De Julia Diallo, Responsable pédagogique au British Council

17 novembre 2017 - 10:18

Steaming cup of tea

Heather - a cup of tea. Source: creative commons

Not as well-known as afternoon tea, a morning tea break or elevenses is a respected part of British culture, particularly for the working classes.

A mid-morning cuppa is a time to get to know colleagues and provide a much needed service to those hard at work. Typically, turns are taken to offer to make the tea. “Who’d like a cup of tea?” is usually met with rapturous, “Oh, I’d love one!”  Specifics are important; “White with one”, “Builders, for me” are the mysterious instructions that follow the initiation of the tea ceremony. 

Tea should always, in my mind, be accompanied by a biscuit. Traditional favourites rule: Custard Creams, Bourbons, Digestives: plain, milk or dark chocolate are best…if you can get hold of a Hobnob then tea heaven awaits.

British Council Paris has instituted the tradition of Elevenses with students enrolled on morning courses. The Tea Lady, a role that has largely become obsolete thanks to vending machines, arrives with her trolley in the lobby at 11 o’clock. It is laden with speciality teas, traditional biscuits and, as a concession to French culture an expresso coffee machine.

Students have the opportunity to chat informally in English with the Tea Lady and each other. It is a great opportunity to get to know your classmates better, put into practice what has been learnt in the lessons and learn some vital language surrounding the partaking of tea and coffee.

Elevenses at the British Council Paris is also a chance for you to discover our programme of social and cultural events, all in the English language, organised by us and/or with our partners. So please, join us for a cuppa.

You might hear:

What can I get you?  Would you like a drink?
Fancy a cuppa? Would you like a cup of tea?
Can I get you a coffee? Would you like a cup of coffee?
How do you take it?  How would you like your drink?
One lump or two? Would you like one or two sugars?

You might say:

A large coffee, please    not a long coffee!
Short and strong, please a ristretto
White with one tea or coffee with some milk and one sugar cube
Have you got a drop of milk? Is there any milk?
Have you got anything to stir it with? Do you have a spoon or stirrer?

You might want:

To dunk your biscuits     to dip your biscuits into your hot drink
To slurp your tea    to drink your tea noisily
To have builder’s tea    to drink strong tea
A brew      a cup of tea
A herbal tea a flavoured tea e.g. strawberry, lemon, camomile

There are some wise sayings related to tea

  • A cup of tea makes everything better.
  • Where there’s tea there’s hope.

Be warned tea also has an alternative meaning. "What's for tea" can also mean, "what’s for dinner?"

Let us know if you have any other English tea related expressions! 

Julia Diallo, Senior Teacher Adult Programme AKA The Tea Lady

photo of Julia Diallo, Responsable pédagogique au British Council à Paris

Julia Diallo, Responsable pédagogique au British Council

Julia Diallo travaille au British Council depuis 13 ans.  Elle s'intéresse particulièrement à la manière dont les apprenants développent leur compétence à l'oral et deviennent autonome.