James Gregory, BBC News
The British are known for their expertise in brewing a good cup of tea, a drink that is consumed at an estimated rate of 100 million cups per day in the UK. However, a US-based scientist has suggested an unusual ingredient for the perfect cup of tea – salt.
Professor Michelle Francl’s research has stirred up controversy in the UK, prompting a response from the US Embassy. The embassy assured the UK that adding salt to tea is not an official US policy and will never be.
Tea has been a contentious issue between the two nations before, with the Boston Tea Party of 1773 being a key event leading to the American Revolution.
Prof Francl, a chemistry professor at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, did not expect her research to cause such a stir. She explains that adding a pinch of salt to tea can counteract its bitterness, a concept mentioned in eighth-century Chinese manuscripts.
In her new book, “Steeped: The Chemistry of Tea,” Prof Francl encourages Brits to experiment with their tea-making process. She suggests using loose leaves instead of tea bags, stirring the drink constantly, and adding a small amount of lemon juice to remove any “scum” on the surface.
She also advises against heating water in a microwave, a common practice in the US, stating that it results in less healthy and less tasty tea.
Despite the controversy, Prof Francl enjoys visiting the UK where she can always find a great cup of tea. As for the future of British-American tea relations, the US embassy will continue to microwave its tea, while the UK Cabinet Office insists on using a kettle.