LifestyleAn American scientist's tea recipe stirs a diplomatic storm with Britain

An American scientist's tea recipe stirs a diplomatic storm with Britain

Tea became the reason for the dispute.
Tea became the reason for the dispute.
Images source: © Getty Images | Arkadova

12:02 PM EST, January 26, 2024

Can a single beverage cause such international outrage? It's often said that the flutter of a butterfly's wing half a world away can cause a tsunami. Given that, a tea-related scandal is not far-fetched. To the British, tea isn't just a beverage; it's a symbol of their culture and heritage. Consequently, any perceived slight could be a recipe for diplomatic tension. In this case, it's the seeming audacity of an American attempting to teach the British how to brew their beloved tea correctly, which to some is a direct affront to the country and its culture.

How tea sparked an international conflict

American Professor Michelle Francl from Bryn Mawr College publicized her recipe for the perfect cup of tea with a touch of salt. In her view, adding this vital ingredient would help counter the brew's bitter taste. Another point of contention was her suggestion that a bit of lemon juice should be added to the beverage to prevent sedimentation. Lastly, she put forward the idea that the tea bag should be steeped vigorously to neutralize any astringent taste from the tannins. Predictably, many Britons were incensed by these instructions.

But, did Francl's wisdom end there? Unfortunately not. She also offered advice on selecting the right cup and preheating the teapot. A tip on warming the milk was also on the cards, should one fancy having a Bavarian-style tea. The woman believes Americans generally prepare mediocre tea. So, she decided to educate others on the proper serving technique.

The British reaction to this tea proposition

English media and citizens alike were outraged by what they considered to be defilement of their tea-making tradition as Francl's "American way of brewing tea" became widely known. Newspaper outlets like The Daily Mail and The Guardian covered the contentious doctor's advice, which nearly led to a diplomatic crisis. Some even put her theory to the test by conducting taste tests, which unfortunately yielded unenthusiastic reviews.

The US ambassador in London felt compelled to share her thoughts on the matter. She said that tea should not become a sticking point between nations. How did American officials respond? Their response was, ironically, by suggesting they would brew tea in the 'the proper way'... by using a microwave. This was a tongue-in-cheek reference to an earlier scandal involving an American TikTok post about making tea in a microwave. While Americans find the situation amusing, the British certainly are not sharing in the laughter.

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