What exactly is British teatime?
Do the British really get together every afternoon at 4 to sit and drink several cups of tea? Ask any of my German students and they will tell you 'YES!'
I’m sorry to disappoint, but it’s simply not true. We drink over 150 million cups of tea a day in Britain, but there is no special time for the nation’s favourite drink. British people will drink tea all day whether morning, noon or night (my mother makes her first cup at 6 am!). There are reasons for the confusion surrounding ‘teatime’, however ...
‘Tea’ is widely used as a name for the evening meal. This is more common in Scotland and the north of England but you can hear it all over the country. Usually it is the main meal of the day, eaten between 5 and 7. So, ‘teatime’ refers to the meal and not the drink. In the south, the evening meal is often called dinner, while dinner in the north is the midday meal. Confused? Many heated debates can happen between southerners and northerners about the right name, but in general:
North: Breakfast – Dinner – Teatime
South: Breakfast – Lunch – Dinner
What about tea breaks? Surely this must be a special time for tea? Wrong again, I’m afraid. Tea breaks are simply an opportunity to have a rest from work for around 10 minutes. In this time you can drink whatever you like (which of course includes tea). This is usually with a small snack, like biscuits for dunking. The best time for a tea break is mid-morning around 11 or mid-afternoon around 3.
But what about tea rooms? Can I drink tea there? Yes! A tea room is the perfect place to go with friends and family to enjoy tea, cakes, sandwiches and pastries. This is known as afternoon tea and is usually saved for special occasions such as a birthday or engagement party. In Devon and Cornwall, afternoon tea is served with scones and locally made clotted cream and strawberry jam - we call this a cream tea. While a rare occasion for Brits, tea rooms are very popular with tourists and are definitely worth a visit.
Teatime, tea breaks, afternoon tea, cream tea ... how could you possibly get muddled up?