Storm over a teacup: US embassy apologises after American professor suggests adding salt to make the perfect cup of tea

24 January 2024, 15:13

It's unclear why some Americans are so committed to ruining tea
It's unclear why some Americans are so committed to ruining tea. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

The US Embassy to the UK has stepped in to apologise after an American professor suggested adding salt to a cup of tea.

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It joked that the idea "threatens the very foundation of our Special Relationship" and said the addition of salt was not official policy.

Michelle Francl, a chemistry professor at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, promoted the addition on top of squeezing the teabag.

"You get some awful cups of tea in the US. People here often use lukewarm water straight from a tap. It's horrific," she said.

"I grew up in the Midwest, which is deep coffee-drinking country, but tea has always been my preferred drink – and I have invested a lot of time into studying it.

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"But even after all these years of drinking tea and researching chemistry, I learned new things about what is in my cup and how to make the very best cup of tea."

She recommends a pinch of salt because sodium helps block a chemical reaction that causes tea to taste bitter.

The advice was sure to horrify British readers who are already mortified at Americans' insistence on using microwaves to make a brew.

The US Embassy, in Nine Elms, waded in on Wednesday in a bid to mend any cross-Atlantic fractures caused by the professor's salty suggestion.

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"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," it said in a statement.

"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.

A suggestion of adding salt to a brew is the latest contemptible attempt at ruining tea from across the pond
A suggestion of adding salt to a brew is the latest contemptible attempt at ruining tea from across the pond. Picture: Alamy

"Therefore we want to assure the good people of the UK that the unthinkable notion of adding salt to Britain's national drink is not official United States policy. And never will be.

"Let us unite in our steeped solidarity and show the world that when it comes to tea, we stand as one.

"The US Embassy will continue to make tea in the proper way - by microwaving it."

The statement contained no reference to the vast crates of tea that were dumped into Boston harbour as the Americans began to revolt against British rule in 1773.

Nor will the last sentence do anything to reassure Brits that the professor's comments are being taken seriously.

Thankfully, her other suggestions were more reasonable.

She proposed pre-heating mugs because the warmth will help release more caffeine and antioxidants from the tea.

Using shorter mugs is better because less surface area keeps tea warmer.

Milk should be added after the tea is poured to prevent curdling, though it ought to be warmed first, while a drop of lemon juice will help stop any scum developing on top of the water.