Before its introduction into England, the regular breakfast drink of choice – for everyone from Queen Elizabeth I to commoners and ever children – had been ale. This might seem strange today but ale did provide a healthy amount of B vitamins, iron and antioxidants.

This practice changed when, in the 18th century, Queen Anne began starting her day with tea and a new trend was born.

Herbal teas – also known as infusions – have been used to ease a wide variety of ailments for centuries. Made from the roots, flowers, bark, seed, stems or leaves of herbs and spices, they contain no black tea, and therefore no caffeine, and so are not strictly tea. Each has its own healing quality: peppermint tea, for example, eases digestion, while camomile tea is soothing.

Flavoured teas and infusions are our sixth most popular tea, according to the Sainsbury's survey. Ordinary tea is the bestseller, followed by Earl Grey, Assam, green tea and Kenyan. Green tea, likw black tea, is made from the leaf of the Camellia sinensis plant. While black tea is fermented before drying, green tea is dried untreated.

Drinking too much teas does have its downsides. While the Tea Council points to scientific research highlighting the benefits of drinking at least 4 cups of tea per day, independent watchdog the Food Standards Agency (FSA) warns that people shouldn't rely on tea, coffee and colas as their only source of fluid.

"Caffeinated drinks can act as mild diuretics, which means they make the body produce more urine," says the FSA. "Some people are more susceptible to this than others, but it also depends on how much caffeine you have and how often you have it. Excessive amounts of tea should be avoided."

Caffeine can become addictive if drunk in large quantities, although a cup of tea does contain around half the caffeine content of coffee. While green tea is bursting with antioxidants, contrary to popular belief it does contain caffeine.

Both tea and coffee also contain polyphenols, which make it harder for the body to absorb iron. It's therefore advisable to avoid drinking them with meals, or up to 30 minutes after a meal.

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