A US scientist has brewed up a storm by offering Britain advice on making tea

Category: Human Interest


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. spark / spɑrk / (v.) – to start or make something happen

    The teacher’s question sparked an interesting discussion among the students.

  2. boor / bʊər / (n.) – a person who is rude or lacks social manners

    The boors in the movie theater were talking loudly and disturbing the others.

  3. tongue-in-cheek / tʌŋ ɪn tʃik / (idiom) – intended as a joke and should not be taken seriously

    Mary’s tongue-in-cheek comment about needing a vacation made her coworkers laugh.

  4. solidarity / ˌsɒl ɪˈdær ɪ ti / (n.) – the feeling of unity or mutual support among people who have the same goals, interests, or beliefs

    In times of crisis, communities often come together in solidarity to help one another.

  5. agitate / ˈædʒ ɪˌteɪt / (v.) – to shake or stir up a liquid

    The solution was continuously stirred, agitating the mixture until all the ingredients were well-blended.


Read the text below.

An American scientist has sparked a trans-Atlantic tempest in a teapot by offering Britain advice on its favorite hot beverage.

Bryn Mawr College chemistry professor Michelle Francl says one of the keys to a perfect cup of tea is a pinch of salt. The tip is included in Francl’s book “Steeped: The Chemistry of Tea,” published in January by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

The salt suggestion drew howls of outrage from tea lovers in Britain, where popular stereotype sees Americans as coffee-swilling boors who make tea, if at all, in the microwave.

The U.S. Embassy in London intervened in the brewing storm with a social media post. “Let us unite in our steeped solidarity and show the world that when it comes to tea, we stand as one,” said the tongue-in-cheek post. “The U.S. Embassy will continue to make tea in the proper way — by microwaving it.”

The embassy later clarified that its statement was “a lighthearted play on our shared cultural connections” rather than an official press release.

“Steeped,” in contrast, is no joke. The product of three years’ research and experimentation, the book explores the more than 100 chemical compounds found in tea and “puts the chemistry to use with advice on how to brew a better cup,” its publisher says.

Francl said adding a small amount of salt — not enough to taste — makes tea seem less bitter because “the sodium ions in salt block the bitter receptors in our mouths.”

She also advocates making tea in a pre-warmed pot, agitating the bag briefly but vigorously, and serving in a short, stout mug to preserve the heat. And she says milk should be added to the cup after the tea, not before — another issue that often divides tea lovers.

Francl has been surprised by the level of reaction to her book in Britain. “I kind of understood that there would hopefully be a lot of interest,” she told The Associated Press. “I didn’t know we’d wade into a diplomatic conversation with the U.S. Embassy.”

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Do you think that the outrage of tea lovers in Britain is a valid reaction to Francl’s suggestion? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Considering the diverse opinions on tea preparation presented in the article, do you think there is a “correct” way to make tea, or is it ultimately subjective and based on individual taste preferences? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Professor Francl said that she knew her book would be controversial, but she did not expect that there would be a diplomatic conversation with the U.S. Embassy about it. Do you think tea is an acceptable reason to spark a diplomatic conversation? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • How would you feel if a diplomatic institution in your country released a tongue-in-cheek statement (ex. it’s unacceptable, it’s funny)? What kind of statements should diplomatic institutions avoid making? Why? Discuss.