What time do the British take tea and why do they take it at that time

What Time do the British Take Tea?

More than 150 million cups of tea are drunk every day in Britain. There’s no denying, the British love a cup of tea. So much so that several traditions have grown up around it. Tea arrived in Britain in the early 17th century. It was brought by the East India Company. To begin with, it was very expensive and only the rich could afford it. Drinking tea was introduced to the English Royal Court by the wife of Charles II, and it soon became a popular pastime for the aristocracy.

What time do the British Take Tea?

Over the years, there have become three times during the day for taking tea.


As you might expect, the time for this tea ritual is 11 in the morning. Some of you may have also heard it’s a hobbit’s third meal of the day. In Britain, however, it’s a late morning work break. It usually involves a light snack, washed down with a cup of hot tea.

This particular custom started more recently than the others, sometime in the 20th century. It wasn’t long, however, before it became engrained in British culture.

Afternoon Tea

This is a much fancier affair that came about around the 1830s and 1840s. All those years ago, mealtimes would have been a light meal at noon, with dinner served around 7.30 in the evening. That left a long gap in between when people got hungry. It was the duchess of Bedford who called for refreshments one afternoon. Her tummy was obviously grumbling so much she couldn’t stand it any longer.

This tea break soon became a popular habit in aristocratic circles. Afternoon Tea is still something to be enjoyed today at top end hotels such as the K West Hotel & Spa.

At such establishments it usually consists of dainty cakes and scones, crustless finger sandwiches, and of course a cup of tea. It generally takes place around 3 or 4 in the afternoon.

High Tea

High tea is more of a low-class affair. For lower classes in the 1800s, dinner would be served at midday. They didn’t enjoy the luxury of afternoon tea and cakes. Instead, they enjoyed high tea as soon as they finished work. As well as a cup of tea, high tea involved much heartier food such as meats, cheeses, and pies.

Giving tea drinking rituals names such as these makes them sound very formal. If you find yourself visiting the UK, don’t be too worried about breaking these rules. Tea drinking nowadays is far more flexible. Tea time in Britain is a relaxing affair, and if you really want a cup of tea you’re welcome to take one at any time.