Pennsylvania professor stirs up international controversy over suggestion to put salt in tea

Sarah Bloomquist Image
Thursday, January 25, 2024
Salt in tea? Pa. professor stirs up international controversy
Salt in tea? Pa. professor stirs up international controversy

There is a bit of controversy brewing between Americans and the British. This tempest in a teapot has landed not only a local professor but the U.S. Embassy in London in hot water.

Michelle Francl is a Havertown, Pennsylvania resident who teaches chemistry at Bryn Mawr College.

On Wednesday, her book, "Steeped, The Chemistry of Tea," was published.

It's a well-researched look at the science and history behind the hot beverage.

The brewhaha is over one small part in the book in which Francl offers an unconventional suggestion.

"It's like a page out of the 240 pages. That putting a tiny bit of salt, like a really tiny, not enough to taste, amount of salt in your tea, can make it less bitter," Francl explained to Action News. "It's gotten a little bitter, you can put a tiny bit of salt in, and you know, sort of rescue your tea."

She's found various instances of cultures that put salt in tea both today and throughout history.

The mere suggestion of putting salt in a cup of tea made the people of Great Britain, who take their tea very seriously, seriously salty.

"Who is this person?" asked one BBC commentator.

Another British radio host called it "lunacy".

"Most of all, I think what people are taking offense to is that I am an American telling the Brits what to do with tea," Francl said.

She conjures up the Boston Tea Party, perhaps the greatest tea controversy between the two nations.

Even the U.S. Embassy in London intervened, releasing a statement assuring the good people of the United Kingdom that the unthinkable notion of adding salt to Britain's national drink is not official United States policy and never will be.

The statement concludes with a bit of tongue-in-cheek. "The US Embassy will continue to make tea the proper way - by microwaving it."

That, as well, is sure to be controversial with the Brits.