How to Enjoy Elevenses (and what it is)
Sunday May 21, 2023

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Just saying the term ‘elevenses’ tickles my tongue, and then I can’t help but smile (listen to the proper pronunciation here). But what to anyone who doesn’t observe or know this term Elevenses is it exactly?

Simply, it is a brief break between morning and noon for a cup of something warm (typically) and a nibble. As Monty Don jokes in The Home Cookbook, with all the breaks in the day the British observe, we are constantly sipping and nibbling all day at the very least! I think this designated break time that is so cherished it has a name, is one to consider in earnest regularly welcoming into our days. In fact, I am happily observing this ritual as often as I remember to do so.

And someone I know, who while not British, but American and now a French citizen, who observed this ritual, albeit not using the name, is Susan Herrmann Loomis, who shared in a conversation we had on the podcast a couple of years ago (episode #300) that her Petit Plaisir was a break she took at 10 am each day no matter what she was doing at work as it gave her an opportunity to just be, sip a cup of coffee and just gaze outside and relax.

The history of Elevenses:

Tea Time magazine shared that Elevenses actually began being called Elevener, the term first being recorded in 1823.  “As tea became more affordable to the working class, the term had evolved by 1849 when both ‘elevens’ and ‘fourzes’ were mentioned as work breaks in a Suffolk commentary on agricultural workers.” And the simplicity of the term shares exactly when it is typical to enjoy this ritual: at a 11am.

How to enjoy or partake in this daily ritual:

  • Choose a favorite varietal of tea or coffee (typically tea)
    • the simply luxurious approach would be to make it something special, a varietal you don’t enjoy to begin your day, but rather something that brings you to a place of stopping, savoring and appreciating, holding yourself in the present moment.
      • Prepare your tea or coffee in the best quality way possible. In reference to Susan’s Petit Plaisir above, she shares that she uses a special coffee maker to create a particularly delicious cup of jo.
      • Select a mug or teacup that also deepens the appreciation of holding yourself in the present moment.
  • A light snack to keep the blood-sugar levels up and stave off hunger pangs, but just a nibble, not a meal as lunch will be enjoyed in a couple hours’ time.
    • a scone, biscuit or muffin
    • a savory small snack
    • a healthy snack of nuts, a snack bar, fruit, vegetables, etc.

Where to enjoy your Elevenses:

Anywhere you want. ☺️

That is to say, get comfortable, and that would probably be a place away from the current work you are tending to (so away from the computer screen or desk) if you are in the middle of a work day. But again, elevenses are to be enjoyed every day, so on the weekend, elevenses are regularly enjoy here at Le Papillon in my reading nook, sitting in the striped green chair (the one time Norman lets me sit in it 😉), I put either two small pre-homemade scones in the oven or morning glory muffins in the oven to bake, heat up my tea kettle with water for a pot of tea, and sit down on Saturday after having worked in the garden in the morning to enjoy my elevenses. Usually while watching Gardeners’ World.

The picture here was captured just yesterday after having enjoyed being out in the garden while it was cool, then returning inside at about 10:45, popping two Morning Glory muffins in the oven, tending to just a few more things outside while they baked, then heating up the kettle before sitting down and relaxing with these stunning Lemon Chiffon peonies I picked up on Friday from Adelman’s Peony Garden just outside of Salem (I had hoped to take pictures of the farm but my phone ran out of battery power😬). The muffins were devoured before the picture was captured and the recent episode of Gardeners’ World was enjoyed, but I must say, this hour of rest, and granted it will usually be about 10-20 minutes rather than an hour, is deeply enjoyed, primarily because I have already completed something I wished to do, and while I know there is more of the day to come, just looking forward to this moment, the elevenses, genuinely motivates me to hop up and get the day going well, so that when I do sit down (which is soon, as opposed to the end of the day), I will be wholly content.

The recipe for Morning Glory Muffins, a healthy and delicious snack

I will make a full batch of the batter, and freeze it, only pulling out one container the day before (or the morning of) to defrost, that way I can have hot out of the oven muffins, but only make exactly as many as I want to enjoy on that particular occasion.

The recipe for Classic Cream Scones (with or without blueberries)

Similarly, I will make a full batch, but them out, and freeze them, only removing as many as I want the morning of to defrost. Here is another post sharing shopping links to the classic scone cutters and details on the classic way to enjoy scones with clotted cream and jam.

So why not incorporate this British ritual into your everydays as it best fits? And if you are someone who enjoys your elevenses, we would love to hear from you how you enjoy this special time of day.

Explore the posts shared thus far during TSLL’s 5th Annual British Week

5thannualbritishweekdates-1 | The Simply Luxurious Life

40 thoughts on “How to Enjoy Elevenses (and what it is)

  1. This is something I always tried to incorporate into my working day as it gave me a few minutes “head space” and helped me pace myself through the working day.
    Since being at home more I always include my dogs – a doggie treat when I stop for coffee or tea in the morning. Guess what – if I forget my pup will remind me – how is that for training!!!!😄
    I am not sure who is training who!!!!

      1. Thank you Deena. He is and that’s where the trouble starts! How can I refuse such a puppy look!!!

    1. Now I know what my little Callie, (our rescue companion) has been doing all alone.
      She has been training us for “elevenses” 😂

    2. Oh my word Angela! What a lovely idea- thank you for sharing; I know my pup will be appreciative!;)

  2. I loved this post and also adore the term….and it’s about 11 here on the East Coast!! Having 2 lemon madeleines and some water (I know, boring but I didn’t expect this post so I wasn’t as prepared). I can’t help but think of Pippin in LOTR (not sure if you all are into that genre) when he panicked about all the meals he would miss during the day. He even squeezed in “second breakfast” between morning and elevenses! Impressive.

    1. Oh my gosh, I haven’t thought about poor Pippin’s dilemma in many moons,(missing any meal was unheard of for a hobbit!), thanks for the smile, Melissa. 🙂💍🔮

    2. Melissa, watching LOTR is when I first heard of Elevenses!
      Shannon, thank you for the history and the recipes!

    3. 😁Melissa Pippin had the right idea. The Scottish pronunciation of ‘elevenses’ is so cute. Kameela 😊

  3. Having traveled to The Cotswolds and Cornwall in late January and February this year, we enjoyed tea and scones at The Swan Inn in Bibury, Stow-on – Wold, Blenheim Palace, a private tour at Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey), The Pump Room in Bath, a beautiful farm shop near Port Isaac and several small pubs on the Cornish Coast. It was truly the most wonderful vacation I have ever experienced.

    1. Such a fabulous vacation. Now, with each little pause in your day, you can be reminded of the charm and habits of those days and can repeat the joy in your own home.

    2. Can’t do better than that. You chose well and it seems you were well rewarded. Over the years I’ve enjoyed many lovely teatime treats at the Swan Inn.Cannot beat a good.old fashioned cosy British pub. It’s what I miss that I’m living in France. Lovely memories to treasure.Kameela 😊

    3. What a fabulous itinerary! I had no idea you can have a private tour at Highclere Castle. Next time my husband and I return to the UK, we’re gonna take inspiration from your trip. Thank you for sharing.

  4. While I have never called it “elevenses”, that mid-morning break to refresh and rejuvenate myself has long been absolutely essential. Similar to Susan Loomis, my break is usually around 10am. During my past busier workdays, it was a time to regroup and have a bit of quiet away from the chaos and maelstrom. Nowadays, it is truly a moment to savor, a longer time to linger, a very satisfying break to just be. And thanks for the suggestions of making it a truly special moment, Shannon, I love that!😊🍵✨

  5. So without knowing I guess I have been doing “elevenses” for a while 😊
    Sometimes eating a small bowl of wild berries with a nice cup hibiscus tea, a nice choice and a little treat for me.
    As I get older (almost 50) I’m realizing that those small pauses during the day are precious and definitely needed for my well-being.

    This reminds me the summers I spend in Dublin, Ireland where for not reason in the middle of all activities someone will always find a cup of tea and a sweet and flaky scone. We would stop and talk about everything and anything.
    I’m so excite to bake the Blueberry scones, what a little treat for everyone in our office.

    Shannon I’m loving this little tips so far.

  6. I usually have a cuppa about 10 or 1030, but always at my desk and while still working. Tomorrow, I’ll try to “step away” even if it is just to turn and look out the window.
    Great start to British Week, Shannon!

  7. Being a Brit I didn’t realise elevenses was uniquely British, it is religiously followed in my family, my Dad always used to insist on having a little “smackerel” which is a Winnie the Pooh word for snack!

    1. In America, it is usually required of businesses to give their employees two 15-minute breaks per day, but very few actually take them because it is frowned upon in a lot of cases or you feel as though you don’t have the time. If you are away from your desk for “too long” people begin looking for you. If you don’t take breaks, you are viewed as a “good employee”. If you do, you’re a “slacker”. It’s unfortunate. My employers wouldn’t mind if I took them, but the receptionist who will have to answer my calls probably would, so I have worked out a way to stay at might desk, but do something to take my mind off of work by having a cuppa while reading TSLL or something 🙂
      Unfortunately, I still have to answer the phone.

  8. Having British gransparents and having worked in Australia I have very fond memories of elevenes and fourzes. I once had a colleague who did her baking on Tuesdays and make enough to bring into work on Wednesdays. Becauses of this thoughtfull colleague Wednesday was always a popular day to work.

  9. I had not ever heard of elevenses, but can’t wait to incorporate into my morning routine. Thanks for the recipes to get us started! 🌷

  10. My husband is in a hunting club and when we traveled to England for one his trips, we were treated to this tradition. They would stop the shooting and we would all gather together for a mini picnic with a warm beverage and a savory treat. It was fabulous and fun! We have continued the tradition on other excursions here in the states with these friends from all over the US.

  11. I am one of those people who plans the day early on when possible. My tea tray is always set for my little break in the morning activity or for drop-in visitors. Since my professional work life never provided a pause, this is now quite a luxury. Like Shannon, I tend to make a recipe or two in small servings sizes to defrost or bake daily or every other day. This way my offerings do not dry out or go to waste. I’m not sure where I first heard the term elevenses, probably in a Rosamond Pilcher novel, but making this event part of our day is surely one way to live an elegant life.

  12. This is lovely, I’ve heard of it before but now I have to find a way to incorporate Elevenses in my working day when I start to work again =)!

  13. I first read about elevenses while reading an old romance novel by Betty Neels. Just reading about it within the story brought forth such a cozy feeling. I usually take my tea break around 4 pm. I have a delightful tea pot and cup and saucer I use daily. It’s by wedge wood and has flowers and birds on it. I cut up a protein bar in tiny pieces and nibble while reading or perusing my magazines Mary Jane’s Farm or The British Home. I’m thinking I’d like to start back my subscription of Victoria magazine. I do like the idea of adding elevenses to my day after my morning walks, working in my flowers bed or morning chores. What a way to stop and embrace the day! I need to try your morning glory muffins!

    1. Susan,

      Thank you for painting a vivid picture of how you enjoy this ritual. And I appreciate how you have tailored it to serve you well, welcome the beauty (your teapot sounds beautiful and so special) and give intentional pause to your day. Thank you very much for sharing. 🙂

  14. Shannon, when I was growing up my mum always had coffee at 9:30 and so when we were off school we would join in. We loved it as we were allowed to raid the biscuit barrel for a biscuit to dunk in our drink. The biscuit would ride us over to lunch at 12. She also did the same in the afternoon. I still instinctively stop when I’m able and enjoy a cuppa. X

  15. Shannon,

    What a delightful post! The reminder is always welcomed to slow down and just “be”- a rather difficult notion to get used to and protect here in America where productivity is king. I started taking time for a tea ritual about the time my girls get home from school…it has been life changing for all of us! I rather like the name of “fourzes” and think my girls will too! Many thanks for validating the need for not only adults but also our children to take time to pause!

  16. Shannon,

    What a delightful post! The reminder is always welcomed to slow down and just “be”- a rather difficult notion to get used to and protect here in America where productivity is king. I started taking time for a tea ritual about the time my girls get home from school…it has been life changing for all of us! I rather like the name of “fourzes” and think my girls will too! Many thanks for validating the need for not only adults but also our children to take time to pause! A last pondering- I am excited to try both recipes you’ve shared- especially the morning glory muffins!

  17. Thanks for this Shannon, it made me smile. Reminds me of when I was going to secretarial school, yes I am that old 😀. I used to temp up in London during the holidays. One summer, I worked for an.American buyer for Saks Fifth Avenue. It was a fancy assignment and we had a tea lady that used to come around at 11 and 4 for the official tea breaks. He promised me a job if ever fulfilled my dream of going to America. I never had the nerve to get in touch when I made it here when I was 18.

  18. Elevenses, teatime are great excuses for tea and nibbles 😁. We British just like an excuse to put the kettle on for a cuppa. I enjoy elevenses at the weekend as I .prefer teatime during the week. Aftet this post Shannon the sound of tinkling teacups will be heard right across the ponds as TSLL readers warm up the teapots. . Kameela 😊

  19. What a great reminder! I enjoyed Elevenses quite a bit during lockdown, but then, of course, life came back to its more rapid cadence. Ready to make this a goal to appreciate Elevenses more often. I love the idea of madeleines from Melissa (comment #2) above!

  20. This is a great ritual. We Americans need to learn how to slow down and enjoy. The older I get the more I value or rather, I see the necessity of slowing down and savoring things; the beauty and taste of a great cup of tea, the beauty of a flower, or even the love in your pups eyes as they gaze at you. I am trying to train myself to really SEE these things. ❤️ thank you

  21. Thank you for the elevenses inspiration Shannon! I have to say following Susan Hermann-Loomis’s episode I did start making time at work at about 10/10:30 to take a moment away from my desk with a brew. However, at the weekends I love your idea of spending the earlier morning getting some tasks done – in the garden or home – and then knowing that at 11am I have a break and a treat waiting for me! I especially look forward to enjoying mine outside on the patio listening to the birds.

    1. Your Elevenses moment with birdsong on the patio sounds wonderful. I think I remember some pics you have shared savoring this moment, and I looks so peaceful. Waffle enjoys this respite with you as well. 🙂

  22. As others have mentioned, I first heard of elevenses while reading Tolkien and just completely fell in love with the idea! I often “forget” to slow down at 11 but will make more of an effort to do so. Thank you for the lovely ideas of how to do elevenses the simply luxurious way 🙂

  23. Where in the US can I buy clotted cream? It’s so strange…I was in the UK about 20 years ago and I could buy it anywhere. Then I went back to the UK in 2016 and I couldn’t find it anywhere. I asked people in the stores why they didn’t stock it, and they didn’t know.

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