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National Tea Day: The story behind Britain’s favourite beverage

With National Tea Day this weekend, we take a closer look at the UK’s favourite beverage.

Tea has been a national institution ever since its consumption overtook ale and gin in the mid 18th century.

The British drink around 165 million cups of it a day, which equates to 60.2 billion a year. That compares with 70 million cups of coffee daily. Some 98 per cent of us take our tea with milk, and only 30 per cent of us take it with sugar.

There are also concrete health benefits to a drinking it, provided that you don’t go over the recommendation of four cups daily.

Tea is good for your health

Drinking tea  is a natural source of antioxidants, compounds that soak up “free radicals” (unstable substances which can disrupt processes that can cause heart disease and cancer) and promote healthy bodily functions.

Various studies have found that tea can even reduce stroke risk, lower blood pressure and the risk of high cholesterol and diabetes. However several doctors note that more research into these areas is needed to be totally certain of these effects.

Tea contains less than half the amount of caffeine as coffee, which means many of the negative effects associated with high caffeine consumption are reduced.

Caffeine leads to an increase of neural activity in the brain, which can affect the nervous system and cause increased heart rate, thirst, hunger, nervousness, anxiety, dilation of air passages and insomnia.

It is a lot better to drink three cups of tea a day than three cups of coffee, but the social risks of caffeine are still associated with tea if too much is consumed.

Tea is good for your office life

Some 80 per cent of office workers say that they find out more about what is going on at work over a cup of tea than any other way according to tea.co.uk

The tea round is a staple of British office life, and LondonOffices.com has devised a list of rules for making tea in the workplace.

Entries include always offering to make colleagues a cup of tea or coffee and remembering their tea order. Never jump the queue to the kettle and make sure not to put a wet teaspoon back into the sugar pot.

Some of the tips on the list are quite particular- it advises against carrying multiple mugs at once and stirring cups of tea with anything other than a teaspoons. It also warns against coughing or sneezing into the mug, which is surely beyond consideration.

There’s no shortage of different teas

To fall under the national definition of a tea, a beverage must come from the Camellia sinensis plant.

The UK Tea and Infusions Society estimates that there are around 1,500 varieties of tea that are derived from the plant, the most popular of which is green tea.

Green tea has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries as a remedy for depression and headaches. It has also been studied for its preventative affects against cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. There is also evidence that it lessens cholesterol and helps combat obesity.

Other popular herbal tea blends include peppermint; camomile and oolong that all claim their own unique health benefits, but there are also some teas that veer towards the more adventurous end of the spectrum.

Kombucha is a traditional Russian blend known as “tea cider” that has a distinctive sour taste, whilst Chinese panda dung tea uses panda feaces as a growing fertilizer for Green Tea that reportedly absorbs nutrients.

Other oddball blends include chilli and lime, maple and bacon and hot cross bun.