My news editor is going to hate this week’s column.  

For a man who is almost entirely fuelled by tea (I am sure his veins run with more PG Tips than blood), I have some bad news: it seems Britain is falling out of love with the stuff.

The latest statistics show that per capita tea consumption in 2022 (the latest year for which figures are available) was 25 per cent lower than it was in 2008, and that despite the explosion in working from home resulting in a slight bounce.  The long-term trend shows an even steeper decline.  We now only drink an average 2.7 cups a day, a figure I suspect my news editor has surpassed before he has even had his morning shower.

Meanwhile, coffee – a far more interesting beverage in my view – is catching up fast.  Coffee consumption is now just 15pc behind tea drinking and, if the present trend continues, is set to overtake it in the next few years.

Tea apologists such as my esteemed colleague claim that their drink of choice is healthy - and there is some evidence that its anti-oxidant effect can be beneficial to the body.  But study after study shows that the far more interesting and refined drink that is coffee also bestows health benefits, perhaps even more so.

Research carried out in Australia showed that two or three cups of coffee a day can protect you from cardiovascular disease and an early death, with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s type 2 diabetes, liver disease and prostate cancer all potentially staved off through regular caffeine intake.

Incidentally, the killjoy and pointless drink that is decaffeinated ‘coffee’ has none of the beneficial properties.

These findings remind me of a similar study some years ago, which suggested that a single cup of coffee a day could cut your risk of dying by 12 per cent.  At the time it came out, celebrated risk academic Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter calculated that this meant each cup of coffee would be adding nine minutes to your life (but only if you are a man; for women it’s only there minutes, for reasons which were not made clear).

Now, just think what you could do with those extra nine minutes.  If you are really fit you could run a couple of miles in that time.  If you are a puzzle addict, you could solve the cryptic crossword in your daily broadsheet in those 540 seconds.  

Or if you are a masochist, you might – if you were lucky – just about clear the southern suburbs of Norwich on one of Greater Anglia’s London express trains.

There are many dangers in interpreting this kind of research.  The first is cultural: for example, a Korean study showed that drinking three to five cups of coffee a day – what they call ‘moderate consumption’ – will help prevent heart disease.  But only if you eat a Korean-style diet and enjoy a Korean-style lifestyle.

Lifestyle, in fact, plays a big part in all of this.  What these studies don’t reveal is the things which go alongside coffee consumption.  For example, one argument is that people who can afford to drink a lot of coffee (particularly if bought in High Street coffee shops) tend to be more affluent, and thus generally have fewer of the risk factors which are associated with poverty, such as poor housing or diets.

Then, of course, there is the question of what we consume with our coffee.  If we choose a chocolate pastry, or sugary flavourings in the coffee itself, all that benefit will be undone.

What none of these studies look at is mental wellbeing.  For many of us, that first jolt of caffeine in the morning makes us feel good, and surely that in itself is beneficial for our overall health (I use the same argument to justify my red wine consumption).  I suspect if you deprived my news editor of his immense daily tea intake he would simply cease to function.

If each cup of coffee we drink adds an average nine minutes to our lives, well that’s a bonus.

The problem is that in many of today’s ‘speciality’ coffee shops, the time it takes the barista to faff about with the beans, coax the machine into life and craft an aesthetically-pleasing but ultimately pointless pattern in your cappuccino froth is about ten minutes.  

Which means every cup ends up robbing you of a minute of your life.  

Perhaps I should be drinking tea after all.