Following last week’s column about surge pricing and the humble pint of beer, this week’s edition of my ‘Is nothing sacred?’ series turns its attention to an even more British institution: our daily cup of tea.

Anyone who knows me at all knows how much I like my tea: I can’t get out of bed in the morning without one. I’m one of those people who when I travel abroad have a plastic bag full of teabags in my suitcase. Last weekend, I found myself in an Airbnb without (gasp) a kettle, and ended up boiling pans of water rather than using the coffee machine to wake me up.

For many years, Britain has been defined as a nation of tea drinkers. But it turns out, in fact, that this no longer true. Twenty years ago, the UK annually consumed 120 million kg of tea and 50 million kg of coffee: today we buy 80 million kg of tea and 90 million kg of coffee. Not only that, but last year, for the first time, black tea made up less than half of tea bought, with 50.3 per cent of tea sales for green, peppermint and all that assorted fruity nonsense.

Stepping (steeping?) up to the plate comes PG Tips. Once the UK’s biggest seller (a crown passed over to Yorkshire Tea in 2018), the company have spent a reported £50 million creating a new tea bag to win back those latte loving deserters. What they’ve come up with is a teabag that infuses in just 60 seconds. Their research revealed that 85 per cent of people leave their teabag in for less than a minute, with 45 per cent of tea makers giving their teabag just 30 seconds to do its stuff. I know. The result of this £50 million project is a slightly larger square tea bag with tea the ‘perfect particle size’ to speed up the infusing process.

Now. While there’s a logic to PG Tips’ plan, it’s the wrong conclusion to draw. The real takeout from that research is that 85 per cent of people don’t know how to make a cup of tea. Rather than indulging them with some ‘It’ll only take a minute’ concoction, that £50 million would have been better spent educating people about how tea should be properly brewed.

I did try the new just-a-minute PG Tips bag, in a taste test against my usual Dorset Tea (brewed for three minutes). It was, well, watery. Turns out the key ingredient for a decent cup of tea isn’t to do with the size of the bag or the particles: it’s time. Rather than speeding up the process, the secret to a proper brew remains having the patience to slow things down.