Elevenses, which is usually a snack lighter than breakfast or lunch, is eaten around 11am.
Besides afternoon tea and high tea, people in the UK observe another tradition that gives them an excuse to have snacks with tea or coffee. Elevenses, which is usually a snack lighter than breakfast or lunch, is eaten around 11am. The word elevenses refers to not just the snack but the concept of eating something light at that time. The snack is traditionally meant to be sweet and may include scones, biscuits or muffins accompanied by tea or coffee.
It is believed that the tradition of elevenses started in the 20th century (however, in his book ‘Oxford Companion to Food’, Alan Davidson traces the the origin of the word back to the late eighteenth century). The Duchess of Bedford, Anna Russell, felt peckish around late-morning. She broke the rules of mealtimes followed by the well-to-do British, which were usually around noon and 7.30pm, to request tea and snacks that allowed her to make it through a morning otherwise without food. Her friends and eventually even the masses followed and elevenses became a trend.
Elevenses may be a break from work or just a pause in the day to enjoy tea with finger sandwiches, pastries or biscuits. In 2009, The Telegraph published an article titled ‘Elevenses: A vital part of our working day’, which referred to elevenses as a "vital element of our traditional way of life." The 11 o’clock break has formed an important part of the working day for the British for many years.
Today’s workers consider elevenses a basic human need. Offices with a tea break area and vending machines have displayed their understanding of this. It’s an opportunity for colleagues to rest momentarily and keep their minds fresh before the post-lunch slump hits. Elevenses have also been mentioned in J. R. R. Tolkien’s work, referring to them as one of the meals Hobbits eat. Although references to elevenses in pop culture are not many, the 11 o’clock tradition continues to be a mainstay of late mornings in Britain.