Mid-Brexit, Britons Pause to Debate What Really Matters: Tea

LONDON — Controversy over soccer star Alex Morgan’s tea-drinking World Cup victory dance has died down, but it has reignited debate among readers of The Times of London, Britain’s second-starchiest broadsheet, over a matter that has long troubled the British people: When pouring tea into a teacup, what should be poured first? The tea? Or the milk?

The dueling letters to the editor began on July 4, when Bob Maddams, of Brighton, mused aloud about whether Ms. Morgan, the soccer player, pours her milk in first. This inspired a response from Tom Howe, from Surrey, which was printed on July 5:


“Bob Maddams’ letter (July 4) on Alex Morgan’s tea celebration at the Women’s World Cup suggests that it is correct to put the milk in first. I was always led to believe that the milk first or second question was originally a signal of social standing. Cheap porcelain cracked when hot tea was poured into it, so the milk was poured in first to lower the temperature and avoid such a disaster.”

Mr. Howe’s letter really set them off.

On July 6, The Times printed not one but four responses.

Peter Sergeant wrote from a village in Leicestershire to point out that “tea stains porcelain, so putting the milk in first mitigates this.” The second response, sent from a village in Oxfordshire, argued that tea must be poured first so as to determine how much milk is necessary. The third referred to the Boston Tea Party. And the fourth, from the felicitously named Catherine Money, of Surrey, provided important cultural context, as well as an acronym for “milk-in-first.”

“Sir,” she wrote.

“Tom Howe is correct in his recollection of the message given by pouring milk into a cup before the tea. Describing someone as ‘rather MIF’ told one all one needed to know.”

Things, as he put it, that “only somebody British would get steamed up about.”

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