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What is Elevenses?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
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  • Last Modified Date: 29 July 2014
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In the US and elsewhere, workers may have their morning break, a fifteen to twenty minute period when they might grab a cup of tea or coffee and perhaps a light snack before heading back to the daily grind. In the UK, and in places like New Zealand and Australia, this break is normally taken at approximately 11:00 AM. It may be referred to as elevenses or elevensies, though some consider these terms outdated, and refer to this meal as morning tea.

Elevenses or morning tea, no matter what it is called, usually consists of a cup of tea, sometimes coffee, and a light snack. Biscuits or cookies might be the order of the day, or others might have a piece of fruit. Children in lower grades frequently have an elevenses break, which may be called a playlunch, with a simple snack of a cookie and milk or tea. This is similar to the tradition in kindergarten classes of doling out graham crackers and milk to kindergartners a few hours into the school day.

Morning tea is sometimes more elaborate that the average workaday elevenses. Morning tea could include a variety of cakes, toast, crumpets, scones, and the like and be created for social gatherings. There are a number of morning tea events in the UK, and these differ from similarly timed events in the US like morning brunch. However, morning tea can be extensive, particularly if the event planned is special.

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Some may wonder at the timing of elevenses in regard to the timing of lunch. If elevenses occur at eleven, wouldn’t lunch at noon seem like too much food? Actually, lunchtime may happen later, or alternately elevenses may occur sooner. Lunch in the UK often is lighter, especially if people take food at elevensies, or it may occur as late as between 2-4:00 pm, and be called dinner. The later meal taken at night may be referred to as supper. When people have switched primarily to a three meal a day lifestyle of breakfast, lunch and dinner, these may still be served somewhat later, with elevenses and afternoon tea making up small snacks during the day.

There are a number of fictional references to elevensies. Hobbits, known for their great feats at the table at any time of day often take breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, lunch, tea, and supper. Other beloved fictional characters like Winnie the Pooh must have honey for elevensies or it isn’t considered a proper meal.

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Perdido
Post 10

I have never been to the UK, but I think I would like elevenses very much. I have tried hot tea with milk, and it is delicious with cookies.

I am a big fan of cakes, scones, and biscuits. If I could eat those every day around eleven, I probably wouldn’t need dinner until 3:00 p.m. The sugar would provide a temporary energy boost to help me make it through the sleepy part of the afternoon.

Where I work now, I don’t get an official break. I can eat at my desk whenever I want, but our office doesn’t give out snacks. I would love to work at a place that keeps a supply of scones and tea for elevenses!

OeKc05
Post 9

In school, our morning break occurred at 9:50 a.m. We had ten minutes to grab a soda, chips, or a candy bar from the vending machine. This added energy boost helped us make it through the day.

I haven’t been inside a school in years, but I’m pretty sure they don’t sell sodas and junk food anymore. However, they probably provide healthy snacks. I think that eating just a little bit in the middle of the morning can really help students concentrate more on their work and less on their hunger.

The fact that schools let out at 3:00 p.m. means that they don’t need an afternoon snack until they get home. Lunch around noon provides them with enough energy to stay alert for the rest of the day.

wavy58
Post 8

I always thought that dinner and supper were the same thing. In the southern United States, we call it supper, but up north, they call it dinner. I’m surprised to learn that in the UK, they are two different things!

Personally, by 11:00 a.m., I am hungry enough to eat a substantial meal. Even if I had breakfast around 8:00 a.m., I am ready to pack it in. It makes me glad to live here, where lunch is at noon and elevenses don’t exist.

Sometimes, I eat breakfast around 7:00 a.m. If so, I have a light snack around 9:30. At noon, I have a full meal. Normally, I don’t eat again until supper at 6:00 p.m.

AnnBoleyn
Post 7

@EricRadley - How about some home-made low-fat muffins, crepe rolls with a bit of jam or some fruit kebabs?

EricRadley
Post 6

@peabody - That's true, but I think Azuza is referring more to how several small meals per day affects people's metabolism and digestive rates.

Do you have any tips for small but healthy mid-morning snacks? The traditional biscuits or small cakes that are had at elevenses sound great, but not very conducive to a diet!

peabody
Post 5

@Azuza - I've heard of a similar theory regarding eating several smaller meals throughout the day in place of three large ones. While some people may follow that to the letter, it's still important to watch the types of foods that are consumed. Several small meals of useless carbs and junk aren't much healthier.

ALevine
Post 4

@starrynight - Actually many American and even Canadian offices have an informal coffee break sometime between starting at 9am and lunchtime. If you look at schools as well, they generally have "recess" or "break" around the same time to allow the kids to stretch their legs outside and consume some small snacks to keep them going until lunch.

pennywell
Post 3

The word "elevenses" always makes me laugh because it sounds so quaint! I must admit though, it's quite nice to have a little mid-morning break to refresh yourself.

starrynight
Post 2

@Azuza - The thing with the hobbits though, is if I remember correctly, all their meals were big. So they weren't actually eating small meals spaced throughout the day. They were just eating many large meals!

I personally don't take elevenses and I don't know any American who does. However, I do usually take a form of afternoon tea. My office has a gourmet coffee maker and I usually make a cup of coffee around 2 in the afternoon. I sometimes also have a little snack. So I guess I could call this my "afternoon coffee."

Azuza
Post 1

I've heard a lot of recommendations the last few years about eating many small meals spaced throughout the day instead of the traditional three. Supposedly this is healthier and makes you lose weight.

I'm so entertained that the hobbits thought of it first! I bet when Tolkien wrote the Lord of the Rings trilogy he didn't know he was giving his hobbits such a healthy lifestyle!

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