UK steps closer to war with the US after professor suggests putting salt in tea

The British know how to make a cup of tea (Picture: Getty)

An American professor has caused a diplomatic row between the US and the UK after suggesting an usual ingredient should be put in tea.

Dr Michelle Francl, an American professor at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, suggested that the first step to making a perfect cuppa was to add a pinch of salt.

Well, it’s safe to say that didn’t go down well. At all.

Social media was soon ablaze with angry tea drinkers taking issue with not only the notion of salt in a brew, but the audacity of an American telling Brits how to make their drink.

‘Salt in tea is the most treasonous idea I’ve ever heard,’ said X user Kate Feldman.

Another user, Shimanti, said: ‘Omg, how could Americans suggest that a pinch of salt is needed in a cup of tea?’

‘Salt in tea and then microwaving it? I’m not sure, but I think this is a declaration of war,’ wrote Leon Oldman – and was apparently not too far from the truth.

As tempers flared, the US Embassy felt the need to step in, posting a statement on X that read: ‘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.

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

‘Therefore we want to ensure the good people of the UK that the unthinkable notion of adding salt to Britain’s national drink is not the official United States policy.

‘And it never will be.’

The tea puns continued.

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

However, the statement ended with another grenade.

Tea is no laughing matter (Picture: Getty Images)

‘The US Embassy will continue to make tea the proper way – by microwaving it.’

So, what exactly was all the fuss about?

Well, Dr Francl has dedicated years to studying papers and historic texts dating back more than 1,000 years to figure out the exact recipe for the perfect tea.

All are revealed in her new book, Steeped: The Chemistry of Tea, published by the Royal Society of Chemistry, but it was the addition of salt that really wound people up. 

She said regular table salt will help reduce the bitterness of the tea, as the sodium ions will interact with the chemical mechanism of how we perceive bitter taste. 

Microwaving your tea is also a huge no-no (somebody tell the embassy), and can lead to an unpleasant film across the top. If you must though, try adding lemon juice to get rid of the ‘scum’. The juice lowers the pH while citrate ions can surround calcium and magnesium ions, preventing them forming solids.

Other tips included warming the milk before adding it into your brew will reduce the chance of it curdling, and keep the tea hotter for longer. 

How to make the perfect cup of tea – according to an American

  1. Add a pinch of salt to reduce bitterness
  2. Using warm milk will reduce the chance of curdling
  3. A short and stout mug will keep your tea hotter
  4. Use tea leaves over teabags
  5. Give the leaves room to move by using a tea basket
  6. Heat your cup or pot
  7. Only use tea leaves or teabags once
  8. Never microwave your tea
  9. Don’t steep for too long – longer means bitter, not better

In less controversial advice, Dr Francl suggests using short, stout mugs which have less surface area so the tea stays warmer for longer. Using larger tea bags (but ideally loose tea leaves) will allow the tea room to breathe – but make sure to only use them once. 

And there you have it – how to make the perfect cup of tea. According to an American.

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