Having just written a rather serious post about tea, it’s time to bring you a more light-hearted introduction to British tea slang. When Brits drink tea they invariably reach for the biscuit tin (not cookie jar) so they can munch on a couple of biscuits while they drink their favourite drink.
So, in the UK, if someone wishes to offer you tea, they may use any of the following terms:
Cuppa – short for cup
Many English people use teapots to make tea. They brew the tea for 2-3 minutes and generally drink good strong tea with milk.
For ex: Shall we have a brew?
Be careful though, if you’re on your way to the pub and someone offers you a brew, it means a pint of beer.
Taken from the original Chinese character cha 茶 – see my post on Chinese loanwords.
For ex: Let’s sit down and have and cup of char.
This comes from cockney rhyming slang – a cup of Rosy Lee – tea.
For ex: Fancy a cup of Rosy?
A builders brew
Builders on construction sites brew up tea to drink on their tea breaks and they seem to like it strong, milky and with two sugars. So builders brew has come to refer to tea served this way. There is even a brand of that name which claims their tea is selected and blended by builders!
For ex: How do you take your tea? Builders tea is fine for me.
Meals – tea can also refer to meals, which can be a bit confusing for the outsider.
Tea – evening meal (also referred to as supper or dinner)
Afternoon tea – sandwiches, cake and copious cups of tea
High tea – early evening meal with savoury food and some cakes, served with tea
Cream tea – cream cakes served with cups of tea
The British consume the most tea in the world, around 2.2kg per person per year and what goes down well with a cuppa but a biscuit. A little search for figures on the web revealed that on average Brits consume a colossal 8kgs of biscuits per person per year.
We don’t just eat the biscuits; we dunk them in our tea. We like them to be infused with our national drink and just when they look like they will fall into the tea we hoover them into our mouths. I even found a biscuit appreciation society where they provide wonderful instructions in the art of dunking.
So if you fancy making yourself a British cuppa, who better to give you instructions than one of our most famous institutions, the BBC.
I still believe that the best cup of tea is the one made for you by someone else!
Enjoy your cuppas,
English Trackers Blogger
A more serious post about tea and the tea trade’s jargon