Why Europe Loves Warm Milk

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Warm milk in the EU is probably one of the hardest things for us expats to grasp and get used to. I cannot tell you have many times I have heard the phrase, “What’s with the boxes of warm milk?!”


Warm Milk Europe

I’m not going to lie – when I first moved to Europe over ten years ago, I searched high and low for cold milk. I didn’t care that it cost more. I didn’t care that it was hard to find. After all, what is worse than warm milk?! Is warm milk even safe? It can’t possibly be healthy! What does it taste like? Is it powdered? Is it natural? It must be full of chemicals. “Oh my gosh,” I thought. “I just can’t bring myself to buy this milk!”

Sidenote – I’m a rebel. I still put my eggs in the fridge no matter what the EU people say. Some habits are just impossible to break.

why europe loves warm milk

Re-evaluation

Expat life calmed down and everything stopped feeling so different. To my fellow expats – this will happen, I promise. Eventually, I started to re-evaluate my relationship with warm milk.

Has warm milk ever hurt me or my family? Has warm milk ever talked badly about me? Has warm milk actually done anything to make me hate it so much? Am I being a bigot against warm milk?

What kind of example am I setting for my kids to hate something without even trying it? Does the temperature of the milk even matter? Do I like my milk to be the same as back home because that is what I know?

Those are questions we have to ask ourselves, on numerous occasions, when living the expat life. I really had to dig deep for this one; so, what did I do? I Googled it, of course.

Here is the deal on the freakin’ warm milk. There are three kinds of milk:

1-rawmilk-vending-machine

1. Raw fresh milk – I know, I know, taboo and illegal in the USA. Crappy law if you ask me. Even the Telegraph has an opinion! If I can find fresh milk, I will buy fresh milk. When in Lithuania, we always buy farm fresh milk, and it is the BOMB! It tastes great and has no chemicals. The shelf life is short but worth it. When we lived in the Czech Republic, we also bought fresh milk. They have these cute little machines with cows on the front – those are the fresh milk dispensers. Every few days, we would take our glass bottles and fill them up with fresh milk. It was the best milk in the world! I have not found any of these machines in Germany, but if I do, I am lining up to fill my bottles!

2. Pasteurized milk – This is the norm for those from the USA. So, what is pasteurized milk? Traditional pasteurization heats milk to at least 161°F for 15 seconds. This is called high temperature/short time or HTST pasteurization. This type of pasteurization removes about 99.9% of the bacteria in the milk. Once the milk is heated, it is cooled and needs refrigerated. This is because the .1% of left-over bacteria can multiply and grow in the milk if not kept cold. With 99.9% of the bacteria removed, the milk has a shelf life of about 16-21 days from the time it is packaged. The Huff Post has another in-depth comparison of milks.

2-milk 23. Ultra-pasteurized milk – You know, milk in a box. This is the most popular type of milk processing across Europe and actually around the rest of the world. Shhh… I know. Don’t tell us Americans. This type of pasteurization is called Ultra High Temperature or UHT pasteurization. The milk is heated to 280°F for two seconds, eliminating practically 100% of the bacteria in the milk. UHT milk is normally packaged in air-proof, light-proof, sterile containers. This milk does not have to be refrigerated until it is opened. The ultra milk can have a shelf life of up to six months, prior to being opened.  

Of course, milk never lasts that long in my house – so why would I want to buy milk that lasts six months? Well, here are a couple of things I found out about UHT milk. First, it is not the evil villain I originally thought it was. My family and I actually prefer the taste of the UHT milk over HTST milk – weird, I know. We don’t drink it warm; we just buy it warm and put each carton in the fridge as we need it.  Remember – even if you buy it warm, it still has to be refrigerated once you open it. 

This brings me to another point of why I like it – we do not normally have a large refrigerator in Europe. So, my space for gallons of milk is, um, nonexistent. We buy UHT in one-liter cartons (1/4 gallon for those of us who are metrically challenged.) I normally buy a large box of 12, one-liter cartons of milk because I am not a fan of going to the store every single day; however, I cannot fit 12 cartons of milk into my little fridge. The problem is, we need a lot of milk because my kids drink enough to keep a small dairy farm in business.  

The worst thing is getting the kids ready for school and hearing a blood curdling scream from the kitchen – “MOM, THERE IS NO MILK!” Immediately, the world is ending, thunder crashes, and both my boys are going to drop dead of a lactose deficiency at any moment. Then, there is Amber – my blonde dragon of a child who will start throwing things and screaming if she is not immediately served milk.

Well, I have tricked them all because now there is always a box of milk in the house. House rule: If you drink the last of the milk, put a new one in the fridge. Tahhh dahhh! There is always milk. I am like a milk superhero! I need a shirt that reads: SUPERMILK MOM. Gone forever are the morning runs to the corner store, in the snow, to get some milk – Boooya! 

Healthy or not?

The next thing you are going to say is, let me guess – it is not as healthy. So, answer me this – how is killing the extra .1% of bacteria making this milk unhealthy? How can improving shelf life be a bad thing? Did I mention that since it does not need to be transported and stored in refrigeration units, it is actually cheaper to purchase? I also have to say that when it comes to healthy, the EU has a big jump on us American folks. Check out this graph below, courtesy of Organic Valley Milk Company, which states that there is absolutely no vitamin or health difference between HTST or UHT milk.

HTST ve UHT warm milk

Graph provided by Organic Valley Milk Company USA

Here is a tidbit of information you may not like. If you are American, and a little squeamish, maybe you should skip this paragraph – it is going to break a lot of expat hearts, but I feel it is my duty to reveal the dirty (and warm) secret. Sit down for this one. Did you know that many of the all-natural, organic milk companies in the USA actually use UHT pasteurization?

I know, I know – you need a tissue and few minutes to get over this blatant betrayal, but it’s true!

Horizon Organic and Organic Valley are two of the main culprits. I know you need proof, so be sure to check out their websites or buy some. You just might like it. They even make organic chocolate and organic strawberry milk!

 

 

1-vinny milkI have to say that my kids and I now have an ongoing love affair with UHT milk.

It has raised my confidence. It has turned me into a superhero. It is dependable. It is always there for me. It never acts spoiled. It is in this relationship for the long haul. It never smells bad, even after a long, hard day. It is very quiet and unassuming and there when you need it. I had to apologize to the UHT milk, several times, for my unnecessary hate and discontent – I hope it will eventually forgive me.

As you know, I have a quick tongue and sarcastic wit, and I hope everyone finds this fun and enlightening. Whether you love or hate boxed milk, at least you know the true facts now, and maybe it does not seem so different to you after all! If you are coming to visit or live in the EU, warm milk is just a way of life.

What do you think of the warm milk in the EU? I would love to hear your thoughts and first time milk experiences in Europe.

If you want to read our info on those nasty, dirty eggs in the EU, click here –> Dirty Eggs.

– Stacey

Please be advised – Baskets Life Travel is an affiliate partner of travel and goods sites to bring you the best prices on cool products, locations, hotels, car rentals, and flight options. If you click on a link, we could receive payment, goods, or compensation. We only promote travel and products that we have personally used and know you will love, too. All opinions are our own. 

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25 Comments

  • I don't know about you guys but I feel like a big glass of milk now! Travelling in Latin America has made me get used to using the UHT stuff in tea and milk but fresh milk will always be #1
  • Reply October 3, 2014

    Karen Warren

    We put our eggs in the fridge in the UK. And hardly anyone here likes UHT milk. You can't buy unpasteurised milk either (the only time you get it is if you're staying on a farm). Personally I'm not keen on milk at all, unless it's made into cheese in which case I can't get enough of it!
  • Reply October 1, 2014

    adrianstraveltales

    I first encountered unrefrigerated milk when I was in Asia and I just went for it, I didn't even really think about it. Once I got to Europe and did some searching around, I realized that was the norm. It was really confusing the first time I was in the store looking for a gallon of milk though. Oops, no space even if I would of found it and no cold milk anyways!
  • Reply September 30, 2014

    Claudia

    You made me laugh real hard. So - as a EU citizen who has travelled widely and lived in the US, I can possibly provide a bit of an explanation. Warm milk to us Europeans would mean "warmed up milk" - what you call warm milk is, to put it simply, long life milk. Keep in mind that fresh milk as you know it in the US here would be considered long life as well. Our fresh milk is REALLY fresh and only lasts for 3 or 4 days. A few years ago the EU allowed countries to also produce a longer life fresh milk so now if we want we can buy "fresh" milk that lasts for up to 7 days from the fridge counter. I am not sure anybody buys it really. I certainly don't. I love milk but I am lactose intolerant. Back in the days I could still drink it, I could even taste the difference from country to country. The best milk in Europe? SWISS. Simply delicious. The one we have here in Sardinia is pretty good too. Worst? I think the one in the UK. It is a matter of what the cows eat I guess....
  • Reply September 23, 2014

    foodessen

    Great post, I will share this with everyone that asks me. I keep my eggs in the fridge too and I think everyone I know does this once they get them home. But I have to say I love the eggs here, maybe it's just in my head but I think they're better! As for milk, my biggest issue was/is that I am a skim milk drinker and most stores in our area don't carry the 0,1 milk but I manage to keep a good stock so I don't run out. :)
  • Reply September 8, 2014

    MissForest

    Here's the address to the closest "Milchtankstelle" in our region, where you can get raw fresh milk: http://www.milchtankstellen.com/front_content.php?idart=11&id=7 Enjoy! :-)
    • Reply September 9, 2014

      BasketsLife

      Wow that is great ~ thank you so much! I will be going for sure!
  • Reply September 3, 2014

    Dana

    hahaha :) This cracked me up because I too was totally shocked to see the milk in the middle of the store! At first I thought someone had simply FORGOTTEN to put it away, or they were in the process of doing so, but then I realized, they'd simply left it out on purpose! Same with the eggs.
  • Reply August 29, 2014

    The Bohemian Diaries

    This post was utterly hilarious and informative at the same time! I am still sitting here giggling about your initial thoughts and reactions to warm milk in a box! Here in Bolivia we have milk in bags that seems like it can go either way, refrigerated or not, because I see it sold both ways but always buy it cold. I will have to read more carefully what kind of milk it actually is regarding your information. I know a lot of people who can't drink milk from the U.S. but don't have any problem with European milk, I suppose this is why. Thanks!
  • Oh I totally get what you mean - that warm milk is odd! Give me fresh milk any day.
  • I live in London and thats a weird one for me too. Warm milk, so you actually buy the carton warm? How very random. Well to each, their own.
  • Reply August 29, 2014

    Brianna

    Whoa back up, fresh milk machines? We totally need that in the US!
  • Reply August 28, 2014

    She Dreams of Travel

    I absolutely loved this! I definitely had the same weird feelings when I moved to Spain and had to drink the warm box milk. It wasn't so much the temperature that bothered me but I thought it was going to kill me! Haha not really, but I definitely had some trust issues at first. I had the same issues with the eggs as well. Eventually I just accepted it for what it was… things are different when you move to another country. It's nice to have an actual explanation for the differences now. I will certainly pass on the info to all my other expat friends. Thanks! :)
  • The UHT milk has come a long way. I remember when we were kids it used to have a burnt taste but now it tastes fine to me (Æ still won't drink it due to his childhood scars so he often ends up running to the servo for cold stuff).
  • I don't know about the rest of Europe but here in England we definitely have milk that you buy straight from the refrigerated section in the supermarket too! For example; you can still by 'cartoned milk' (what you refer to as 'warm milk') but it's not as popular as milk you buy that's already chilled. Also, we put our eggs in the fridge here in England too :)
    • Reply August 28, 2014

      BasketsLife

      Yes Beverley I think you are the only country in Europe that has a lot of cold milk ~ however even though you put your eggs in the fridge they are not washed and sanitized they are farm to table with the protective coating. So technically they don't need refrigeration. Thanks for reading.
  • Reply August 27, 2014

    revatidifferentdoors

    I totally get your post! Considering I come from a country where people are still hesitant to buy milk cartons (the milk guy delivers fresh packets every morning) I love strolling through supermarkets and trying to pick up something new to taste each time!
  • Reply August 26, 2014

    SJ @ Chasing the Donkey

    Fascinating!!!! I always wondered what the difference was. We had the warm milk in Australia, I used it as a back up in case I forget the 'real' milk. But now we only get the warm one.. and I was puzzled. Now I know!! Thanks for linking up with us for #sundaytraveler again - fascinating read.
    • Reply August 27, 2014

      BasketsLife

      Well there you have it, seems like such a small difference doensn't it :) thank you for reading :)
  • Love this post! I'm American but have totally converted to boxed milk in Australia. I first drank warm milk in Spain and thought it was a bit strange, but I figured if everyone drank it there and still maintained a healthy Mediterranean diet, than it must be OK. Glad you confirmed my suspicions!
  • Reply August 26, 2014

    Bente Vold Klausen

    This was really interesting! Milk has always been a big issue in our family as well and we all hate warm milk. I remember as a youngster hitch hiking through Europe that well tasting milk was so hard to get. But that was a long time ago! In Scandinavia we all drink the milk cold from the fridge.
  • Reply August 26, 2014

    Christina

    I don´t know about the rest of Europe but here in Austria we put our eggs into the fridge too. So I guess you wouldn´t be a rebel here. It´s interesting how you think about the milk. :D As a child I even drank warm unpasteurized milk right after my granny brought it in from the stable and I am really healthy. So I guess there is no risk by buying any sort of milk at a store. ;)
    • Reply August 26, 2014

      BasketsLife

      That is interesting - because the many times I have been to Austria I have never seen eggs sold in the cold refridgerator section? What stores do you buy your eggs in that sell them cold? In the USA eggs and milk are only sold cold in the grocery and have a much shorter shelf life - Why do you put your eggs in the fridge for bacteria or for shelf life ?
  • Reply August 25, 2014

    Marissa Sutera

    This is great. I haven't had milk from the EU, but I am not opposed to drinking it. However, I think I would still put mine in the fridge like you did so I could drink it cold. Interesting read!
  • […] You want to know the story on the un-refridgerated Warm Milk in the EU –> well just click here to the next page! WARM MILK […]

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