Five o'clock tea Vs Afternoon tea

Xavier da Silva

Senior Member
Hello everyone,

I once saw a British native speaker say that "five o'clock tea" isn't an expression British people use to mean "afternoon tea" - the British tradition of drinking tea around five in the afternoon. He said that "five o'clock tea" is used only by non-native speakers (from Spain, France, Brazil, etc). British people do use "afternoon tea" only.

My question: Is that true?

Thank you in advance!
  • JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Born and raised in the UK, I can tell you I have never heard the "five oclock tea" expression. There's a lot of discussion/confusion about tea, afternoon tea, supper and high tea etc but none about your name :)


    Senior Member
    UK English
    The 'five o'clock' is alive and well in Poland (there is even a chain of shops and cafes with that name) but not in Britain.

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    In a hotel it is called "afternoon tea", and is a light meal, typically with sandwiches and cakes. At home it is called "tea" and can be the main meal of the day, depending on where you live and your class background. In a cafe, "afternoon tea" is probably just tea (drink) and a cake, but some of the customers might think of "afternoon tea" as only a drink, possibly with a biscuit.

    When I was a child, we had a biscuit tin where the lid said "Tea Time Biscuits" and it had a large clockface with the hands pointing to four o'clock. It wasn't quite the same layout as this one, but the clockface is the same:

    I have no idea where the idea of five o'clock comes from, although five or six o'clock was the usual time for tea in our house (and I did think the clock showing four o'clock was very odd).

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    'Afternoon tea' is, to me, different from the meal eaten at home known as 'tea'. I'd go out for afternoon tea, it's not something I'd do at home (or anywhere else, actually: I loathe tea:D).
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