• What comes first - tea or milk? (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
A very British debate over the correct tea-drinking tradition reaches boiling point in impassioned letters to the editor in London newspaper, The Times.
Lucy Rennick

11 Jul 2019 - 10:40 AM  UPDATED 19 Jul 2019 - 2:10 PM

Even if you weren't glued to the Women's World Cup, you probably saw headlines about US football star, Alex Morgan's celebratory tea-drinking action. Morgan isn't British, but that didn't stop her from dominating the conversation and cause quite the stir about an issue of utmost importance to Brits - tea drinking.

Morgan celebrated a goal in a match against the UK last week by miming sipping tea, with her pinky out and head tilted back. After the team’s 2-0 win over the Netherlands (securing them the 2019 FIFA World Cup title), she posted a similar photo to social media – this time ‘drinking tea’ out of the actual FIFA trophy. 

After the move went viral, Morgan came under considerable fire from commentators who found it disrespectful, perhaps even resembling a dig at her English opponents. 

But that’s just the start of the row.

Forget whether or not Morgan’s celebration is unsportswomanly or not. The real question, according to Bob Maddams of Brighton, is whether she pours the milk in before the tea, or vice versa. Maddams submitted his query in the form on a letter to the editor of London newspaper The Times, setting off a chain of impassioned written opinions on the proper way to make and enjoy a cuppa. 

On July 5, The Times published a letter by Tom Howe from Surrey in print: 

“Sir, 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.”

The situation proceeded to reach boiling point – as far as very British arguments go – with four responses to Maddams’ letter printed on July 6. 

“Tea stains porcelain, so putting the milk in first mitigates this,” wrote Peter Sergeant from a village in Leicestershire. 

Next, an astute observation came from someone in Oxfordshire, who suggested tea should come first in order to gauge how much milk is required. 

Catherine Money of Surrey was the first (and thankfully, the only) person to bring acronyms into this: 

Morgan’s tea-sipping charade may have intensified the debate in the present moment, but this storm in a teacup is never far from spilling over into all-out chaos. 

For context, George Orwell was not a MIF (milk in first) but, we suppose, a TIF (tea in first). Over at Buckingham Palace, the Royal Family are staunchly tea first. These notable brits are in step with the majority of the population, according to a YouGov poll conducted in 2018:

But can all this MIF-bashing really argue with science?

The war shows no sign of abating, so you’re advised to pick a side, dig your heels in and boil the kettle. 

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