Tea Time Tumult: The American Scientist's Salted Brew that Stirred the British Isles

A US scientist has caused controversy in the UK by offering advice on how to make tea. Michelle Francl, a chemistry professor at Bryn Mawr College, suggests adding a pinch of salt to create the perfect cup of tea.

Her tip can be found in her book "Steeped: The Chemistry of Tea," which was recently published by the Royal Society of Chemistry. This suggestion has not gone down well with tea enthusiasts in Britain, who view Americans as coffee drinkers and believe they have no authority in tea matters. The etiquette guide Debrett's expressed outrage, declaring, "Don't even say the word 'salt' to us." In response to the uproar, the US Embassy in London took to social media to reassure the British people that adding salt to tea is not official US policy. They also joked that the embassy makes tea "in the proper way - by microwaving it." However, they later clarified that this statement was meant in good humor and not as an official announcement.

Francl's book, "Steeped," is a serious exploration of the chemistry of tea and offers advice on how to brew a better cup. Her research over three years delves into the more than 100 chemical compounds found in tea. Alongside suggesting a pinch of salt, Francl also recommends using a pre-warmed pot, briefly agitating the tea bag, and serving in a short and stout mug to retain heat. She also suggests adding milk to the cup after the tea, a practice that often sparks debate among tea lovers.


Francl expressed surprise at the level of reaction her book received in Britain. She mentioned that she expected interest but didn't anticipate getting involved in a diplomatic conversation with the US Embassy. She speculated that the cultural divide between the US and Britain could stem from caffeine consumption or a desire to rebel against a parent country.

The debate on whether salt belongs in tea has reignited the age-old discussion about how to make the perfect cuppa. While some may dismiss Francl's suggestion, others might be intrigued to conduct their own tea experiments. One thing is clear: tea is a serious matter in Britain, and any advice, especially from across the pond, is met with strong opinions and a touch of humor.

Posted in Tech & Science Business & Politics by Quynh Nguyen

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There are 1 comment to this story. You can add your own comments below.

  • Great first story Quynh!

    Thank you for writing this gem. Very interesting! I love the image you came up with to accompany this story! :up:

    By Paul on 02/04/24 18:27

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