British Tea – a Foregner’s Experience

I am an European – 100%. Which means I am a coffee lover, and most definitely not a tea person! Well come on, first thing in the morning it has got to be a strong coffee to give you that kick!

Not to British people, who start their day with a cup of tea.

After you’ve lived in the UK for a while, though, you can’t help but start liking tea. Or at least I couldn’t. So yes, I like English tea, I really do. Although I am not sure I take it the way British people do.


See, British tea traditions are something truly unique and, honestly, fascinating. I do find them a bit of a mystery, though, and it is reassuring to know that I am not the only foreigner who does! This is why I decided to write this post: to take on from another expat’s experiences and add mine to them.

My regular readers will have guessed by now: it is a post written by Ellen Hawley that provoked my views again. Do have a quick read, and then come back to mine, OK!

As you can see from the clever link above, tea as a meal refers to that part of the afternoon when you need something to keep you going until dinner, i.e. until the main meal for the evening.

This does imply that there is some more substantial food on the way, doesn’t it? At least this is my interpretation!

So why is it that I was so mislead once to think I was invited to dinner after work? Proper dinner, I assumed, as we finished work at 5 pm, which meant tea/dinner/whatever wasn’t going to be until at least 6 pm. Realistically, 6.30-7 pm, to be fair: with all the chit chat prelude to the main act.

You following so far?? If you happen to be British, just put me out of my misery please and let me know, which part of the invitation was it that I got wrong??

There I was, starving after a long day at work, in this huge traditional Victorian house, invited by this near retirement age lovely couple. We were sitting, having a polite chat in the garden, waiting for the wife to invite us round the table. Which she did. Cheese and crackers, huh. And drinks. OK, me thinks, this must be the starter, so try not to scoff it all off! Which was a challenge, as by then I was ready to eat a horse or two!

So, picking on the cheese and biscuits, I was patiently waiting for the main meal. But oh no! To my greatest horror, there was no main meal!

Would it be a surprise for you if I said that a very disappoined hungry Angie invaded the food counters at the train station that evening (I was commuting at the time daily on a train)?? I bet not.

So, this is why, as implied by Ellen, it is always good to ask, what is it exactly that you have been invited to. Unless you decide to be on the safe side and have something to eat beforehand – to avoid any possible disappointing scenarios.

Which reminds me of yet another experience I had, a bit too many years ago, with another strange British meal setup. I was invited to a posh reception at the British Embassy in my home country. Unfortunately, I have no recollection of the exact time of the day it must have started. What I have very vivid memories of, though, is, again, hunger, and expectations that, surely, there was going to be plenty of food there on offer.

It must have been lunchtime.

So yes, it was a very posh place, with all the expensive furniture, curtains, royal dog breeds, formal dress code, you name it. And… cakes!!

Huh?? Yes, very tasty, absolutely gorgeous cakes. At the time of the day when you need a sandwich please… Or a equivalent. Salad would do. But cakes, they just make you even hungrier, and spike up your blood sugar levels…

Once again, I left the event severely hungry and disappointed. So if anyone invites me to anything in this country, I know what to do. Simply eat before I go!


  1. You know, I don’t remember going over to a British friend’s and not having a more substantial something… then again, tea and biscuits are de rigueur at work. When hungry you just gorge on a variety, from rich flavoured stuff like this to regular McVities Rich Tea. And of course there is tea, any time of the day. Some people drink an amazing amount of cups per day. I’ve never managed more than 5 (and that is herbal). I’m actually not a coffee drinker at all, btw.

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  2. I’m quite British I think, although not ‘quintessentially’ so, more ‘Brutish’ some might say, possibly more ‘fundamentally’, and I simply MUST start the day with coffee. I drink gallons of tea, but usually only in the afternoons.
    If there is no proper coffee then tea will do.

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  3. Funny how they like milk in their tea…yukkie! A few years ago I worked for an Irish company who had a warf here for a big company, I had to invite all contractors for a ‘fingerfood’ party… 7 Hours later. Lot of them canceled the invitation as it was the same evening, me and my colleague did go and it was a big buffet…not finger food, there was plenty to chose from, copious meal..only a few Belgians were present, some of them found it tricky to send out the invitation the same day ( I got all the comments over me that day)… I dont know who payed the bill, the Irish or the American company (here located) but it was good that night and not overcrowded ;P

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sounds delicious actually! Yes, I have been to some very nice buffets, too, but typically when you expect something, it doesn’t happen! I just had a quick peek at your blog, looks interesting, so I am now a follower. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, hope you may follow me too. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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