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Tea latte vs Milk tea: What’s the difference?

Granted, I’m still pretty new to the tea universe, but I recently bumped into a conundrum that surprised me when I placed an order from the cafe across the street.

I usually get a simple but comforting chamomile tea.

However, this time the girl at the counter asked:

Have you ever had a chamomile tea latte? Would you like to try it?

Me: Milk in tea? But why? Do I want my tea latte?

Milk tea is delicious!… She said.

Me: Tea latte vs Milk tea, is there even a difference?

I declined politely and proceeded to cash out– I was not feeling particularly adventurous.

Although I didn’t try the chamomile latte, the idea got me wondering about the whole concept of milk in tea, why add it in the first place, and what’s the difference between milk tea vs tea latte.

So with this article I aim to provide answers to those questions.

Why add milk to tea?

One common reason people add milk to tea is that when tea was first introduced to the United Kingdom, British porcelain was not Chinese porcelain’s quality. The hot water required to brew the tea caused some British-made cups to crack. As a solution, milk was poured into the cups as a first step to act as a barrier and prevent the cups from cracking.

However, there are a few other reasons why to put milk in tea, from covering taste, health and other benefits:

  • One major reason, especially with milk being so popular in black tea, is for taste. Milk softens those strong, malty flavours, cutting through the potential bitterness.
  • Adding milk second allows you to regulate better your brew’s colour, which is essential to taste.
  • Putting milk in tea is a great way to cool it down. Just be careful not to add too much milk to cool the drink down, as it could ruin the whole tea drinking experience.

TIP: Cool your tea by leaving a teaspoon in it. The metal will help by conducting the heat, leaving you to add milk or not to your taste.

Tea Latte Vs Milk Tea: What’s the difference?

While tea lattes and milk tea are pretty similar, there are a few important differences.

  • Milk tea is a big umbrella that includes all kinds of different teas with milk in them.
  • Tea lattes as a specific type of milk tea

What is milk tea?

Milk tea refers to any tea drink with milk added. It can range from a small touch of milk in a hot cup of tea to a complex drink like the popular bubble tea that mixes various ingredients for a delicious result.

There are many regions in the world where milk tea is the go-to tea. In India for example tea usually refers to milk tea. To order tea without milk is you would simply ask for “black tea.

Milk tea is also commonly consumed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Canada, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, and Hong Kong.


There are many variations of milk tea, both hot and cold. Several types include a variety of spices as well as sugar.

Bubble Tea

Is a Taiwanese tea-based drink with sweet balls commonly known as pearls made out of tapioca. A fun fact is that the name actually refers to the bubbles that surface when it’s shaken and not to the tapioca!

Thai Milk Tea

There are 2 types of Thai tea–Thai milk tea and Thai ice tea. These two are the most popular in this milk tea type. This tea drink is usually made sweet and frequently with spices such as Tamarind, cardamon, cinnamon, vanilla & star anise.

Hong Kong tea

The main features of Hong Kong tea are aroma, strength and smoothness. The Hong Kong tea is made from Sri Lankan tea leaves & evaporated milk. After brewing, the tea is strain back and forth –it is said that this process removes some of the grassy notes and brings out a more balanced finish product. Therefore, pulling the tea is key, too much or too little and you will lose the perfect taste and texture.

Hong Kong Milk Tea

British milk tea

The traditional method is to first add the milk and then pour the tea over it; it is thought this technique doesn’t alter the flavour of the tea too much.

Milk Tea

Green Milk Tea

Similar to black milk tea, green milk tea is another concoction tea enthusiasts like you will definitely love. And, since not all bubble teas have the same green milk tea flavours list, the following can be great options: jasmine , matcha, oolong.

Green Milk Tea

What is a tea latte?

Tea latte is a style of milk tea and a variation on the traditional coffee lattes. Like coffee lattes, they are made with steamed milk. However, instead of espresso, they contain tea, usually in matcha green tea or a concentrate made from strong-brewed tea. A tea latte may be hot or cold, and all you need are a few simple ingredients, including your favourite tea.

Ingredients & tools to make Tea Latte at Home

How to Make tea latte

Steps to make a Tea Latte

Jee from suggests the following formula:

2 teaspoons of tea + 3/4 cup water + 1/3 cup milk + sweetener (optional)

  1. Choose your tea.
  2. Brew tea concentrate: The first step when making a tea latte is to brew up your tea base.
  3. Add sweetness: The next step is to sweeten your tea using a sweetener of your choice. You can use regular sugar, honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, or whatever else you have on hand.
  4. Heat your milk: Heat milk on the stove or microwave it for about 30 – 45 seconds. You want your milk to be hot, but not boiling!
  5. Froth the milk: for this step, you can use several tools, like a french press, a frothing wand or a whisk.
  6. Assemble your drink: As a final step pour the frothed milk into your teacup or mug and spoon the foam on top.

Milk & Alternatives

Considering how much milk can affect the taste of tea, its fat content is important as this is what gives that creamy taste.

Effects of milk on tea:

  • Milk addition to tea can decrease or completely inhibit tea antioxidant properties  
  • Milk caseins interact with polyphenolic catechins from tea  
  • Skim milk has a more negative effect on tea health benefits than whole milk  
  • Proteins from soy and milk similarly affect the bioavailability of tea antioxidants

Types of Milk

Whole Milk

If you love to add milk to your tea and are looking for that equally warm and cozy alternative, here are some options:

Almond milk:

Disputable the number one go-to when people try to substitute dairy milk for veggie milk. It’s also a healthier option compared to soy. However, the consistency is a watery plus (no creaminess or richness). Almond milk can be tricky since it tends to influence the final taste of your drink.

Soy milk:

Some may say that soy is the closest milk replacement that you can find. It works best for lattes if you want the foam to be just right in terms of texture.

Coconut milk:

Thick and rich closely mimic the richness of dairy milk. Although just like almond milk, it is tough to mask the coconut flavour; therefore, it influences the final result.

Rice milk:

Rice milk seems to blend the best of both worlds by adding richness without any extra flavours to the drink. Not the best for frothing. Budget-friendly

Tip: Dairy-free options can be harder to froth. A way around this is to look for barista versions of plant-based milk.

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