Whether you’re setting the table for breakfast or brewing up afternoon tea, a separate jug for your milk brings a touch of elegance to the table – far more than a carton straight from the fridge could achieve.

Add a teapot, and a proper teacup and saucer, and a casual cuppa becomes a treat. As for the eternal question – milk or tea first? – the jury is out.

In the early days of tea-drinking, those who could only afford cheap china put the milk in first to avoid cracking the cup. The arrival of stronger materials led to the practice of pouring the tea first – a way of indicating to your guests that you had the finest china on the table.

Whichever method you favour, a milk jug is a must. From out-there animal designs (a modern take on the humorous “cow creamer” by eighteenth-century Dutch craftsman John Schuppe) to practical stovetop designs, and from the traditional pear-shaped jug to dainty bone china vessels, there’s a wide variety of styles to choose from.

When choosing a jug, consider whether you’ll need it for hot milk too: stovetop designs do double duty, heating the milk and serving it too.

And don’t forget that the right jug can have other uses: pretty up a dessert table with a jug to hold cream or custard, or pop in a flower or two to brighten your home.

Metro jug: £14, French Connection

Part of an attractive monochrome collection, this ceramic jug has a hand-dipped finish, giving it a homespun look (despite its handcrafted appearance, it’s dishwasher safe). Slightly bigger than your average milk jug, it could also be used for gravy, custard and even as a vase.

Buy now

Feldspar cobalt milk jug: £35, The Conran Shop

This elegant jug, made of fine bone china in Devon, has a distinctive elongated blue-edged spout for optimum control when pouring. Its Japanese-inspired handle-less design is pleasingly tactile, and makes a classy addition to the tea table.

Buy now

Porcelain milk jug: £22.50, Design Letters

With its modern matte black finish and clean lines, this milk jug almost looks as though it’s made of rubber, but is in fact crafted from fine bone china, giving its sleek form a surprising elegance. The graphic white-on-black lettering – in the famous font designed in 1937 by Arne Jacobsen for the Aarhus town hall – spells out its function, in case of any doubt, and adds a designer touch. The silicone lid has a spout that allows for easy pouring with no spills.

Buy now

Floryd milk jug: £18, Ingrid’s House

The cheerful primary colours and bold graphic design give this Swedish porcelain milk jug a retro edge that will brighten up your breakfast table no end, and the pointed spout and elegant shape has plenty of Scandi appeal. It comes in two colourways: blueberry and lingonberry (red).

Buy now

Stelton Collar milk jug: £41.95, Skandium

This Italian-designed, Scandinavian-influenced milk jug is aimed at coffee drinkers who like their milk hot. Mimicking the lines of the original stovetop espresso maker, the Collar jug can be heated on the stove before being poured directly from the jug. Made of Teflon-coated stainless steel, it’s easy to clean too. The beautiful design is a bonus; it’s pricey, but it looks it.

Buy now

Valgorande milk/cream jug: £6, Ikea

Handmade, with a slightly ridged texture and slight variations in the shades of its pale blue glaze, this squat and sturdy milk jug with a wide spout is a bargain. It’s ideal as an everyday milk jug to pour milk on your cornflakes or, thanks to its wide spout, custard on your crumble.

Buy now

Zebra jug small: £16.60, Quail Ceramics

Quail Ceramics specialise in fun and functional hand painted pieces for the table in quirky animal designs, from rabbit egg cups to dog vases. We’re taken with the wild animal jugs, featuring everything from leopards to giraffes. The small zebra vase makes a good milk jug; pair with the medium and large zebra jugs for added impact. These are great talking-point pieces, elevating the humble milk jug to something a little more interesting.

Buy now

Azure small jug: £31, Denby

This beautifully finished jug has a lovely depth of colour and glossy glaze. The lack of handles gives it a contemporary feel, and its compact size (250ml) makes for easy handling and pouring. The larger size (700ml) is good for gravy and custard. It can be paired with mugs, teapot and sugar bowl from the Azure collection, if you like your tea-ware to match.

Buy now

Chunky white porcelain creamer: £4.50, Sainsbury’s

If you’re looking for a traditional pear-shaped milk jug in simple white porcelain, this is an excellent and affordable option that you can pick up while doing your supermarket shop. The classic and classy silhouette belies the price tag.

Buy now

House Doctor grey milk jar: £10, Nunido

In matte porcelain, this is an unfussy, minimalist jug that makes a simple, tasteful accessory for the table and would be a perfect fit for a Nordic-style scheme. With its straight sides, it could double as a small vase. It’s hand wash only, though as it’s wider than traditional milk jugs this is no hardship.

Buy now

The verdict: milk jugs

With its distinctive design that makes a stylish statement, and affordable price tag, French Connection’s Metro Jug is the best buy. Stelton’s Collar milk jug also impressed us with its practical yet beautiful design, a combination of Scandinavian aesthetics and Italian craftsmanship.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.