Tea has been an important part of UK culture for centuries, and isn’t typically a recipe that should be messed with.
However, one American professor, Michelle Francl, a professor of chemistry at Bryn Mawr College, recently came up with a recipe for the perfect cup of tea, according to science. A part of the recipe included adding salt to reduce any of the bitterness that comes from black tea.
More of Francl’s tea tips are detailed in her new book titled Steeped: The Chemistry of Tea, and include the suggestion to add a squeeze of lemon to remove any “scum” that may appear on the drink’s surface.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, the professor explained her reasoning behind the book. “You get some awful cups of tea in the US. People here often use lukewarm water straight from a tap. It’s horrific,” she told the outlet.
“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.”
On Wednesday 24 January, the US Embassy in London decided to release a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, to weigh in on whether or not they felt Francl’s method was accurate.
“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,” the statement began.
An important statement on the latest tea controversy. 🇺🇸🇬🇧 pic.twitter.com/HZFfSCl9sD
— U.S. Embassy London (@USAinUK) January 24, 2024
“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.”
“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 official United States policy. And never will be,” the statement continued.
“Let us unite in our steeped solidarity and show the world that when it comes to tea, we stand as one,” the embassy cuttingly wrote, before delivering one final blow.
“The US Embassy will continue to make tea in the proper way — by microwaving it.”
Following this statement, many people took to the comments section of the tweet to give their opinions on the right way to brew and drink a cup of tea.
The Cabinet Office of the UK chimed in, writing: “In response, to the statement put out by the US Embassy in the UK: We appreciate our Special Relationship, however, we must disagree wholeheartedly...Tea can only be made using a kettle.”
In response, to the statement put out by the US Embassy in the UK:
We appreciate our Special Relationship, however, we must disagree wholeheartedly...
Tea can only be made using a kettle. https://t.co/Jt5xWKYRkT
— Cabinet Office (@cabinetofficeuk) January 24, 2024
Other commenters defended America’s microwaving views by posting a photo of a kettle with text across the screen that read: “The British boil their tea water in kettles because they cannot afford microwaves.”
Another American wrote in defence of microwaving tea: “This post makes me proud. I am not a tea guy...but microwaving hot drinks is among the most American things one can do.”
Even a tea company, Typhoo Tea, joined in, writing: “The tea would be better off dumped in Boston Harbor than a microwave.”
Tea has often been a heated debate in other regards, such as what is supposed to be eaten alongside the beverage, if anything. The late Queen Elizabeth II would always have her afternoon tea alongside scones with jam and clotted cream.
There’s also the debate of when to add milk to a cup of tea – before or after the tea. According to tea expert Neil Phillips, the answer is always last. “Milk added first stems from the servants of a large house who used to drink from unrefined clay mugs which could crack when hot tea was poured, so they popped a bit of milk in, before, to act as a coolant,” the expert previously told The Independent.
The Independent has contacted Francl for comment.