Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Charlie Baxter from the British English podcast joins us today to discuss the culture of tea.

Whether you drink tea or not, it’s important to understand how it fits into a country’s culture.

Listen in today and learn one key mistake to avoid when you prepare tea.

You’ll also get two essential English phrases that will help you connect with a local in England.

Welcome back, Charlie

Charlie Baxter is a returning guest on the All Ears English podcast.

His first guest appearance was on episode AEE 1853: Charlie Baxter from British English Podcast on How to Reconnect with Your Creativity.

You can check it out for tips on harnessing your creative side.

Charlie is the host of the British English Podcast, which has over 5 million downloads.

The YouTube channel Real English with Real Teachers is co-hosted by him.

It offers a lively and humorous approach to mastering advanced British English vocabulary.

He seeks to immerse listeners in British culture through his online academy.

British tea culture

In today’s episode, Charlie shares about the culture of tea in England.

Originally he is from a county called Surrey, which is southwest of London.

He shares that the British drink a lot of tea but maybe not as much as people think.

Afternoon tea in a fancy restaurant with dainty little sandwiches is rare.

Lindsay’s tea experience

Lindsay shares that her best friend growing up was British.

Her name was Emma and she was born in Devon, but moved to the U.S. when she was six.

Emma’s parents loved drinking tea.

In middle school, when Lindsay would go to their place after school, they were often drinking tea.

Tea vs. coffee

Charlie mentions that he is more of a coffee drinker.

He has developed an obsession with coffee over the last ten years.

However, growing up he was a tea drinker, starting at the young age of just 11 years old.

It’s very common in the UK to start drinking tea at a young age in spite of the caffeine.

Charlie started drinking coffee when he was in college.

Just like Charlie, Lindsay is also a big coffee drinker.

Mistake to avoid

Lindsay asks Charlie about common mistakes tourists make with tea.

She shares that she often wants to sample the coffee in the country she’s visiting.

In Portugal, a tour guide told her that travelers often drink cappuccino wrong.

Americans might drink it in the afternoon but in Portugal, you should only drink it in the morning.

Charlie shares that English breakfast tea can be drunk any time of day.

Earl Grey is another type of tea that is quite popular and regarded as a bit posh.

Tea and food

There are recommended food pairings with tea to be aware of.

The common stereotype is to pair tea with scones and cakes and maybe a biscuit, which are called cookies in the States.

You can dunk these in tea before eating.

Charlie doesn’t recommend pairing tea with heavy food or spicy food.

He says it would be strange to eat a curry with tea.

It’s also not advisable to have tea with the famous English breakfast.

This is a very heavy meal that includes sausage and bacon.

Lindsay has tried it and she was a bit overwhelmed with such a hearty breakfast.

Tea etiquette

Lindsay asks Charlie about tea etiquette blunders he has noticed.

Charlie answers that British people are particular with the way the tea is brewed.

You should never squeeze a tea bag.

It may seem efficient as a way to make tea stronger, but it releases tannins and creates a dry aftertaste.

The proper steps are:

  • Put the tea bag in the cup
  • Pour in the hot water
  • Leave it to brew
  • Add milk or sugar as desired

Should you ask for sugar?

Charlie points out that asking for additional sugar can be seen as an insult.

Once you have asked for milk or sugar you should not ask for more.

He compares this to being invited to dinner at someone’s place.

If they’ve cooked dinner for you and you ask for salt, it is a bit disrespectful.

Lindsay asks Charlie about trends around tea.

She shares the example from the States of coffee trends such as cold brew and different roasts.

Charlie answers that the older generation are the ones that hold onto the afternoon tea culture.

Younger generations are not as tied to it and are increasingly becoming coffee drinkers.

He has observed that coffee is becoming the go-to drink at cafes in London.

It is possible that the tradition of tea in England might start to fade out.

Tea at home

Tea is more accessible at home in the UK than coffee is.

For higher quality brews, a lot of machinery is required.

In most cupboards in an English kitchen, the option is Nescafe instant coffee or a traditional English breakfast tea bag.

Phrases for tea drinking

Lindsay asks about phrases you can use in the UK to be able to enjoy good English tea.

This is a great way to build a connection.

Charlie shares two native British phrases:

  • Fancy a cuppa?
  • Shall I put the kettle on?

He points out that a feeling of care is implied with, “Shall I put the kettle on?”

It often is said when someone needs an intimate chat.

This is a great phrase to share with someone you want to connect with them on a deeper level.


If you’re visiting the UK, start a conversation using these phrases and tips.

Conversations relating to culture always create good connections.

More resources from Charlie can be found at his website The British English Podcast.

You can also see details about his app that helps learners delve into on-the-go resources.

Do you have any other questions regarding tea drinking in the UK?

Share one in the comments below.

Charlie’s bio

Charlie is the host of The British English Podcast, which has over 5 million downloads and co-host of the YouTube channel Real English With Real Teachers that has over 200K subscribers. Charlie offers a lively and humorous approach to mastering advanced British English vocabulary and an immersion in British culture through his online academy.

He has created a 5-step method to improve your listening skills with every podcast you listen to so make sure you grab that by checking out his link in the show notes or head over to to find out more.

Go here to download Charlie’s free 5-step method to improve your listening skills with every podcast you listen to.

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