Salt in tea advice from US chemist creates stir in Britain, US Embassy in London responds

Salt in tea advice from US chemist creates stir in Britain, US Embassy in London responds


Mary Walrath-Holdridge
 USA TODAYplayShow CaptionHide Caption#videoDetailsToggle{color:var( –color-dove-gray,rgba(0,0,0,.6));cursor:pointer;display:inline-block;font-family:var(–sans-serif,sans-serif);font-size:var(–type-7);font-weight:var( –font-weight-bold,900);line-height:var(–spacer-twentyfour,24px);margin-bottom:-8px}#vdt_hide{margin-bottom:10px}.vdt-flex[hidden]{display:none}.vdt-svg{fill:var( –color-dove-gray,rgba(0,0,0,.6));height:var(–spacer-twentyfour,24px);width:var(–spacer-twentyfour,24px)}Salt in tea? The latest transatlantic tea debate explainedAn American scientist’s recommendation to put salt in tea landed her in hot water in the U.K.ESI Media – The Evening Standard

The biggest tea controversy since the Sons of Liberty dumped 92,000 pounds of tea into the Boston Harbor is upon us – at least according to the internet.

Social media has been in an uproar since Wednesday when a book about tea – yes, tea – seemingly reignited very specific, centuries-old tensions between America and Britain.

Written by an American scientist and published in the U.K., the book, which explores the historical, cultural and scientific implications of the hot beverage, makes one landmark assertion the English internet seemingly can’t get past: how to make the “perfect” cup of tea.

While the author makes this conclusion based purely on chemistry, it appears many prefer tradition over science, if the flurry of flabbergasted posts that followed the book’s publication are any indication.

Here’s what’s got the Internet in such a tizzy over a simple cup of tea.

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What did the controversial book say?

Michelle Francl, professor of chemistry at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, made the controversial statements in her book, “Steeped: The Chemistry of Tea,” which was published by the U.K. Royal Society of Chemistry on Wednesday.

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In exploring the history, chemical makeup and science behind different teas, Francl came to one big conclusion: the “perfect” cup of tea is achieved using salt and lemon.

In a chapter titled “Sugar and Spice,” Francl explores the different ways tea is commonly prepared, breaking down the science behind common additives such as artificial sweeteners, added spices and milk infusions.

As part of this analysis, Francl argues that table salt is a sensible addition to most teas, as the sodium interacts with the chemical process that makes tea bitter, neutralizing the bite and making your cuppa more pleasant to drink. The addition of lemon is primarily for aesthetic purposes, as Francl says it combats a dark pigment called thearubigins that appears on the surface of black tea, changing the color to something lighter and more pleasing to the eye.

Does Francl have science on her side? Sure. But does she have the Brits, who consume 36 billion cups of tea per year, on board? If social media is any indication, absolutely not.

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Brits, Americans take to social media

In a hilarious twist, online commotion over the alleged “perfect” cup of tea took off so quickly, the U.S. Embassy in London got in on the debate with a post on X, formerly Twitter, viewed 19.8 million times since appearing on Wednesday morning.

Captioned, “An important statement on the latest tea controversy,” the lighthearted post started: “Today’s media reports of an American Professor’s recipe for the ‘perfect’ cup of tea has landed our special bond with the United Kingdom in hot water.”

Continuing, the post said, “Tea is the elixir of camaraderie, a sacred bond that unites our nations. We cannot stand idly by as such an outrageous proposal threatens the very foundation of our Special Relationship.”

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Just when it seemed the statement supported the plight of America’s tea-loving neighbors across the pond, a twist at the end reignited the debate. “The U.S. Embassy will continue to make tea in the proper way — by microwaving it,” the post ended.

An important statement on the latest tea controversy. 🇺🇸🇬🇧 pic.twitter.com/HZFfSCl9sD

— U.S. Embassy London (@USAinUK) January 24, 2024

The post had garnered 19,000 shares and over 3,000 comments as of Thursday afternoon, many of which couldn’t help but play on the most obvious of jokes.

“Should I vote this [community] note as helpful?” one comment read, accompanied by a screenshot of community notes suggestion saying, “According to American tradition, the best way to properly make tea is by dumping it into the nearest harbor.”

Should I vote this note as helpful? pic.twitter.com/ZE8gsD0YV2

— Queen Iseabail, the Sassy Lassy 🇺🇦🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 (@bandrui0) January 24, 2024

Yo, the United States was founded by adding salt to tea. pic.twitter.com/VVPSee0plR

— Jack Farrington (@jackfarrington) January 24, 2024

Plenty of other posts referenced the Boston Tea Party of 1773, the American political protest in which residents of colonial Mashecuttes dumped an entire shipment of tea sent by the British East India Company into the Boston Harbor in protest of taxation laws implemented by Britain via the Townshend Act.

*Puts down pitchfork*

*Reads to the bottom*

*Picks up pitchfork*

— Yorkshire Tea (@YorkshireTea) January 24, 2024

Other responses came from Brits offended by the seemingly American practice of microwaving tea, as it contradicts the standard English practice of preparing tea using hot water from an electric kettle.

“Microwave”!?
Faints in English. pic.twitter.com/IjKzyDJ53X

— Rhen Garland (@RhenWitch) January 24, 2024

If there’s one thing Americans and Brits can agree on, it’s this: the English don’t like it when you mess with their tea.

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