By David Derbyshire
The nation that once exported the pleasing rituals of afternoon tea around the world now appears happy to dunk a tea bag in hot water for a few seconds.
Sales of teapots have plummeted by two thirds in five years, figures show today.
At the end of the 20th century, Tesco sold nearly 20 styles of teapot. Today it has only five and sales have dropped by 62 per cent over the same period. Sales of cups and saucers have fallen by 85 per cent since 2001.
Research by the supermarket found that 18- to 40-year-olds considered teapots and cups and saucers "quaint, dainty and old-fashioned". Joy Lever, its cookwear buyer, said: "Most people prefer drinking from mugs these days, as the drink lasts longer."
People are also unwilling to wait the five minutes needed for a proper brew.
The Tea Council said that 96 per cent of tea drunk in Britain was now brewed from tea bags. "But there has been an increase in the number of young people drinking tea," a spokesman added.
The market research company TNS Data found that demand for loose tea fell by 7.7 per cent in the year to February. Sales of herbal teas rose by 3.6 per cent and instant coffee by 4.4 per cent.
Edward Bramah, 74, the founder of the Bramah Museum of tea and coffee, in London, believes that tea bag drinkers are missing the real taste of tea.
"Orthodox tea has flavour and is delectable and delicious," he said. "It is true that the British have this great history involving tea.
"But today I would suggest that the British don't know anything about tea!"