’Tis it better the milk precede the tea into the cup… …or not???

Are you an MIF or an MIL?

…and which one is Queen Elizabeth II?


This is quite an important discussion item in many tea etiquette circles.  Yes. ’Tis true.

If you are a ‘MIL,’ you put your Milk in Last. You are easy to get along with. You love your tea, enjoy your life. Easy going. If you are an ‘MIF,’ you put your Milk in First. You are religious, dogmatic, even to the point of placing your hand over your cup, risking a scalding stream of tea that you might defend the right to put your milk in before the tea is poured. MIF’s are sure.

An MIL must never, ever try to convince an MIF otherwise, or even bring this up for discussion. It will only lead to dissension, possibly traumatic. MIF’s have their reasons.

However, to get on to the second part of the question: Queen Elizabeth II is an MIL. (I’m sorry. She is.)

And what better authority can we have than the butler on Masterpiece Theatre’s UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS, who is known to have said, “Those who live upstairs take their milk in last. Those of us downstairs take ours in first.”

I take my milk in last, preferring to see exactly how much milk to add, but I tend to feel about this question the same as my favorite tea connoisseur, the witty and urbane James Norwood Pratt, who says of the matter, “I have no opinion, really, on the tea topics little old ladies of both sexes debate, whether ’tis better the milk precede the tea into the cup or vice versa.”   

However, on a historical note, there was a reason why milk was put in first. In the early days of porcelain, before glaze chemistry and processes were perfected, sometimes a hot liquid could cause the glaze on a cup to crack and craze. The milk, therefore, was put in first to mitigate this occurrence. But for the wealthy, those living upstairs who could replace their cups with ease, this was not a factor to consider.

So at least now you know the answer to this burning question. You may choose your side, or you may walk straight up the middle. You have now been informed.

Yours for a return to Grace, Civility, Beauty, Gentility, and Excellence,

Mary Alice