British women enjoying proper cups of tea
British women enjoying proper cups of tea
Photo: Fox Photos (Getty Images)

It all started on TikTok, of course. An American known only as Michelle from North Carolina decided to demonstrate how to make a perfect cup of tea. Or, rather, she enlisted her teenage daughter to demonstrate while she narrated:

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“First is one cup of instant tea, two cups of Tang, Country Time lemonade, one cup of sugar, another cup of sugar, a little bit of cinnamon, a little bit of cloves, mix it all together, put some water in a cup, put it in the microwave, add a few teaspoons to your hot water, give it a little stir... And that’s what I like for hot tea!”

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The Brits, of course, went bonkers. Michelle made a subsequent video about British hot tea, which involved putting the tea bag in after the water (warmed in the microwave) and milk, and then another about “British eggs” that called for sugar and whipped cream from a can. That should have been a tip-off that she was trolling everybody—that and the fact that she lives in the UK and also that her daughter/assistant appears to have trouble keeping a straight face—but it’s been a hard few years for the British, what with Brexit and Megxit and all, so they had to stand up for themselves somehow.

And so Karen Pierce, the British ambassador to Washington, D.C., called in her “military advisers” to demonstrate how to make a perfect cup of tea, on land, sea, and in the air. (Although, technically, only the sailor actually made his cup of tea on camera.)

Clearly this could not go unanswered. Americans as a nation have emphatically rejected tea, going back to the Boston Tea Party of 1773, but we do have coffee. And so Woody Johnson, the American ambassador to London, made his own video demonstrating, without military aid, how to make a perfect cup of coffee, the way he does it every day. With instant powder! And tap water! It’s enough to make a barista cry.

After Johnson’s video posted, a reporter for the Guardian had the temerity to ask an unnamed source at the Italian embassy for their thoughts. “What he made was American coffee,” the source answered. “And I stress... American coffee.”

Can we look forward to the Italians getting involved now? From there, it’s only a short hop to the French. The Australians can’t possibly pass up an opportunity to provoke the British with an imperfect “perfectly made” flat white. And let’s not forget the South Koreans and their dominance in the arena of fluffy coffee and the Vietnamese with their strong work with condensed milk. It’s been a long time since a war was fought over caffeinated beverages. Here’s an international incident that might actually be fun.

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Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.

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