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Tea time

Tea TimeGEOFF: “Come on, let’s go home and have some tea”

LEIGH: “But you just had a tea half an hour ago!”

“I did .. but I meant tea-food-tea, and not hot-drink-tea, not that there’s actually anything wrong with that as you can never really have too much tea. So i’ll probably have a tea with my tea”

“So .. tea is food as well as a drink?”

“Er … yes?” [Stops to think] “Tea can be an evening meal”

“So when’s dinner then?”

“Well dinner is an evening meal too. But I’d say that it’s a BIG evening meal. If you eat in the evening at about 8pm, then that would definitely be dinner. But if you ate at around 4 to 5pm, then that would definitely constitute as tea. Even though you could still call it dinner. Or maybe high tea.”

“HIGH TEA?”

“Yes, which isn’t where they serve brownies with the tea – it’s just having tea at a dinner table instead, so you’re ‘sitting up high’. Isn’t that obvious?”

“Sooooo … can you have tea at lunchtime?”

“Ooh no! Lunchtime is always just lunch. Well … except maybe on Sunday if you have a big roast late in the afternoon at around 3pm, and then of course that becomes Sunday Dinner. And when you eat the leftovers later on that night, then that’s tea”

“And do you have to have tea the drink with tea the meal?”

“Er… no. And having tea with dinner doesn’t make it tea either”

“And what was that word you used for when you eat late at night?”

“What … supper? Yeah .. that’s if you’re eating at about 10pm at night. Well unless you’re from the north of course where they called tea supper anyway. And they never call tea dinner. Or dinner supper.”

“I’m so confused!”

“Well how about I try to explain the rules of cricket instead …?”


Tea the meal / High tea | Supper | Dinner

31 responses to “Tea time”

  1. Mikey says:

    Lol, so true. Yet, none of my english mates get this. Was always brought up calling it tea, and people always thinking I want something to drink.

  2. miles away says:

    tea all the time. every minute that there is an empty cup, it is tea time!

    my “tea” the meal was always about 4pm. maybe a jam sandwich. perhaps not. always a cup of tea though…

  3. geofftech says:

    I remember getting home from school every week day at 4pm, and my mum would be listening to Jimmy Young on Radio 2.

    She’d make tea, and I’d have some toasted crusty white bread, dripping with butter and then either having bovril or jam on it. Yum. Happy tea days.

    And where’s Paul when you need him? PAUL! WHERE ARE YOU! A ‘northern’ observation on what you call tea, supper and dinner please!

  4. Paul Webb says:

    As an honourary Northerner, I can confirm that lunch is a meal for Southern Pansies and we have dinner at dinner time, often served by dinner ladies. Tea is at tea time and is indeed often accompanied by a cup of tea. To suggest that we might have dinner at tea time is just ridiculous – when would we find time for a cheeky pint ater work?

    Supper is a late tea or a snack just before we go to bed. In true Northern style we have to get up half an hour before going to bed so we can fit 18 hour shift in t’mill, so supper can often end up being breakfast, but without the kippers.

    I’ll e-mail you a photo of our local chip shop where you can buy a fish scone and chip barm for your tea. And tea.

  5. miles away says:

    i have no problem admitting soft southern pansiness, or a penchant for tea and sandwiches. or tea and cake.

    or tea and a pint. or liquid tea, which *is* a pint…

  6. leslie says:

    In areas of the states where farming is still common, the meals are breakfast, dinner, and supper. Being a farmer’s daughter, I grew up with this. Lunch was something we had at school. When my parents divorced and I moved to a different town with my mother, I took to calling them breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This can actually cause a certain amount of confusion with my dad, when he suggests us going out for dinner–I always have to ask him which meal he means.

    I can remember my first encounter with an English person saying that we should meet for tea at half six. Now because we’d been talking about a restaurant, I gathered she meant ‘the evening meal’. However, I had to ask her what time ‘half six’ was. You see, we were in Holland, and in both German and Dutch ‘half six’ is five-thirty, though I suspected she meant six-thirty, which I was of course right about.

  7. Yorkie says:

    I thought that supper was a southern word for tea. For my family supper would mean cheese and crackers or similar half an hour before bed. I once got myself into a muddle asking someone from further south than me in the middle of one afternoon what was for tea; the answer: Tea or Coffee, and flapjack if you’re lucky, just like every other day. ‘Dinners’ were what we had at school. I don’t think I ever used the word lunch until I was about 12. Now it’s Brekky, Lunch and Tea for me, unless either of the two later meals is more substantial than it would normally be, in which case it’s called Dinner (unless it’s a more substantial and also formal early afternoon meal, that remains Lunch)

  8. 'Tina' (G's Mum') says:

    #3 ‘I’d get home from school and my Mum made me tea’ Was this a tea drink with your toast, or do you mean I cooked your tea, i.e. your evening meal? I’m confused. Were we so poor you only had toast for your evening meal, or was this just a coming home from school snack?
    P.S. I still listen to Radio 2, in the morning and evenings now. It was always school dinners, but when you started work it was your ‘lunch-hour’

  9. (William) Andrew says:

    #2 “Tea” at 3pm-4pm is afternoon tea, which will be classically a cuppa served with cake (e.g. a slice of Victoria sponge – a plain spongecake with jam and cream in the middle), gingerbread, scones (preferably with butter, jam, and cream), or, perhaps “light” sandwiches.

    #4 seconded: Supper is a late drink or snack just before we go to bed.

    In my parents household, “lunch” and “tea” (meal) were essentially of the same format, but at lunchtime or early-evening respectively, consisting of:
    { salad / soup + toast / cheese(-and tomato)-on-toast / scrambled egg on toast / poached egg on ham / hot quiche served with peas and tinned tomatoes / or other light main-course }
    { bread and butter, with jam / honey / lemon curd / etc }
    { cakes }
    { lunchtime only, bizarrely: fruit }
    …and tea to drink.

    Mmmmm… making me hungry!

  10. Paul says:

    3 “Dripping with butter” … so why is he stick thin?

  11. jj says:

    i like tea. the meal (i always felt it was more of a snack than a meal, though) and the beverage.

    i recently found my old kettle whilst cleaning out the garage and have been enjoying the beverage every night before retiring, too…

  12. scottb says:

    I’ve always called the noon meal “lunch”, and the evening meal “supper”. Unless it’s Sunday or a holiday, and a big lunch is then “dinner”. “Tea” would be just that; tea, but always with a goodie of some sort – more of a snack really.

    I’ve also been a bit puzzled by the English refering to dessert as “pudding”, which to me is a specific thing you have for dessert. You can’t have Battenburg for pudding because it’s already cake. (it’s very tasty none-the-less). I wish it has readily available in Canada.

  13. Paul Webb says:

    I have real issues with “pudding”. At school I was always taught that all words ending in ‘ing’ were the past continuous conjugation of a verb – ie, walking, talking etc. What freaked me out as a child what was the verb ‘To Pudd’ meant…

  14. Laisa says:

    Let’s have tea now!

  15. leigh says:

    We just have Breakfast, Lunch , and Dinner. It’s so simple. Well-defined. Filling. What more could you ask?

    Actually, a lot of my questions to Geoff about the definition of “tea” was spawned from my reading the (ancient) “Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management”, which was given to us as a wedding gift (in jest I hope!).

    It has a fascinating write-up on what should be served for “tea”, depending of course on what time it is, where you are sitting for this tea (high or low) and who your guests are. It’s a fascinating book and would have been quite intimidating to a new bride.

  16. geofftech says:

    #12 – was in just in my household that pudding was also sometimes referred to as ‘afters’. seriously! dessert as a pudding was a posh kind of pudding, whereas afters was a more low-brow generic second course.

    i’m off to pudd Leigh (via putting the kettle on)

  17. Tina says:

    All this reeks of ‘class issues’ you know. In my youth, when you met a fella, you would sound him out about all amb=nner of things, and depending on his answers you could deduce if he was the same social class as yourself. So depending if he said ‘front room, lounge, sitting-room, living room; tea, dinner, lunch etc. also the ‘settee, couch, sofa’ thing was a useful indicator.I don’t think people bother any more, especially with there being people from overseas to stir it all up.We’re all middle class now aren’t we?

  18. Julia says:

    Oh yes we had “afters” too. But I got the feeling it was only when my Mum was trying to vary her vocabulary. It did seem a bit more casual.

    we had breakfast, lunch and dinner.
    Tea was what my common friends called their evening meal, and always seemed to involve some bread based product 😉

    never did supper either. I think supper only ever comes when you’ve had tea earlier. if you have dinner instead of tea you’re too full for supper as well!

  19. Dan says:

    Oh yes, “afters.”

    I believe the options are rat cake, rat sorbet and strawberry tart.

  20. Fimb says:

    As a small aside, I had afternoon tea at the Ritz on Monday, and rather wonderful it was too. I can highly reccomend.

    So, what time would a chip barm be eaten when oopnorth?

  21. geofftech says:

    I don’t know … Paul? Honorary Northerner … Barm Cakes?

  22. Chz says:

    Back home, it was breakfast, lunch and supper; with “dinner” being the primary meal of the day, which could be either lunch or supper.

    And tea is a drink, you working-class scum. 🙂

  23. Tina says:

    To sum up then: Tea is a drink for adults, but an early evening meal for children. Dinner is an adult evening meal, or a working-class lunch. Simple innit!

  24. J-Ro says:

    Breakfast – Dinner – Tea – Supper

    It really is quite simple.

    ‘Lunch’ is a made up word believed to have originated in southern England and should not be entered into the discussion

  25. J-Ro says:

    *cue raging debate in the office*

    I was winning when i got everyone to agree that the midday meal at school was known as “school dinner”…until it was pointed out that those who chose not to opt for slops would take a “packed lunch”

    We never had chip barms up north – just butties….or baps…or (in the midlands)cobs.

  26. Helen says:

    Is now a good time to start a discussion on when Tiffin should be?

  27. Paul Webb says:

    #21 Chip Barm on its own is, I suppose, a kind of snack and not really any main meal. Often best enjoyed after a few pints.

    A did once see somebody ask for a Vegetarian Doner Kebab and was presented with a pitts bread filled with chips.

  28. Paul Webb says:

    #26 I think you will find that any time is tiffin time

  29. geofftech says:

    #25… Ah Janet! How /are/ your saggy baps? 😉

  30. geofftech says:

    And WTF is ‘tiffin’ ?

    Oh.

  31. Paul says:

    Go on Geoff, teach us the rules of cricket.

    We’ll start with LBW…

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