Opinion: We Brits don’t need tea-brewing advice from Americans

Almost exactly 250 years after the Sons of Liberty dumped chests of tea into Boston Harbour, a professor from Bryn Mawr College has committed a crime against the British cuppa very nearly as grave. With scant regard to diplomatic relations, chemist Michelle Francl advised in her new book “Steeped: The Chemistry of Tea” that to create the perfect brew, a grain of salt should be added to the mix.

Headshot of writer Rosa Prince

Rosa Prince

The response was swifter than a military scramble to a nuclear code red.

“Tea is the elixir of camaraderie, the bond that unites our nations,” the US Embassy in London stated in an official communique rushed out on X in a desperate bid to avert an international incident. “We cannot stand idly by as such an outrageous proposal threatens the very foundation of our Special Relationship.”

Battle stations might have been stood down … had the release not gone on: “The US Embassy will continue to make tea in the proper way – by microwave.”

Well. Far from calming tensions, the words doubled down on the original offense, triggering flashbacks in the soul of every Brit who ever strayed west of Iceland.

It’s downtown LA; Midtown Manhattan; Rust Bucket Indiana. In our innocence we’ve gone and ordered a cup of Rosie Lee. It arrives: a chilly bag floating atop a cup of bathwater. What purports to be a nice cuppa accompanied not by good honest cow’s milk but some kind of yellow citrus thing.

Worse is when the tea itself is some unconscionable fruit or “’erbal” flavor. Or, god forbid, arrives not in a good honest tea bag, but taking the false form of — shudder — tea leaves.

One of the highlights of my 10 years living in New York City was the day the local grocery store opened a “British section,” with RibenaBourbon biscuits and, most satisfying of all for a homesick limey, Tetley tea bags.

I once visited a tea factory in Sri Lanka where a lovely worker gave a whole spiel about how the finest teas came from the tips of the leaves, and that people who drank the stuff made from bags were basically consuming the sweepings from the floor.

Being British, I was too polite to point out that sweepings from the floor are what we like to drink, were raised to drink, celebrate drinking in daily, some cases hourly rituals. My mother’s best friend would give her children sweet milky tea in their bottles as soon as they were off the breast, a custom considered a little precocious, perhaps, but certainly not eccentric.

I took up the tea habit when I was about 12 or 13, and like most of my countrymen and women have had a cuppa four or five times a day ever since. It’s less edgy than coffee, cheaper than gin and generally a soothing, unifying kind of thing, particularly when shared with others. You’re offered a cuppa char if you’ve given birth, witnessed a murder, come home from a crappy day at work.

And there are definite wrongs and rights about how to brew up. Too weak, and you’ll be accused of serving “gnat’s piss”; leave the bag in too long and it’s “stew.” You’re generally considered a good egg if you prefer “builder’s,” named for the construction workers who endearingly prefer that customers provide a steady stream of cups of strong tea with only a splash of milk to the generous cash tips their American cousins favour.

As to the question of whether or not to add sugar; to my mind it seems a little immature over the age of puberty but who am I to judge?

However, salt? Salt? Whether in the seas of Boston Harbour or some mad prof’s lab in rural Pennsylvania, tea and salt do not mix and that, my Yank friends, is that.https://kreditmacet.com

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