UK tea habits revealed ahead of nation’s biggest tea break – but who’s most likely to put the milk in first?

On 5th July 2022
Categories: 2022

Research we have carried out1 has revealed our nations’ weird and wonderful tea drinking habits, as thousands are expected to gather for the UK’s biggest tea break and celebrate the NHS’ birthday today with the NHS Big Tea.

Another much loved institution, over half the UK population (58%) has a regular tea break, but research shows the cup of tea can be a source of great debate across the nations.

Almost a quarter of those in Wales (24%) admit to putting the milk in first, something which is considered ‘unacceptable’ by more than a third in England (34%) and Scotland (34%). Wales also takes the highest number of tea breaks – with over three-quarters (76%) likely to have one regularly compared to the national average of 58%.

Those in England were most likely to leave the teabag in when drinking, with over one in 20 (6%) agreeing to the controversial habit which other regions deem a complete no-no. This is double the amount of people in Scotland (3%), where over half of respondents (53%) labelled the habit ‘unacceptable’.

Scottish tea drinkers are most partial to a treat such as a biscuit with their cuppa at 36%, and the English are creatures of habit, with over one in five (21%) have their tea at the same time each day.

And it’s not just nationality that effects our tea-drinking pastimes – women are far more likely than men to have a favourite mug, at 65% compared to 46%, and almost a third of 25–34-year-olds use the same spoon throughout the day, compared to just 15% of those over 55.

Twice as many over 55s put the milk in first as those aged 18-34 (20% vs 10%), and 13% of resourceful 18–24-year-olds say they leave the bag in, compared to just 4% of over 55s.

The UK’s biggest tea break, the NHS Big Tea invites everyone – whatever your quirks* – to raise a mug and support the NHS by hosting a tea party for the NHS’ birthday. Turning 74 today, thousands are expected to take part in the celebration and raise vital funds in support of NHS charities.

All funds raised from the NHS Big Tea will contribute to key projects supporting staff mental health and the long-term recovery of the NHS following the Covid-19 pandemic, plus community partnership programmes that prevent ill health and will take pressure off services in the future.

Ellie Orton OBE, Chief Executive of NHS Charities Together said: “Although these statistics show differences in how the nations prefer our favourite drink, we do have one thing in common – our gratitude for the NHS. NHS staff wow us all, with almost three quarters of us calling staff ‘inspiring’2. As the national, independent charity caring for the NHS, with the public’s help we are proud to have funded hundreds of incredible projects supporting staff, patients, and communities across the UK.

“Taking place on the NHS’ birthday, we’re excited to see everyone out celebrating today and raising funds to help the UK’s NHS charities. By getting behind the NHS Big Tea, we can all make an important difference to the vital work they fund, and help the health service go further for all of us.”

To sign up to host your own NHS Big Tea event and receive a fundraising support pack, please visit www.nhsbigtea.co.uk.

* Elsewhere in the UK:

  • Despite being the home of the cup of tea, Yorkshire took the least number of tea breaks, at only just over half (52%)
  • Londoners are most likely to leave the teabag in when drinking (10%) – something 55% of East Midlands residents deem ‘unacceptable’
  • The North East are most likely to reach for the biscuit tin – nearly half (48%) have a snack with their tea
  • People in the West Midlands were most likely to save the washing up and reuse the same spoon throughout the day – with a third (33%) admitting to the habit
  • For nearly half the South East (44%) reusing the teabag is unacceptable
  • And the South West were most offended by anyone choosing to put the milk in first, with four in 10 (41%) getting hot and bothered


  1. YouGov survey of 2,002 UK adults, carried out online between 26th – 27th April 2021.  All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. The figures have been weighted and are representative of NHS employees by occupational group. A breakdown of the number of adults within the regions referenced are below:
    1. In the South West, 191 adults took part
    1. In Wales, 104 adults took part
  2. YouGov online survey of 2132 UK adults, carried out online between 13-14 January 2022. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.

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