Tea drinking culture in the north east of Scotland

Fly Cups & Fancy Pieces

Elevenses in Aberdeenshire... what to expect?

Visit friends and relatives in the North East outside regular mealtimes, and you may well be welcomed with the question: ‘Would you like a fly cup?’ Don’t panic – the fly cup is the Aberdeenshire form of elevenses, or afternoon tea, but it’s also so much more than that.

‘Fly’ is the Doric word for doing something surreptitiously, so the implication would be that a fly cup is a quick refreshment, often taken standing up, in between your work to tide you over until dinner or tea. That may be the case for those in the middle of a busy day, but visiting a relatives house for a fly cup is a much grander affair.

The ‘snack’ may start with homemade Scottish pancakes, cooked on the girdle, or a fresh buttery, followed by an assortment of home-baked ‘fancy pieces’. A fancy piece is the generic term for any biscuits, fairy cakes (never cupcakes), traybakes and treats. This will be washed down with lots of tea. From a pot, obviously. The trick is to keep eating until everything is gone – no one likes leftovers.