Putting salt in tea! Heavens forbid!

 In Bi-lateral trade, Culture, News

As is well known, the United Kingdom’s ties with Portugal extend well beyond around €12Bn of combined annual bi-lateral trade and the Treaty of Windsor of 1386.

We have a lot to be thankful for to our Portuguese friends, not least of all the introduction of the fashion of drinking the UK’s most beloved and famous beverage — tea.

Now, Essential Business has heard that our other close friends and allies across the pond in the US are being encouraged to do the unthinkable and adulterate this quaint and civilised English tradition by the outrageous suggestion that we should be adding a pinch of salt to our favourite brew!

The correct observance of the etiquette of preparing the quintessential English habit of serving afternoon tea in a fine bone china cup — preferably Royal Doulton with hand-painted periwinkles à la mode de Hyacinth Bucket (That’s Bouquet to you), almost brought to boil in a kettle, but not to 100ºc, brewed in an antique 18th century silver Sheffield hallmarked tea pot — covered in a tea cosy — for at least 5 minutes before the host pours the tea from a suitable height — but not too high to cause bubbles — is a sacrosanct rule that if not enshrined into English law, certainly should be, and in EU and international law too at that.

We are already dismayed in his Majesty’s lands that the Portuguese will continue to insist on not putting a splash of milk in the bottom of the cup, but nevertheless have turned a blind eye to this misguided and wholly inappropriate custom of drinking tea black, borrowed from the slovenly French, or perhaps the Chinese. (As if they haven’t already bought up everything in Portugal)

However, spiking your tea with salt, to supposedly improve its taste is, to our mind, sacrilege and adds insult the injury that Portugal already prefers to do more business with our malcreant American cousins and ex-colonists who had already done ‘de trop’ to insult his Britannic Majesty over the same national drink at the Boston Tea Party in 1773.

Of course, we won’t be sending out gunboats – this time – but we do strongly expect the Portuguese President, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and the British Embassy in Lisbon to send out ‘cease and desist’ letters worded in the strongest possible terms on posh headed letter stationery (Well Portugal’s won’t be embossed with a crown since you shoot your kings, so perhaps the presidential monogram or that of Lily Caneças or Paula Bobone will have to suffice!) to the US Embassy in Lisbon, the American Club of Portugal, the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce in Portugal, FLAD, the Carlucci American School, Americans in Portugal, and any other American organisations in Portugal that might be tempted into taking up this new misguided practice, inviting them to politely issue a suitable grovelling statement of retraction for this recalcitrant misdemeanour.

We should also like to point out that heating water for the tea in a microwave is, well, simply not fair cricket and should be avoided at all costs.

We would also recommend a reeducation programme in the form of friendly ‘teatulias’ with the British embassy or perhaps the British Council dispatching experts in the field to teach our Lusitanian and American allies the correct etiquette of English 4 O’clock afternoon tea. (Served with cucumber sandwiches without the crusts, please)

And if you do happen to see any reports about this American processor Michelle Francl’s heretical recipe for the perfect cup of tea, for the sake of our special relationships, ignore and repeat in mantra fashion: “No salt please, we’re British” or if Portuguese, grab your rosary and head for the nearest confessional as these uncivilised notions clearly need exorcising.

Chris Graeme