Chilean “Once” tea time Finally Explained!

“Once” in Spanish means 11, but for Chileans, it means tea time. Chilean tea time usually takes place at 5 pm. But sometimes when they have “once” instead of dinner, it can take place at 8 pm or 9 pm.


Chilean once normally consists of bread with butter and jamón and most importantly tea! The family sometimes chooses to enjoy a piece of cake or sweets, in replacement for the bread and butter. But tea is always a must!


Why do Chileans call tea time “once”? 

“Once” means 11 but Chilean tea time doesn’t normally take place at 11 am or 11 pm. So, how did the name came to be? There are 3 versions to how Chilean Tea Time got its name, of “Once”.

The first version, and most popular one, is that back in the day, during tea time, instead of drinking tea, men would go to the kitchen or the back room to have a sip of aguardiente, an alcoholic beverage made with grapes. The word “aguardiente” has 11 letters. And so to nickname it, when the men wanted to invite one another to have a drink, they would say “Once” instead.

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The two other versions are not as exciting but they are also important to know. The second version claims that “Once” is named after Britain’s tea time – which takes place at 11 a.m. Finally, the third version claims that “Once” was named after elevenses, a British brand of biscuits that people often enjoy with their tea. As you can see, this last version isn’t as exciting, but whatever version you prefer – now you know where Chile’s popular “Once” came from!

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