I START with a piping hot cup of black tea at my side, made by a brief flirtation and a quick squeeze of a Yorkshire teabag in boiling water and augmented by two sweeteners. It’s 10.33am, and the UK Tea & Infusions Association website in front of me claims that my beverage is one of 43,901,245 that have been made in the country so far today.

We British clearly love our tea but this week’s storm in a Yorkshire teacup has baffled me. How can people find such venom within themselves to threaten and boycott Yorkshire Tea just because the Conservative Chancellor, and Yorkshire MP, Rishi Sunak, jokily tweeted a picture of himself making a cuppa?

But ever since Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese princess, married Charles II in 1661 and brought a chest of tea as part of her dowry, thus popularising the drink and beginning Britain’s addiction to it, we’ve been prepared to battle for tea.

In the 18th Century, Britain required an inexhaustible supply of tea, but China was the only place in the world that grew tea – it wasn’t until a Scottish botanist, Robert Fortune, was sent on a covert raid and stole a Chinese tea plant which he took to India in 1848 that the plant was grown anywhere else.

But the Chinese refused to accept any British goods in return for tea. They just wanted silver.

As a result, vast amounts of silver were disappearing out of the British economy.

In the 1780s, the British allowed opium to be grown in Bengal which they allowed to be smuggled into China and sold for silver. Opium then was a dried powder that, like tea, was mixed with water and drunk.

At first, the Chinese authorities accepted this because it meant the British had more silver with which to buy even more Chinese tea.

But soon, there were literally millions of Chinese people addicted to opium and so, in May 1839, the Chinese emperor seized 20,000 chests of British opium at Canton and destroyed it.

The British were outraged and went to war. They demanded compensation for their opium and that the Chinese open up their country to free trade and accept any old British-made tat in return for their tea.

Hardline foreign secretary Lord Palmerston sent round some gunships and a small army to ensure Britain got it sway.

After a few successful skirmishes in 1839, the British sailed up Pearl River and in 1841 captured Canton. Then they sailed on and captured Amoy, and then up the Yangtze River and took control of Shanghai.

The Chinese backed down and on August 17, 1842, signed the Treaty of Nanking which allowed the British to “carry on their mercantile transactions with whatever persons they please” and gave the British a small island on which to do their trading – Hong Kong.

In this opium and tea battle, 69 British troops were killed, 451 were wounded and another 284 died in captivity, some being executed. The Chinese lost about 3,100 dead and 4,000 wounded.

It has been a day of distractions and disturbances. The dregs of my tea are now stone cold and undrinkable, and now, at 4.46pm, the UK Tea & Infusions Association website says that if I go and make myself a refill, it will be the 69,909,746th cup made in the UK today.

Let’s hope our post-Brexit free trade negotiations go better than our tea trade negotiations did in previous centuries.