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The Chemistry of Tea

Michelle Francl

Published by the Royal Society of Chemistry

Tea is the world’s most popular beverage. Dive into a cup of tea with a chemist and discover the rich molecular brew that can be extracted from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Tea contains over a thousand different chemical compounds which contribute to its color, taste and scent — and its stimulating effects. The best-known is caffeine, but how does caffeine end up in tea and how can you get it out?


Beginning with the leaves, Steeped explores the chemistry behind different styles of tea, from green teas to pu-erh. It tackles the age-old question of when, or even whether, to add milk. And it puts the chemistry to use with advice on how to brew a better cup.

"Francl scaffolds her knowledge with sip-sized summaries to go along with some of the deeper dives into the molecular world of tea. In doing so, she is able to reach and delight specialists and novices alike." - Matthew R. Hartings, Nature Chemistry

Upon its release in January 2024, the book stirred up significant controversy in the United Kingdom over its recommendation that you could use a pinch of salt to reduce the bitterness of over-brewed tea. The US Embassy in London felt compelled to issue a statement disavowing the practice.


After spilling over into the international arena, the book has been covered in the U.S. by The New York Times, CNN, The Associated Press, and numerous other outlets. U.K. coverage was positively boiling, with articles in The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Guardian, and more. Francl appeared on NPR, the BBC, and ABC Radio Melbourne to discuss the response and the spat even featured as one of the limericks on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me.

Read additional coverage of the book in the Philadelphia Inquirer and La Civilta Cattolica.

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