A Co-operative employee has claimed he was sacked for drinking Twining Lady Grey tea at work instead of Co-op own brand tea.

James Alden said he was punished for taking the wrong brand of tea from the shop shelves to drink in the staff canteen.

The Co-op stipulates that staff can take tea to drink in the staff canteen but only if it is the retailer’s own brand Fair Trade range.

Alden - who works in the Co-op on Burton Road, West Didsbury, Manchester - was called to a disciplinary meeting and sent a formal letter informing him of the Co-op’s decision to sack him, according to the Daily Telegraph.

The incident was one of two that led to him being sacked after 11 years of service. The other incident was for not recording the ages of people buying cigarettes and alcohol.

Mr Alden said: “I’m completely flabbergasted. I can’t believe they can sack someone for something so trivial as using the wrong tea bags.

“In all other respects, I have been a model employee. I have never been late or off sick in 11 years of service. I would have thought at the very worst this would deserve a warning – it’s a storm in a tea bag.”

A spokesman for The Co-operative said: “The individual concerned was dismissed from his position at our store on Burton Road following serious breaches of a number of our business procedures.

“The appeal process has been explained to him should he wish to challenge the decision.”