Dragon Well and Bi Luo Chun Green Tea, and some high grade white teas
such as Organic Silver Needle.

Medium temperature (80℃ - 90℃): to brew some Oolong with tender buds,
or green tea with only tea leaves like Liu An Gua Pian, or some
heavily withered white teas, such as White Peony, and Shou Mei.

High temperature (90℃ - 100℃): to brew Oolong tea with mature leaves
only, such as Dong Ding (Tung Ting) Oolong Tea, Tie Guan Yin Iron
Goddess, Da Hong Poa and post-fermented Pu-erh teas and fully
fermented black teas.

Usually when brewing green tea, some people will brew it with 3g teas
and 200ml boiled water and then brew it for 4-5 minutes to drink. The
disadvantage of this brewing style is that the temperature of water
was too high and could easily burn the young leaves. However, if
brewing with too cold water, it will be very hard to steep out the
taste of it.

Posted by
95 posts

So, it sounds like many countries in Europe do not always take tea with milk. Those that do are UK and countries that were under English influence, such as the Commonwealth countries, plus the US, India, Hongkong, etc. So, maybe it is no wonder the rest are not very familiar with serving tea with milk.

And, to Emma, maybe my reference to cream wasn't the same as your British cream, which is clotted cream. I meant cream that we get in the US, 8% creamy fat dairy. But, I guess one only uses milk, which is about 4%fat.

Also, my impression is that English tea uses mostly black teas, Assam or Darjeelin, not the green or non fermented teas. The latter taste strange with milk added.

It is also interesting that in some countries tea is drunk from saucers, not from cups/mugs. It was quite an eye-opener, since we only use saucers to catch drips, or a convenient place for a biscuit/cookie.

Posted by
95 posts

Switching subjects..... have you ever had black pepper that wasn't ground in a dish ? We had a group dinner in an Istanbul restaurant, and they served a delicious casserole, whose name I cannot recall, it was very creamy and saucy. After a few bites, I thought I had broken one of my teeth. Something gritty and slightly crunchy in my mouth, I had to see what it was, and it turned out to be a full black peppercon. I thought maybe one had slipped in by mistake, so, just left it in a the side of my plate and continued eating. Two more bites, and more semi-soft crunches which left a hot explosion of peppery taste in its aftermath. By this time I was asking the others at the table if they were having the same sensory results, and they all nodded. This was probably my first, and so far only, encounter with whole peppercorns in a cooked dish. I still remember the sensation as it did leave a deep impression , longer lasting than just ground pepper!

Anyone in Turkey know the name of such a dish? It was quite memorable.

Posted by
518 posts

"maybe my reference to cream wasn't the same as your British cream, which is clotted cream. I meant cream that we get in the US, 8% creamy fat dairy. But, I guess one only uses milk, which is about 4%fat."

I run into this difference in terminology now and then. In the States, we like to say, "I'll take cream in my coffee" and we know we're referring to cream as described above. When you walk into a coffee shop these days, there are more and more varieties now: soy creamer, fat-free milk, 2% milk, whole milk, half & half, etc. Clotted cream on the other hand, is closer to what I know as butter.

Posted by
1273 posts

Oh heck - tonight I got a tiny pot of green tea and an enormous pot of hot milk! Oh well, it rained most of the day so any hot drink drink went down a treat.