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If you offer someone a cup of tea...

(145 Posts)
TalcumPowder Tue 26-Aug-14 12:05:25

... do you always automatically give them something to eat alongside it, like a biscuit or cake?

I've just been staying with my parents, who think it 'looks mean' not to give someone food with a hot drink, and would never themselves just have a cup of tea with no accompaniment. They still talk wonderingly of how, when they visited an English relative overnight (they are not from the UK), she brought them tea in bed in the morning 'but there was nothing with it at all, not even a few biscuits or a slice of bread!' (Even though, as I have pointed out, breakfast followed within a half hour...) I believe they see it as evidence of English eccentricity/frugality.

I noticed it particularly on this visit, as an old friend came to see me at their house several times, accepted tea but specifically said she was on a strict diet, and each time I made tea my my mother still emerged with a plate of biscuits and/cake. (Not intended for me, as I prefer tea by itself.)

So, do you always give food with tea/coffee? Is it a generational thing? A class thing? Just my parents?

TalcumPowder Tue 26-Aug-14 12:26:45

Summer, we're Irish too. Though I've lived here for aeons. I have pointed out to English friends that Mrs Doyle from Father Ted is exaggerated, not purely fictional...

JamaicanMeCrazy Tue 26-Aug-14 12:26:45

No, i wouldn't. But then, I wouldn't have biscuits or cake with my own coffee. If I'd specifically invited them for coffee and biscuits/cake then, yes. I didn't realise it was such an issue confused

mommy2ash Tue 26-Aug-14 12:30:00

I always offer but most people decline except for one friend who will ring and say I'm popping in for tea Go to the shop and have an eclair waiting for me lol

ColdCottage Tue 26-Aug-14 12:31:26

Depends on the time of day, situation.

Standing round the kitchen chatting, would you like a cuppa - probably not.

Friends invited over for a catch up, in sitting room, tray of teas, would probably bring in cake or biscuits.

Back home after night out, just a cuppa nothing else.

MrsDavidBowie Tue 26-Aug-14 12:33:06

Never buy biscuits or cakes so no.

ColdCottage Tue 26-Aug-14 12:33:07

Must say I need a biscuit with my morning cuppa.

keep them by the bed wink

At in laws, tea given in bed, no biscuits, no bother.

For an invited guest I'd always have cake or biscuits with tea or coffee - would usually intend to bake and feel moderately inadequate that 50% of the time I produce shop bought - but this is because I now live in Germany, where if you actually "invite" somebody over its usually for coffee-and-cake (said as a phrase) grin and other people usually offer home made cake with the coffee, guest also brings some edible offering, so then there are 2 options on the table its a "thing"...

However you don't invite people in that way daily - its more if people have travelled some distance, or its the first or second visit of a newish friend etc. casual drop ins just get coffee usually.

I think I'd have had broadly similar notions in the UK, but never cake, just shop bought biscuits... never really though about it.

Bringing anyone but your spouse/ partner type person or an invalid tea in bed is properly weird and awkward IMO - biscuit or no biscuit!

MaidOfStars Tue 26-Aug-14 12:36:47

I would never even think to offer any food with a cup of tea. We don't have biscuits or cake in the house, so not sure what I'd offer anyway.

I guess if they were guests who were staying for a few hours, I'd check with them at some point about having a sandwich or something.

SpicyBear Tue 26-Aug-14 12:38:05

Not as a matter of course - only when it's a prearranged visit with someone who doens't come often, or specifically a hot drink and cake engagement. I don't keep biscuits and cake in the house.

vladthedisorganised Tue 26-Aug-14 12:38:05

Depends on the time of day and the guest.

First thing in the morning - no biscuit.
Houseguest - no biscuit apart from mid-afternoon
Random person drops round - probably biscuit (unless I really want them to leave quickly, in which case they get 'you'll not be wanting any tea, then?')
Friend drops round - posh biscuit
Plumber/electrician - selection of biscuits
Delivery - no biscuit

I knew that my parents approved of DH when the posh biscuits came out.

I'm never in the least offended if people don't help themselves.

Stratter5 Tue 26-Aug-14 12:38:54

Nope, we don't have anything in the house like cake or biscuits.

cardamomginger Tue 26-Aug-14 12:39:35

I don't keep biscuits or cake in the house. If I was inviting people round, then I would get something in to offer them, along with tea/coffee and a selection of cold drinks, in case that is what they prefer. Otherwise, if someone is just dropping in, no.

For me, tea/coffee is just a drink like any other. It doesn't have any additional status above any other drink that would necessitate making it into something more by the addition of a food. (Sorry - DD has cabin fever and I can't concentrate. Had in my head something about ritual/ceremony where (for some - cultures, generations, classes) sharing tea is more than just providing someone with a drink. But DD is shrieking about socks vs tights.)

WorraLiberty Tue 26-Aug-14 12:40:30

No, it wouldn't occur to me.

CMOTDibbler Tue 26-Aug-14 12:42:19

No, I don't have biscuits in the house. If I'd invited someone over for a coffee I would probably get some in. And I'd never give someone biscuits in bed!

cardamomginger Tue 26-Aug-14 12:43:19

In fact it annoys (too strong - but DD is being loud and I can't think) me if someone does provide cake/biscuits. I have allergies that a lot of people can't (reasonably enough!) keep track of and sometimes it looks rude if I don't partake of the food items offered along with the tea/coffee. And then I have to go into an explanation and it can get awkward, especially if people don't really get it and think I am just being fussy. Or they feel bad.

In any case I don't 'do' biscuits and if I was going to have one, I'd want it to be a really good one that I really want and not just one for the sake of it.

IScreamForIceCream Tue 26-Aug-14 12:50:36

I've never offered guests tea in bed. Is this another thing that has somehow passed me by, like Guest
San-Pro or the terrible insult to a guest that is instant coffee confused

Re biscuits or not, if my Irish rellies come a - visiting, I'd absolutely offer biscuits with every tea. Apart from mid afternoon, when I'd offer cake. Anything else would mean shaming my mother. But friends etc (am UK born and live here), nope. Unless it was a proper catch up type thing where we'd planned to make more effort. Or if someone visits after a swathe of Irish rellies have been, I may be using up biscuits.

thornrose Tue 26-Aug-14 12:51:04

I'm rubbish, I rarely have milk in the house as I only drink green tea. I don't buy biscuits or cake and I've given up drinking coffee at home. I don't have a teapot and have a random selection of mismatching mugs.

I can always rustle up a glass of wine and a few olives though. Phew!

TalcumPowder Tue 26-Aug-14 12:56:30

No idea whether offering overnight guests early-morning tea in bed is a normal thing or not. I associate it with households with servants in period novels, personally, and the only time I have ever been given it when a guest was when staying with the posh-but-poor parents of a university friend, and apparently her father always brought tea to her mother in bed, so included me.

(The punch line to this is that he perambulated the house naked before other people got up, and when he knocked on my door, having put down the tea cup, I opened it more quickly than expected and got an eyeful of male buttocks scurrying off along the landing...)

OnIlkleyMoorBahTwat Tue 26-Aug-14 12:57:44

Offering biscuits in bed first thing in the morning is a weird expectation IMHO.

Obviously more normal mid morning, mid afternoon, or immediately after a meal.

However, I would struggle to provide anything for unexpected guests, because if we buy biscuits/cakes they get eaten very quickly.

Obviously if someone was coming round, I would make/buy something and make sure it was available for them.

But biscuits in bed for guests first thing in the morning is weird. Tea and biscuits and a book in bed on a rainy sunday afternoon perfectly normal though.

MaryWestmacott Tue 26-Aug-14 12:58:54

for a guest who was there for a cuppa, then yes, I'd offer something biscuity or cakey, but for someone like my parents who are there all day, if I offered them a biscuit with every cup of tea they want, it would be 20+ biscuits.

My parents drink tea constantly, and can not comprehend the idea of reusing the cups, I tend to run the dishwasher several times in a day they are visiting as Mum will put cups in the sink full of water so they can't be reused, then comment that i remove them to the dishwasher "you're always running that, it's quicker to wash up as you go along" - while also not seeing the correlation with the fact that when she has guests "I'm just always in the kitchen, it's a stream of washing up" - well you offer brews constantly, so it's a never ending cycle of making a brew, drinking it then washing it all up, before starting again... It was a revelation when I got to uni and realised that if you are intending to have a second drink of the same drink, normal people will not wash up in between... (I do'nt drink tea either, my mother finds my coffee habit terribly subversive)

Re the first cuppa of the day thing, if they served food with it, wouldn't that be breakfast? Did they expect her to do breakfast in bed?

Pipbin Tue 26-Aug-14 13:03:02

It would depend on the time of day and reason for the visit.

If you dropped in, then I might will open the biscuit tin. If I was expecting you, then I would have made cake. If you were staying with me then no as we would be having breakfast soon. If we had just come back in after going out for lunch then no.

MaryWestmacott Tue 26-Aug-14 13:03:11

oh and this "you must offer cake or biscuits with a brew" mentality is why I'm sure it's so bloody hard to shift baby weight - most of your social life after having a baby involves going to someone's house for a tea or coffee and a chat, and you are always offered sweet food with it of some sort. At work, I wouldn't get a biccy every time I got a coffee, but suddenly on mat leave you're eating biscuits several times a day, and being surprised the weight isn't just 'dropping off'.

TheHoundsBitch Tue 26-Aug-14 13:05:39

I do if we have biscuits/ cake in, but we rarely have either as we don't eat them daily ourselves.

TalcumPowder Tue 26-Aug-14 13:09:33

That's what I said, Mary, and I think breakfast in bed would have horrified my parents, but I think their absolute conviction that tea without some accompanying food is miserly and wrong overcame their common sense awareness that they would be sitting down to breakfast in half an hour.

I think that in my mother's case, it may also be a factor that she grew up very, very poor, and is terrified of looking stingy. I think she genuinely fears she would be judged for the absence of biscuits with a casual cuppa for a surprise visitor. I have had to dissuade her on more than one occasion from dashing off to panic-bake scones for an unexpected visitor who had already said she didn't want anything to eat.

chesterberry Tue 26-Aug-14 13:10:55

No, I wouldn't automatically offer somebody a biscuit (or something else to eat) with a cup of tea and never think it rude if I am offered tea without something to eat. Sometimes I would offer a biscuit or if I have people over for tea I might have got in some cake or similar but certainly not always.

I think it may be a generational thing though as both sets of my grandparents never offer a cup of tea without at least getting out the biscuit tea. My grandmother is quite insistent that I take a biscuit if I'm having tea and gets a little affronted if I decline!

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