In times of crisis, there is nothing like a nice cup of tea. Now scientists believe they know why - and it is not solely down to the drink itself.
Researchers said that although tea leaves are rich in stress-relieving compounds, the simple act of putting on the kettle is calming. It seems that we have become so used to associating the drink with cheering us up that the very expectation of a cuppa is enough to makes us feel better.
Malcolm Cross, of London's City University, said: 'Memory is cued by many things - taste, smell, images. I think we typically associate tea with relaxation and being looked after.'
Dr Cross, a psychologist, gave 42 men and women some complicated mental arithmetic to complete. Afterwards, half drank tea and half had water. Those given water were 25 per cent more stressed at the end than at the start. But the tea drinkers were calmer than when they started out, the research, commissioned by insurance firm Direct Line, found.
Questioning showed that those who had tea felt it had helped them draw a line under the stress of taking part in the experiment. The finding was reinforced by the results of a poll of 3,000 men and women that accompanied the experiment.