TODAY was the date in 1839 when the first auction of Assam tea took place in London.

Tea was previously imported from China but the stronger tea from India proved to be more to the Brits’ liking and by 1900 only five per cent of our tea came from China.

To mark the occasion, here are 10 facts about tea:

  • According to legend tea was discovered by accident more than 5,000 years ago when Emperor Shen Nung was banished to a remote corner of southern China. Reduced to drinking only hot water, he got a pleasant surprise one day when wind blew some leaves from a tree into his pot.
  • Tea has been Britain's most popular beverage since the middle of the 18th century, having replaced alcoholic alternatives such as ale and gin.
  • Teabags came about in the early part of the 20th century when American tea merchant Thomas Sullivan sent tea samples in small silk bags to clients who mistakenly dipped it, bag and all, directly into hot water. After customers complained about the lack of such bags with future orders Sullivan decided silk was too expensive to use so he replaced it with gauze, and so teabags were invented.
  • Tea contains half the amount of caffeine found in coffee.
  • The number of recommended cups of tea to drink each day is four to get the optimal benefit.
  • In this country we drink 165 million cuppas a day or 60.2 billion per year. An estimated 70m cups of coffee are drunk each day.
  • We consume about 130,000 tonnes of tea a year of which 96 per cent is in teabags.
  • Just two people of people take their tea without milk, while 70 per cent like tea to be sugar-free.
  • Ireland drinks the most cups of tea per person followed by Britain.
  • Brunettes can rinse their hair in cold tea to add shine.

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