Tea is a culture entirely of its own in Britain. It’s not a stereotype; most Brits really do love their tea and cherish a good cuppa. It’s a form of relaxation and socialization that is key to ‘getting’ Britain (like talking about the weather). But there is a lot of confusion out there – many people don’t realize the difference between High Tea or Afternoon Tea or Cream Tea. So, here’s a short list to help translate the differences.
Cuppa – Your simple cup of tea at any time of the day.
Elevenses – Late morning snack and cup of tea (second breakfast).
Afternoon Tea – A Formal meal where one sits down with cucumber sandwiches, pastries, and fine tea. Usually in a hotel or restaurant around 4 pm.
High Tea – Less formal than afternoon Tea – usually a late afternoon meal after work but before proper dinner.
Cream Tea – A simpler tea service consisting of tea, scones, clotted cream, marmalade or lemon curd.
Royale Tea – Tea service with champagne or sherry at the end.
Celebration Tea – An afternoon tea service where a cake is served for a special occasion.
Tea – Tea can also be used to denote the dinner meal, which is, of course, confusing to outsiders. I once had a pub owner in the Lake District tell me to ‘enjoy my tea.’ I was having a steak dinner.
Kettle – Where you boil water to make tea. Many Brits will use an electric kettle (which boils water very fast).
Put the Kettle On – To turn on the kettle to brew a cuppa. When company is coming, start the kettle as soon as they say they’re on their way!
Scone – Rich pastry usually filled with currants or raisins, often served with strawberry jam and clotted cream. It’s heaven. There is a debate as to whether it’s ‘scun’ or ‘scone.’ Either is fine!
Tea Towel – Thin towel used for drying dishes after they’ve been washed. Usually, have some kind of lovely decoration on them, and many people collect them.
Tea Break – Coffee break. Most Brits will stop several times during the day to have a cuppa.
Tea Lady – A woman whose sole job in the office was to brew and serve the tea to staff. This job has mostly died out, and office works either use a machine or make their own tea.
Tea Service – A tea service is a set of cups, saucers, and plates, with a milk pitcher, sugar bowl, and teapot.
Tea Tray – Tray used in the service of tea, usually includes the kettle, mugs, teabags, sugar, etc. Everything you need for a cuppa.
Black Tea – The most commonly consumed tea.
Builder’s Tea – Tea traditionally drunk by tradesmen in the course of their workday.
Tea Taster – An expert judge of the beverage, like a wine taster.
Mother – The person who pours and serves the tea. “Shall I be mother?”
Steep – Letting the teabag or tea sit in the tea so it brews. Generally the longer you leave it in, the strong the tea will be.
This is not an exhaustive list and undoubtedly, we’ve left something off – so please add your own additions in the comments below!