US Embassy Clarifies: Adding Salt to Britain’s National Drink Not US Policy, Amid Tea Controversy

US Embassy

The US Embassy in London found itself at the center of a lighthearted diplomatic incident after a suggestion by American chemist Michelle Francl to add a pinch of salt to tea sparked a playful yet pointed exchange between the US and the UK.

Francl, a professor at Bryn Mawr College and author of “Steeped: The Chemistry of Tea,” recommended the addition of salt to reduce the bitterness of the beloved beverage. This advice, aimed at enhancing the molecular science behind a good cup of tea, quickly stirred up a storm among the traditionally tea-obsessed Brits.

The suggestion, which went viral on social media, prompted a humorous response from the US Embassy in London. Without directly naming Francl, the Embassy’s social media post playfully acknowledged that the American professor’s tea recipe had “landed our special bond with the United Kingdom in hot water.” The post said that the Embassy would continue to make tea in the “proper way,” by microwaving it.

In response to the US embassy’s statement, the Cabinet Office UK tweeted, “We appreciate our Special Relationship, however, we must disagree wholeheartedly… Tea can only be made using a kettle.”

Sea Salt

Do people put salt in their tea?

Several members of the team at Serious Eats tested Francl’s advice and found that adding a pinch of salt to their tea significantly reduced bitterness and improved the overall flavor. However, it is essential to note that the amount of salt used is crucial. Francl advises using a pinch of salt, not enough to taste, to achieve the desired effect. Adding too much salt can lead to an unpleasant taste, so it is essential to find the right balance.

Additionally, the practice of adding salt to tea is not considered taboo in China and can be traced back to the country’s extensive history of tea cultivation. The use of salt in tea is also observed in other regions, such as the addition of salt to “noon chai” in Kashmir and butter tea in Tibet, where salt is used to enhance the flavor of the tea. While the idea may seem unconventional to some, it is a practice that has been observed and discussed throughout history and across various tea-drinking cultures.

Types of tea with salt

Butter Tea (Po Cha)

Butter Tea, or Po Cha, originates from Tibet and is a staple in Tibetan culture. This unique beverage is made by boiling black tea leaves for hours to create a strong brew, which is then churned with yak butter (or regular butter) and salt. Sometimes, milk is also added to enhance the richness. The result is a thick, creamy tea that is rich, buttery, and slightly salty, providing sustenance and warmth in the high-altitude cold climate of Tibet.

Matcha Latte with Sea Salt Cream

Matcha Latte with Sea Salt Cream is a modern creation popular in East Asia and beyond. This beverage combines matcha powder whisked with hot water, mixed with milk (or a non-dairy alternative) and sweetener, and topped with a creamy foam lightly flavored with sea salt. The drink balances the umami-rich matcha, creamy milk, and a slightly salty topping, offering a unique and satisfying flavor experience often found in trendy tea shops and cafes.

Jasmine Green Tea with Salted Cheese Foam

Originating from Taiwan, Jasmine Green Tea with Salted Cheese Foam is a popular drink in bubble tea shops and specialty cafes. This tea is brewed with jasmine green tea and topped with a thick, whipped layer of salted cheese foam, made from milk or cream, salt, sugar, and cheese powder or cream cheese. The floral and light jasmine tea contrasts beautifully with the rich, salty-sweet cheese foam, creating a unique and refreshing beverage.

Salted Lemon Tea

Salted Lemon Tea is a common beverage in various Asian countries, particularly in Hong Kong and parts of Southeast Asia. This refreshing drink is made by brewing black tea and mixing it with slices or juice of salted preserved lemons, sweetened to taste with sugar or honey. The result is a blend of salty, sweet, and tangy flavors that is both refreshing and soothing, often consumed to relieve sore throats and aid digestion.

Salted Caramel Tea

Salted Caramel Tea is a modern tea blend popular in Western countries. It combines black tea with caramel flavoring and a touch of sea salt. The black tea is infused with caramel pieces and a hint of salt, creating a sweet and creamy beverage with a subtle salty kick. This dessert-like tea is available as a specialty blend in many tea shops and cafes, offering a comforting and indulgent treat.

Mongolian Milk Tea (Suutei Tsai)

Mongolian Milk Tea, or Suutei Tsai, is a traditional beverage from Mongolia. It is made by brewing green tea and mixing it with milk (traditionally cow, yak, or camel milk), salt, and sometimes butter. The mixture is simmered together to blend the flavors, resulting in a savory and creamy tea with a slight bitterness from the green tea. This tea is a daily beverage in Mongolia and is often served to guests as a sign of hospitality.

Thai Salted Lime Iced Tea

Thai Salted Lime Iced Tea is a refreshing drink from Thailand, especially popular in hot weather. It is made by brewing strong black tea and cooling it, then mixing it with fresh lime juice, salt, and sugar, and serving it over ice. The combination of sweet, salty, and citrusy flavors creates a refreshing and tangy beverage commonly found as a street food drink in Thailand.

Hong Kong-style Salted Lemon Tea

Hong Kong-style Salted Lemon Tea is a popular local beverage in Hong Kong. This tea is made by brewing black tea and mixing it with salted lemon slices or juice, sweetened to taste with sugar or honey. The unique combination of salty, sweet, and tangy flavors makes it a refreshing drink often enjoyed for its taste and health benefits, such as soothing sore throats and aiding digestion.

Indian Salted Masala Chai

Indian Salted Masala Chai is a variation of the traditional masala chai enjoyed in some regions of India. This beverage is made by brewing black tea with a blend of spices, including cardamom, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon, and simmering it with milk and sugar. Salt is added to enhance the flavors, creating a spicy and aromatic tea with a unique savory twist. This variation of masala chai offers a different flavor profile that is enjoyed for its rich and warming qualities.

Read More: Indians Speak Out Against Racism in South Korea

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