It’s (maybe) war – and Euronews Culture give you the skinny on what could escalate into something very nasty indeed.
Up until recently, the biggest tea-based fracas between the UK and the US was the 1773 Boston Tea Party, which saw a bunch of patriots hurl entire shipments of tea overboard to protest against the British-enforced tax on the treasured infusion.
Now, there’s a whole new storm brewing… And it’s hard for some to take this rapidly escalating diplomatic row with a pinch of salt.
“Or is it?” as one US scientist may wonder.
Professor Michelle Francl, of Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, got the par-tea started by claiming that she found the secret behind making the perfect cup of tea, going so far as to write a book, “Steeped: The Chemistry of Tea”, published by the Royal Society of Chemistry.
She reportedly read more than 500 papers from the chemical literature about the chemistry of tea, studied the chemical secrets behind a good cuppa, and conducted her own experiments.
Francl’s findings led her to some of the following conclusions:
- People should use a “short and stout mug” as they have less surface area, so keep tea hotter.
So far, so reasonable. Brew on.
- People should opt for leaves over teabags.
Sip sip hooray.
- Warm milk should be used “reduce the chance of curdling”.
- Don’t use the microwave to heat the water as it leads to the formation of something called “tea scum”.
Preach! We love you oolong time! Although, let’s not dwell on the term “tea scum” ever again.
- Adding a small squeeze of lemon juice will remove the “scum” that sometimes appears on the surface of the drink.
There she goes with scum again. Reach for the Nurofen, because that image isn’t going away anytime soon.
- Remove the lid when drinking from a takeaway cup, as the aroma of tea is just as important as the taste.
This is gold. Solid gold. Has Francl considered a presidential bid?
- Add a pinch of salt to the brew to “reduce the bitterness”.
Wait. Sorry, what now?
Yes, salt. The usually granulated mineral composed primarily of sodium chloride that potentializes the taste of whatever’s on your plate. That salt?
Francl states that the sodium ion in salt blocks the chemical mechanism that makes tea taste bitter. And this tip is far from new. The salt-in-tea trick apparently dates back to the eighth century. The ingredient is mentioned in ancient Chinese manuscripts, and with our understanding of chemistry, Francl says that by adding a pinch of table salt, tea-lovers (or cu-teas, as we prefer to be called) will counteract the bitterness of the drink.
The chemistry checks out, but whatever happened to sugar and its bitterness-countering attributes?
Always good to keep an open mind and all that. However, why would you jeopardise the taste of what is nothing short of a cultural institution?
Diplomatic balm gone wrong
Francl’s book, as you can imagine, is raising eyebrows in Britain. You could say that it has caused quite the stir.
Her research has been widely reported on in British media, and certain comments from readers who have failed to appreciate the “you-do-you” nature of peaceful life, are priceless.
The comments section on the extremely conservative (to remain chari-tea-ble) British tabloid Daily Mail went into (predictable) meltdown. They all sounded like the mad ramblings of outraged lunatics on the cusp of an emotional breakdown.
Our favourite? One outraged reader wrote: “Like we need help from the Americans on making tea. Who do you think you’re talking to, the French?”
Woah there, petal. Keep the French out of this. They haven’t asked for anything. They prefer coffee with their breakfast, and don’t want to be included in this nuclear-level shitstorm. Plus, they barbeque beautifully with copious amounts of garlic. Yum.
Sensing that an escalation was on the horizon, the United States Embassy in London intervened by posting an official – but light-hearted – statement to calm things down and maintain the “Special Relationship.”
“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,” started the post.
Damn them, that “hot water” pun should have been ours. Well played.
The embassy said that tea was “the elixir of camaraderie, a sacred bond that unites our nations,” adding: “We cannot stand idly by as such an outrageous proposal threatens the very foundation of our Special Relationship.”
The post solemnly reassured a country in shock: “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.”
“Let us united in our steeped solidarity and show the world that when it comes to tea, we stand as one.”
Phew, crisis averted, and all is well again.
But wait. Had the official statement finished there, that would be the case. However, and significantly more controversially, the US Embassy added this send-off: “The US Embassy will continue to make tea in the proper way – by microwaving it.”
*Second record scratch*
Sweet Mother of Hades on a Camellia sinensis comedown!
Way to escalate things further, Land of the free and Home of the brave.
Fiasco not averted, SNAFU ensured, and Professor Michelle Francl now on the side of the angels.
At the time of publication, the UK has not declared war on the US, and we here at Euronews Culture pledge that we will keep our readers abreast of any further developments concerning the two G7 countries and its imperilled bonds.
We will be nervously drinking copious cups of tea to deal with the anxiety of the impending (and at this point, let’s face facts, inevitable) conflict – tea, we assure our readership, that we will make using a kettle. Because we’re not heathen maniacs, and we would rather drink petrol from the nozzle than to sully a good cup by exposing it to microwave frequency range electromagnetic radiation.
Your move, American Embassy. It’s tea bags at dawn.
“Steeped: The Chemistry of Tea”, by Professor Michelle Francl is out now.