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posted by hubie on Monday January 29, @09:26AM   Printer-friendly
from the even-better-add-7000mg-of-coffee dept.

The British claim to know a thing or two when it comes to making a good cup of tea:

The beverage is a cultural institution in the UK, where an estimated 100 million cups are drunk every day.

But now a scientist based more than 3,000 miles away in the US claims to have found the secret to a perfect cuppa that many Brits would initially find absolutely absurd - adding salt.

Prof Michelle Francl's research has caused quite the stir in the UK, and has even drawn a diplomatic intervention from the US 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," the embassy said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

[...] It turns out that it is not a new idea - the ingredient is even mentioned in eighth century Chinese manuscripts, which Prof Francl analysed to perfect her recipe.

"What is new is our understanding of it as chemists," Prof Francl said.

She explains that salt acts as a blocker to the receptor which makes tea taste bitter, especially when it has been stewed.

By adding a pinch of table salt - an undetectable amount - you will counteract the bitterness of the drink.

"It is not like adding sugar. I think people are afraid they will be able to taste the salt."

She urges tea-loving Brits to have an open mind before pre-judging her research, which she has documented in her new book Steeped: The Chemistry of Tea, published by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

"It is okay to experiment," she says. "I did experiments in my kitchen for this - channel your inner scientist."

If you want a deeper dive into the chemistry and nuances of a cup of tea, there is this older article from Chemistry World:

The chemistry in your cuppa:

'Now I'm going to teach you how to slurp,' says Kathryn Sinclair, senior brand ambassador at British tea firm Twinings. 'We taste from the olfactory glands and we need to open these up, so breathe in through the mouth, breathe out through the mouth and slurp.' She noisily sucks up the pale-coloured liquid using a soup spoon. I try the same, experiencing a slightly sweet and fresh floral taste. This is tea number one – white tea – in the Twinings tea master class held at the company's 300-year old shop on the Strand in London. Sinclair notes that white tea is a young leaf that is rich in antioxidants and which has the highest caffeine content out of all the tea types because it is the least processed. 'White tea is the purest form of tea,' she explains.

[...] Ultimately, however, the differences in tea types come down to chemistry, and this chemistry is influenced by cultivation, environment, weather and, importantly, processing. 'From the chemistry perspective, tea is the ultimate mystery and challenge to food and analytical chemists,' says Nikolai Kuhnert, a chemist at Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany. 'No food material is more fascinating and chemically diverse and complex.'

[...] However, more research is required into the specific health properties of tea and its chemicals. There are concerns around the health impact of caffeine and, as yet, the US Food and Drug Administration has been slow to recognise the benefits of tea, Melican says. 'Personally, I drink nearly a quart of tea a day. I am 75 years old, healthy, active and still work a 50-hour week – so there may be something in it.'

Drinking tea has been popular for millennia. Slowly the science is starting to reveal the complex chemical nature of our favourite brew. 'In the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, the Nutri Matic drink dispenser is unable to provide Arthur Dent with a good cup of tea. Now the science can explain why,' says Kuhnert: 'It's just too complicated.'

YouTube:


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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by driverless on Monday January 29, @09:55AM (4 children)

    by driverless (4770) on Monday January 29, @09:55AM (#1342263)

    Friend of my dad's was a cook in the merchant navy and used to salt the coffee (liquid), which meant he could use less of it (solid/grounds) and sell the sudden surplus when he got to port for a tidy profit from places that only had crap coffee available locally. This would have been in the 1950s or 60s and I doubt he invented the scam so it's been known for a very long time.

    • (Score: 2) by cykros on Monday January 29, @11:32AM (2 children)

      by cykros (989) on Monday January 29, @11:32AM (#1342269)

      I regularly throw a tiny bit of salt in my grinds, along with cardamom, clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and a bit of black pepper.

      Why anyone uses sugar and/or cream instead is beyond me.

      • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Monday January 29, @01:23PM

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday January 29, @01:23PM (#1342276)

        You are describing my (fancy) oatmeal recipe, and salt (or as the Chinese restaurants know all too well: MSG) is a cheap flavor enhancer - if you want the flavor without using so much of the expensive spices.

        --
        🌻🌻 [google.com]
      • (Score: 2) by epitaxial on Wednesday January 31, @06:20PM

        by epitaxial (3165) on Wednesday January 31, @06:20PM (#1342534)

        How long have you disliked coffee?

    • (Score: 2) by acid andy on Monday January 29, @02:10PM

      by acid andy (1683) on Monday January 29, @02:10PM (#1342280) Homepage Journal

      Yep I put a little in my coffee sometimes. Helps get the blood pressure up a bit.

      --
      If a cat has kittens, does a rat have rittens, a bat bittens and a mat mittens?
  • (Score: 2) by Rosco P. Coltrane on Monday January 29, @11:12AM (6 children)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (4757) on Monday January 29, @11:12AM (#1342265)

    The best isn't found in Britain, Italy, Japan or France.

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by cykros on Monday January 29, @11:30AM (4 children)

      by cykros (989) on Monday January 29, @11:30AM (#1342267)

      Well, except that those other things either originate or at least predominantly associated with those countries.

      When was the last time anyone saw tea that was grown in the UK? And something tells me that the people who drink tea in China, India, and Japan both outnumber, and have been doing it longer, than the Brits.

      And having sampled quite a few of their variants, I can also surely say that they do it better.

      • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Monday January 29, @01:26PM (2 children)

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday January 29, @01:26PM (#1342277)

        Yes, but do any cultures outside of Britain use tea rituals to differentiate the socio-economic classes?

        --
        🌻🌻 [google.com]
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, @02:20PM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, @02:20PM (#1342281)
          Yes. The poor ain't gonna be doing those fancy tea ceremonies with fancy teas.
          • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Monday January 29, @05:21PM

            by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday January 29, @05:21PM (#1342310)

            Was actually looking for examples... most other cultures' tea rituals I know are much more modest and accessible than afternoon tea with sandwiches, scones & cakes was in its original 1800s incarnation.

            Of course, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, the rabble do also like their tea in Britain, and they follow the nobility as best they can; but no one would ever mistake tea in a collier's home for a proper tea as is served by the nobles' staff.

            --
            🌻🌻 [google.com]
      • (Score: 2) by JustNiz on Monday January 29, @09:35PM

        by JustNiz (1573) on Monday January 29, @09:35PM (#1342332)

        Sorry but no. Chai is just fucking nasty.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, @11:32AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, @11:32AM (#1342268)

      Best tea I've had was green tea in Taiwan. I got lucky on my one trip there, my guide had worked on a tea plantation and we visited his former boss...she did an impromptu tea ceremony while the two of them were catching up on local gossip.

      No bitterness at all in this tea, at least not that I could detect. No need for a tea ball or tea bag either, the tiny leaves (I believe from the tips or buds?) all sank to the bottom of the cup.

  • (Score: 5, Funny) by Rosco P. Coltrane on Monday January 29, @11:16AM (1 child)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (4757) on Monday January 29, @11:16AM (#1342266)

    salt acts as a blocker to the receptor which makes tea taste bitter, especially when it has been stewed.

    You can also add sulfuric acid or sodium hydroxide to kill the bitter taste receptors: that doesn't mean you have a good cup of tea.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, @08:06PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, @08:06PM (#1342326)

      Reductio ad absurdum fallacy. Just because water and urine can both dilute something, doesn't make them both bad just because one of them tastes bad.

  • (Score: 5, Funny) by Thexalon on Monday January 29, @11:35AM (3 children)

    by Thexalon (636) on Monday January 29, @11:35AM (#1342270)

    1. Pour the tea into the sink.
    2. Grab a good beer instead.

    --
    The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
    • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, @11:55AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, @11:55AM (#1342271)

      Hey! You could ferment that tea, you know.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, @01:18PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, @01:18PM (#1342275)

      But, but, ... the ocean begins at your sink, ya know? Think of the marine wild life!

      • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, @01:31PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, @01:31PM (#1342278)

        > the ocean begins at your sink, ya know?

        It's a long way from my backyard septic system to the ocean...first the ground water has to trickle over to Lake Erie, then mosey across Lake Ontario (6 years, says a quick Google) and finally out the St. Lawrence Seaway.

  • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, @02:23PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, @02:23PM (#1342282)

    Add a bit of MSG for extra umaminess... But not too much: https://www.myjapanesegreentea.com/adding-msg-to-green-tea [myjapanesegreentea.com]

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Freeman on Monday January 29, @03:18PM (2 children)

    by Freeman (732) on Monday January 29, @03:18PM (#1342289) Journal

    I've made chocolate pudding from scratch on various occasions and it always calls for just a bit of salt. I tried adding just a pinch of salt to my "coffee/hot chocolate" and it really cuts the bitterness from the coffee. I've never liked the taste/smell of coffee and generally only drink it as part of a hot chocolate. The slightest bit of salt just helps take the bitterness away.

    --
    Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"
    • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Monday January 29, @03:23PM (1 child)

      by Freeman (732) on Monday January 29, @03:23PM (#1342290) Journal

      As far as tea goes.
      #1 Don't over-steep it.
      #2 The first step is key, especially if the sachet of tea is made from paper. Over-steeping is a lot harder to do, if you cold brew, get loose leaf tea, or they are silk sachets.
      #3 Get better tea.

      --
      Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"
      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by kazzie on Monday January 29, @07:01PM

        by kazzie (5309) Subscriber Badge on Monday January 29, @07:01PM (#1342319)

        At work, I typically only have time to dash to the staff room to prep a 'panad' of tea before rushing back to work. I fling a (good) teabag into a Tervis tumbler, top it up with boiled water, and walk off. (No milk for me, thanks.) There's something about the insulated plastic tumbler that allows the tea to brew but not stew, even though I never take the teabag out.

        (At home, where I have more time, I typically use loose leaf.)

  • (Score: 2) by krishnoid on Monday January 29, @04:58PM (1 child)

    by krishnoid (1156) on Monday January 29, @04:58PM (#1342304)

    I say the limeys should go ahead and flavor things up a bit. Considering how popular chicken tikka masala [thespruceeats.com] is in Britain, maybe it's time to let bygones be bygones, and look to the future [britannica.com] in the context of salt.

    • (Score: 2) by bussdriver on Monday January 29, @08:55PM

      by bussdriver (6876) Subscriber Badge on Monday January 29, @08:55PM (#1342329)

      It's just an interesting factoid over something that is 100s of years old and trying get some interest in exploring Chemistry which turned into a vapid social and media engagement. So you "comment below" on Tea and argue over your preferences which doesn't matter at all except for your engagement... I suppose it's better than passively listening to 1 sided blathering of the news readers opinions.

      The media spins nothing into "better" news. It made the media as fun time filler with only one I noticed mentioning the US Embassy was making a joke from it themselves joining it the social media "fun" and instead said things like "intervention" and only quoting the boiler plate beginning of their statement not including the lame diplomatic nerd joke at the end. It's fine to have fun but they need not mischaracterize anybody to do so; a lot of slow people discover these minor flaws and lose trust in the media...ironically migrating to social media or algorithms which are far poorer quality.

      sorry to remove the fun from this viral puff piece.

  • (Score: 2) by darkfeline on Monday January 29, @09:40PM (2 children)

    by darkfeline (1030) on Monday January 29, @09:40PM (#1342333) Homepage

    Salt in small amounts makes lots of foods taste better. Besides obvious ones like meat, stew, soup, also includes cake, watermelon, ice cream, and apparently tea.

    --
    Join the SDF Public Access UNIX System today!
    • (Score: 1) by pTamok on Tuesday January 30, @08:36AM (1 child)

      by pTamok (3042) on Tuesday January 30, @08:36AM (#1342369)

      And chocolate.

      It's not as though excess salt in people's diets is a problem.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 30, @11:16AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 30, @11:16AM (#1342380)

        "Typical/FDA excess" is only an issue if you are salt sensitive. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41371-018-0152-0 [nature.com]

        This study showed that ~32.4% of Chinese adults were sodium sensitive.

        https://www.physoc.org/magazine-articles/salt-and-blood-pressure-in-africans/ [physoc.org]

        A study by Morris et al. (1999) indicated salt sensitivity rates of 73% and 36% in black Americans and Caucasians, respectively. Interestingly, native Nigerians were found to have salt sensitivity rates of approximately 56% in hypertensives versus 34% in normotensives, suggesting that hypertensive subjects tended to be more sensitive to salt ingestion (Elias et al., 2014).

        So just test yourself to see if you're salt sensitive.

  • (Score: 2, Touché) by pTamok on Tuesday January 30, @08:34AM (1 child)

    by pTamok (3042) on Tuesday January 30, @08:34AM (#1342368)

    I wonder if the researcher will try to get an amendment made to ISO 3103 [wikipedia.org]

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