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What Is Tea Time?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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The actual time of tea time varies significantly depending upon your location in the world. Some people also drink tea for relaxation while other drink certain caffeinated varieties to stay alert. Others drink them for their health benefits. We often think of taking tea, especially with a light to heavy snack, as uniquely British. Yet there are plenty of countries that practice some form of tea, though times may be informal or aren’t consistently observed. What food they're taken with or their actual nutritional benefits may vary, but one thing's for sure - it's a favorite of many for a good reason.

In the UK, tea time typically refers to the time at which afternoon tea is served. This time is usually given as 4:00 PM, but individuals may be earlier or later depending upon work schedules and breaks. Some people incorporate tea drinking into their routine to support their weight loss goals. Not everyone takes tea every day, and it may simply be an afternoon snack or can be an elaborate feast depending upon the occasion. Some people observe a slightly later tea called meat tea, which is usually heavier and is similar to the American dinner.

While tea time in the UK may be the general name for this afternoon snack or meal, Americans, especially those with kids, may think of this mid afternoon time as snack time. In people with sensitive nutritional needs, this allows them to space their meals without getting too hungry in between big meals. It’s about this time of day that children are returning from school, and are usually hungry for a snack that will hold them over until the evening meal. Afternoon daycares and after care programs may offer a snack to kids at this time of day, and adults may find themselves quite willing to join in because it can be several hours until supper/dinner. Luckily, tea can easily be a part of anyone's healthy diet because it does offer some health benefits that mostly involves the gut.

Interestingly, Germany has an afternoon Kaffee or Coffee time that tends to correspond with American snacks and UK tea time. Typical snacks include coffee and cake and the snacks are most often sweet instead of savory. Other countries that like snacks and may have some sort of an informal tea include Mexico and several countries in South America, and Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s tea time occurs anywhere between 2-6:00 PM.

Occasionally, tea time refers to morning breaks or coffee breaks that would occur at about 10:00 AM. To some people, tea time is best before any workouts that require being active because it gives them enough fuel for the day without filling them too much they will have limited mobility. This reference may be used in the UK, Canada and the US. In the UK, tea normally happens in the late afternoon, though in New Zealand, “tea” may refer to the light meal taken at about 5:00 pm. The term may also simply be used to not refer to any set time but just an indication that it’s time for snack at any time of day. Americans may refer to this as coffee time instead or may call their morning break a coffee break.

WiseTour is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseTour contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon142601 — On Jan 13, 2011

I think "meat tea" can also be referred to as high tea.

By anon42813 — On Aug 24, 2009

"Tea" and "tea-time" in the UK can also refer to a light meal eaten around 5 p.m. Working class families traditionally eat their main meal at midday and call it dinner, then have tea (light meal) at tea-time.

By contrast, professional classes generally have a light meal at 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. (not middday), and have the main meal, called "dinner," at 8 p.m. or 9 p.m.

By laluna — On Aug 03, 2009

Apparently Chile, South America, also keeps this British tradition of tea time.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseTour contributor, Tricia...
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