Leading Article: More tea, please

MORE TEA, vicar? Sadly not, these days. We are losing our taste for our national drink. The Tea Council is worried. The Tetley tea men are fretting. The PG chimps are screeching with anxiety. They are right to be. Tea sales have been slipping over many years. One of the more regrettable consumer fads of the 1990s has been the invasion of ersatz American-style coffee bars, all stainless steel and froth and cool. Their meretricious charms have proved all too attractive to us, especially for those who want to live out a Sleepless in Seattle fantasy lifestyle in Wapping or Wolverhampton. It looks all too much like a re-run of the grey squirrel versus the native red or McDonald's versus the chippie. Now it is the espresso macchiato versus the cuppa.

But it has to be said that the decline of tea is, to some extent, our own fault. We have failed to honour our heritage. The tea bag is now ubiquitous. Even the poshest restaurants and hotels do not serve tea with tea leaves and a tea-strainer any more. It is time to launch the campaign for real tea and for the revival of the old British tea house.