PM William Ewart Gladstone may have made some mistakes in his time (dithering on Irish home rule, hanging out with fallen women, not being as cool as Disraeli etc) but he was spot on when it came to the ultimate hot beverage:

“If you are cold, tea will warm you. If you are too heated, it will cool you. If you are depressed, it will cheer you. If you are excited, it will calm you.”

There’s nothing like a good cup of tea. If I’m bored at work it will distract me. If I’m being sociable, it’s a lovely thing to share. If I want to make a foreign friend happy, I simply make them a cup...

One of the most interesting things about living overseas is getting an insight into how people view the British. My Swiss, Swedish, Estonian and US friends invariably refuse coffee when they come over to my house. Always demanding tea instead. They have an inbuilt belief that being British I’ll have been born with the ability to make a cracking cuppa. I don’t like letting them (and my nation) down.

Feeling the pressure, I’ve developed a kitchen full of the finest tea-making equipment and in the process have got quite pernickety myself about top tea-making. The lovely Teapigs site has helped me a little. There’s a very sweet tea-maker I have from there (which you pop a cute tealight underneath) which makes a change from an everyday china tea pot.

Tea also makes a good gift for Anglophile friends and I love these personalised gift sets at Blends For Friends .

A good cup of tea warms the cockles and lifts the spirits; there’s nothing like it. Although, to be honest, these days I find I’m always popping round to my Swiss friend’s house. She makes the most amazing coffee (with the best chocolates on the side). Sometimes national stereotypes are so satisfyingly true.