Many people today seek milk alternatives for various reasons – allergic reactions, headaches, or simply curiosity about nutrition, cooking, or new taste.
A lot of people are allergic to dairy or they are lactose intolerant, so they need an alternative most similar to dairy milk. And there are many different varieties of milk alternatives.
These alternatives are good for multiple things like coffee, tea, smoothie, cereal, mashed potatoes, and more. But tea, alongside coffee, is the beverage that is perhaps most often mixed with milk.
Tea contains many antioxidants and milk has benefits of its own, so mixing these seems like a good idea. But if you can’t or don’t want to drink milk, you should search for the best alternatives.
What are the best milk alternatives for tea? The best milk alternative is largely a matter of taste and use. Popular alternatives are more neutral in taste and have a thin to medium thickness, mimicking either dairy milk or the natural light feel of tea. Soy, coconut, rice, almond, oat, and hemp are perhaps the most common.
The milk in tea is usually replaced with one of the plant-based alternatives that have similar taste and texture. Some of these alternatives have even better taste than regular dairy milk. So, don’t hesitate to experiment.
If you keep reading, you will find out why people have to or want to replace milk and what are the best alternatives to dairy milk.
Why Choose Non-Dairy Milk Alternatives?
Here are the most common reasons why people seek milk alternatives:
- Lactose intolerance – Some people are born with it and some develop this intolerance during life. Either way, it doesn’t mean that these people don’t like milk, they just have to take it out of their diets.
- Milk or dairy allergy – Yes, there is a difference between lactose intolerance (which is not having enough of the lactase enzyme needed to break down products that contain lactose) and a true food allergy to milk or dairy. This type of allergy is rather common and can be very annoying since you can’t eat anything that contains dairy products.
- Health issues – There are a few health issues that especially require a non-dairy, non-milk diet, including Crohn’s disease and Colitis. If you have one of these inflammatory bowel diseases, you probably can’t digest dairy products. Also, many with irritable bowl syndrome (IBS) avoid lactose and milk.
- Inflammation concerns – Many are concerned about milk causing inflammation. The jury seems to be out on whether that is a definite fact or whether it only affects some people; reputable sources and studies differ in their conclusions. Some people avoid milk in general because of these concerns.
- Hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides – Some are concerned about hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides in milk. While these are not added to the milk itself, many worry about their presence in dairy cows and whether it might affect the milk – and those who drink it. Although there is no clear evidence of an issue from this, many people still avoid milk for this concern.
- Vegan diet – Although vegan diets can differ modestly, in general vegans don’t eat or drink any animal products such as eggs, milk, and other dairy products like cheese or butter. When it comes to milk, vegans prefer plant-based alternatives.
- Ethical concerns – Many people, vegan or not, believe that drinking milk is unethical. Much of the milk and dairy industry in the U.S. involves inhumane practices, poor treatment of their animals, and leaves them in cramped positions in indoor pens or cages. The transportation of dairy as well as the excess number of cows can also be harmful to the environment.
- Taste – Some people just simply don’t like the taste of milk! However, they enjoy the creamy texture it adds to a drink like tea or they are making dishes that require milk in the recipe. So, they search for an adequate alternative.
- Calories – Many of the common milk alternatives have fewer calories. Many also have less fat and more water content, which is beneficial for some. So, if you are looking to reduce fat in your diet or cut calories, milk alternatives can be helpful. But be careful, because some of the alternatives are not recommended for some diets because they can have a bit more fat, have plenty of calories, or may simply encourage bloating.
The Best Milk Alternatives For Tea
Milk is an important part of the diet for most people, but if you are not able to drink it, you don’t have to give it up. A lot of manufacturers add various vitamins to these milk alternatives, so you can have multiple benefits from it.
When it comes to milk alternatives – for tea or any other beverage – it’s always a matter of taste and use. Some alternative milks are thicker than others and some tend to be more flavorful than others, which can be beneficial or detrimental, depending on what you’re making and what you like.
For this article, we’ve chosen alternatives by a few different factors: relatively neutral (or broadly complimentary) flavor, availability and popularity, and relative thickness.
Most tea drinkers like the light texture of tea, so we’ve opted for thin to medium thickness milks more often than thicker alternatives. However, you should note that some brands will be thicker or thinner than others.
If you want thicker, creamier alternatives, opt for brands with higher fat contents, or those that say “barista” on the carton. Barista-quality milks tend to have higher fat percentages, allowing for creamier results that also foam up better.
Here are the best milk alternatives for tea:
1. Soy Milk
Best for creamy, cozy hot brews
Soy milk is also a very common replacement, and by now it is a well-known milk alternative. It is made by soaking, then grinding soya beans. The mixture is then boiled and strained.
The consistency and texture are very similar to those of dairy milk, but soy milk is marked by that extra hint of sweetness it tends to bring.
Despite this sweetness, soy is relatively neutral in flavor. It is noticeable in tea, but shouldn’t alter the natural flavor notes of your favorite oolong, Earl Grey, or rooibos.
Your soy milk also shouldn’t split and flake when you add it to milk, but if you grab a thinner brand, it’s possible to encounter. You can avoid the problem by warming the milk before mixing it with tea.
2. Coconut Milk
Best for refreshing cold teas or lighter days
Usually, when we think of coconut milk, we imagine the transparent liquid that comes out when we crack a coconut, immature green coconuts. But, that is not coconut milk, that is coconut water.
When it comes to coconut milk in tea or other drinks, you want what comes out of the carton, and probably not the can.
Coconut milk is on the thinner side, with a light, bright, and almost sweet taste. It tends to complement teas rather than overpower or alter their flavors. It’s especially great for iced or blended teas.
Coconut milk is made from the white flesh of the mature, brown coconut. Similar to almond milk, it is made by grating the coconut flesh, soaking it in water, and then straining it until you get the white, milky texture.
Coconut milk can often split apart in hot drinks, especially if your milk is not barista-quality. However, most find these flakes minimal and easy to ignore; they don’t seem to add an unappealing texture.
3. Rice Milk
Best as an all-around, in-between choice
Rice milk is best known as the least allergenic of all milk alternatives, which is a great choice for those who have nut allergies.
It is a bit watery with a mild and almost sweet taste. It tends to be thinner, about the texture of skim milk. You will notice rice milk in tea, but it’s not obvious the way a nutty milk would be.
It can be made from white or brown rice which is milled alongside the water.
When it comes to calories, it is pretty similar to cow’s milk. But compared to cow’s milk, rice milk has twice as many carbs. So, if you are trying to cut down the carbs, rice milk might not be the best choice for you.
4. Almond Milk
Best for nutty aromas, in hot, black teas
One of the most common and best-known plant-based milk alternatives comes from almonds, so it tastes like nuts.
Almonds are soaked up for about eight hours, then blended with a little water. When they are blended, they are strained through the cloth to get the milky white liquid.
Some people make almond milk by adding water to almond butter but blending and then straining is the more common way of preparing almond milk.
As long as you don’t mind adding a nutty flavor to your tea, almond is a great choice. It is popular in coffee and cooking as well, so if you want to pick one milk alternative and be done, almond is one of your better options.
In teas specifically, almond is more popular in hot brews, especially with stronger and heavier black teas.
Almond is a great choice for a vanilla black tea and may work with some of the stronger rooibos flavors, but adding almond to greens, florals, or less pungent teas is not universally enjoyed.
The problem you might encounter when you add almond milk to your tea is that almond milk splits when you sip it. This problem happens due to differences in temperature. The tea is hot and the almond milk is not.
You can solve this problem by heating the almond milk a bit before you pour it into your tea.
5. Oat Milk
Best for making creamy, thick teas – hot or cold
Oat milk is creeping up in popularity and is another catch-all type of milk. If nuts are not an option or if almond is just not your favorite flavor, oat is another alternative that tends to work with almost anything – hot or cold, in beverages or recipes.
However, because oats are pretty filling and have that grain-like taste, just know that oat milk will give your tea a creamier, thicker feel. If you want to cozy up with a homemade London Fog or want a creamy iced green tea latte, oat is a good choice.
While oat milk can be on the thinner side, it is usually made to be a little creamier and smooth in texture, much like dairy milk, in the U.S.
Oat milk is made by blending the mixture of oats and water, followed by straining the white liquid.
It has a nice natural, almost sweet flavor – but one that is typically much more subtle than soy or coconut. And in contrast to almond milk, you won’t encounter splitting. So, you don’t need to warm it before pouring it into your tea.
Oat milk is a great choice if you have a nut or soy allergy and therefore you have to avoid those kinds of milk. But, keep in mind that almond milk is a better choice when it comes to counting calories.
6. Hemp Milk
Best for matcha, green teas
If you are allergic to nuts or soy, or you don’t like their milk, you could try hemp milk. It is made just like any other plant-based milk – from blending water with the hemp seeds.
Hemp milk has a creamy texture, and it is a little bit thicker than other kinds of milk on this list. It may have a strange taste if you are unused to it, but it seems to grow on many who swear by it with matcha and green teas.
Hemp is also popular as an alternative in general. It is considered an environmentally friendly crop, even when produced in larger volumes, so if you like the flavor, it may be your perfect milk.
7. Cashew Milk
Best for nutty aromas, in hot, black teas
Cashew is also one of the ingredients that can be turned into milk by blending with water, and then straining. The end result is milk that has a nutty taste and creamy texture, which is great for mixing with tea.
This milk has many health benefits, it is good for heart health, eye health, it is good for skin, boosts immunity, etc. And it is cholesterol-free. Filled with unsaturated fatty acids that can lower the risk of heart disease. And compared to almond milk, it often has fewer calories.
Cashew milk tends to be on the lighter side as far as texture goes. Like almond, you will definitely notice it in tea; you can’t mask that nutty flavor. But if you like the flavor of cashews, this could be a great thing.
Like almond milk, cashew milk is going to be more popular in black teas and other flavors that work complimentarily with nutty notes.
But as with any milk alternative, those who love it will drink it with nearly anything. If you love cashews, don’t be afraid to try it with any of your favorite teas.
8. Quinoa Milk
Best as a versatile, healthy choice
Quinoa milk is something that you might not have heard of yet, but it is a great milk alternative if you can find it.
Fans of oat milk are likely to enjoy this quinoa-based option.
Since quinoa is one of the healthiest food in the world, it’s no wonder that quinoa milk has many benefits. It contains high-quality proteins and, most importantly, it is gluten-free. So, this is the best choice for those who are avoiding gluten in their diet.
Made from quinoa seeds, this milk alternative has a lighter, grain-like taste (much like quinoa you eat solid). It won’t totally mask the flavor of your tea, although it may feel a little too “noticeable” if you are unused to the flavor. Some also find it a little sweet.
Quinoa milk is often creamy, and since it tends to go with teas as well as rice milk, you will probably enjoy it hot or cold, with a variety of leaf types.
9. Hazelnut Milk
Best for bright and nutty flavors, especially in black teas
Hazelnut milk has a sweet and nutty taste, and it is made by roasting hazelnuts, mixing them with water, soaking, blending, and straining them.
Hazelnut milk has a lot of vitamin E which is good for hair and skin. It is full of protein and it is good for preventing anemia and cancer. So, it is definitely worth trying to mix with your tea.
Hazelnut has a pretty distinct flavor, perhaps even more so than almond or cashew milk. If you love hazelnut, this is great! If you want a more subtle addition to tea, you may want to save hazelnut for coffee or baking instead.
Hazelnut may also be easier to pair with teas – compared to the other nut-based alternatives. The relative brightness and slight hint of sweetness may compliment a wider variety of teas than almond or even the slightly more subtle cashew.
You may also enjoy hazelnut better in cold teas than you would almond or cashew.