Salt in tea has brewed trouble in US-UK relations

If you want to annoy the English, heat your tea in the microwave. But for a truly government-invoking level of distress, simply toss some salt into your tea.

That is exactly what American scientist Michelle Francl did when she offered the Brits some tea tips and suggested that the key to a perfect cup of tea was a pinch of salt.

Francl shared the hot tip in her new book, “Steeped: The Chemistry of Tea,” explaining the science behind making a great cup of tea.

“It turns out that a tiny amount of salt, not enough to even taste, blocks the perception of bitterness,” Francl, who is a chemistry professor at Bryn Mawr College, told ITV News.

But the last time the English had their tea mixed with salt was when American colonists protested the British Parliament’s tax on tea by dumping crates of British tea into the salty waters of Boston Harbor in 1773, so you best believe this tip was not taken lightly.

Thousands ran to social media to criticize the idea, including the British website Debrett’s Advice on Etiquette, which took to X to say, “Don’t even say the word ‘salt’ to us…” and shared the proper guide to “the great British tradition of tea-drinking.”

The backlash landed at the U.S. Embassy in London, making them realize they needed to nip this in the bud to keep the U.S.-U.K. relationship intact. 

“We cannot stand idly by as such an outrageous proposal threatens the very foundation of our Special Relationship,” said the embassy. “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.”

But before closing out their statement, as the true Americans they are, they stirred the tea a bit more and said, “The U.S. Embassy will continue to make tea in the proper way—by microwaving it.”

The Cabinet Office of the U.K. was not 100% pleased with the little joke and quickly responded, “We appreciate our Special Relationship, however, we must disagree wholeheartedly … Tea can only be made using a kettle.”

I guess in the end, we can all agree that this was a bad day for tea lovers. Thankfully at Scripps News, we’re more coffee drinkers.