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(countable noun) Usage note: This term is used by many speakers.
1 The evening meal, which can be any time between about 5.30 pm and 8 pm. Tea can be a light meal (sandwiches) or a cooked meal, even including wine. Another word for ‘tea’ is ‘dinner’, but ‘dinner’ can also refer to ‘lunch’, eaten around midday. If you are invited to tea, ask your host what time you should arrive.
Example: When I arrived home, I felt that I could eat a mountain. By the time I'd eaten the tea that Mum prepared for me, I thought that I had. (http://members.iinet.net.au/teadcjames/life11.html)
2 ‘Tea’ also refers to a certain kind of drink, or to a very light meal eaten between about 3 pm and 4 pm at which people drink cups of tea and eat small sandwiches and cakes.
Example: They came up around morning tea time and we had a nice cuppa then showed the 4 kids the chickens, pigs and sheep and they helped collect the eggs - which the chooks had well hidden in the hay shed. (http://www.farmday.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=22&Itemid=11)
Chicken schnitzel (chicken breast fried in breadcrumbs), mashed potatoes, peas and carrots for tea
(photo by Julia Miller)