What Makes Milk Curdle In Tea?

What Makes Milk Curdle In Tea?
Sometimes, it’s just nice to have a creamy, hot beverage with you on a cold night. Many teas are great in lattes and make a rich treat when mixed with a splash of cream. But you know how sometimes, when you put milk in tea, it does that strange, flaky thing? The thing where it looks like it’s turning solid and separating from itself. That process is called curdling; and sometimes, milk will curdle in your tea. But why? What causes milk to curdle in tea?

Acidic Reactions

There are really two answers to the question of what makes milk curdle in tea. First, we have to look into what the process of curdling actually is.
When it occurs naturally in milk, curdling is a bi-product of the (good) bacteria found in milk, Lactobaccillus. The lactobaccilus uses the milk for energy and releases lactic acid, which makes the milk taste sour.
A similar acidic reaction can be triggered in milk by outside forces. When acidic substances are put into milk, it will curdle and begin to taste sour.

But What Makes Milk Curdle in Tea for Me?

If you find the milk in your tea is curdling and tasting a bit sour, there are two options for what could be happening. First, your milk could be a bit on the old side, which would mean that your milk was already curdling on its own.
The second option is that something in your tea is acidic, and is reacting with your milk, causing it to curdle. Some obvious offenders would be strong lemon teas, or other citrusy blends. An ingredient you might not think of as being horribly acidic is hibiscus, but this base for many herbal teas is actually almost as acidic as lemon.

What About Non-Dairy Milks?

Sometimes, non-dairy milks will take a while longer to curdle than dairy milk. Coconut milk is often paired with citrus in cooking to a delicious effect, for example. However, most non-dairy substitutes can still curdle. This includes soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, coconut milk, and rice milk. So, even if you’re using a substitute, be careful what kind of tea you stir your cream into.

Teas Good With Milk

If you prefer your tea with non-curdled milk, as most of us do, you’re probably wondering what teas are good with milk. You will want to steer away from citrus teas (though a few spicy teas that include orange do well with milk) and lean more towards nutty and chocolatey teas.
Cacao is more on the basic end of the pH scale, so it will not cause a reaction in your milk. Try our caffeine free Chocolate Hazelnut Tea with some milk or cream for a late night treat. You can even check out this incredible Hazelnut Latte recipe!
Almonds are another alkaline food that give a great flavor to tea. Our Caramel Almond vanilla almond tea is good either just with cream or as a latte.
If you’re struggling with your teas constantly curdling your milk, you need to figure out what causes milk to curdle in tea. First, check your milk. If it is close to expiring, or already expired, then that may be the culprit. If not, make sure the tea you’re using is not too acidic. It’s hard to get curdled milk out of tea once it’s in, so make sure you know before you pour!


Elora Powell

Elora is a writer, comic-book lover, and all around geek. She loves pairing records from the 1960s with great cups of tea, and is currently becoming the kind of person that will ask you if you've ever tried Pu Erh.
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