What is the British meaning of "tea and a slice"?

At the end of the Pink Floyd song Us and Them from “The Dark Side of the Moon”, there are the lyrics:

*“Out of the way, it’s a busy day
I’ve got things on my mind”
For want of the price of tea and a slice
The old man died
For all my life the price of “a slice” would refer to nothing but a slice of pizza, but today after hearing the song for the 1,413th time in my life it finally struck me that pizza is probably not taken with tea in Old Blighty. (Or is it?)

Obviously the price of “tea and a slice” is not great, but what gets sold in slices that is commonly consumed with tea? Some kind of cake maybe? I always thought tea was taken with scones or biscuits (cookies), or little sandwiches with the crust cut off. Besides, wouldn’t the cost of cake vary widely by quality and type? Wouldn’t a slice of, say, Triple Dutch Chocolate Blackout Cake cost a lot more than a slice of Mrs. Margarinesworth’s Predominantly, Even Mostly Natural Pound Cake?

(I know, I know, “it’s just a song”)

I don’t know if there is a specific UK “old saying” answer, but would assume it refers to a slice of bread.

Not British so total WAG, but perhaps aBattenburg cake?

(I know of this creature only due to the delightful chap hop video, “Cup of Brown Joy”.)

Never been to a tea house, then?

(Yes, it’s cake.)

o n/m

It is a slice of cake.

I’d assume a slice of cake - possibly a slice of bread, but my mum is Glaswegian and bread would be a ‘piece’ or ‘buttie’ (jammy piece and chip buttie, I don’t know why there’s the distinction, but by crikey there* is*).

Alternately, there’s “fried slice”, which is a slice of bread that’s fried in the grease left over from all the other things you’re cooking on a griddle.

Instinctively, I shudder.

And drool a little

Worzel Gummidge explains.

Tea and a slice in particular reminds me of George Orwell’s Down and out in Paris and London. It’s a semi-autobiographical account of Orwell’s time living in extreme poverty in the 1930’s. In the London section of the book tea and a slice is what Orwell was getting buy on as the cheapest food option available. Café’s would serve tea and a slice of bread as the cheapest thing on the menu. The slice would have margarine on it.

In the context of the lyrics it does seem to be referring to tea and a slice as the cheapest thing you could eat to survive which fits with Orwell’s writings and would suggest the slice in question is bread.

Yep tea and bread with a scrape of butter was the staple of the poor.

Eta the quality of cake the poor could afford in those days would make you cry.

That must be it then. I was having trouble with the image of a person starving to death for want of cake, Marie Antoinette notwithstanding.

Your chief question has been answered (from the title I thought ‘cake’, but given the context it looks like bread), but to this… tea is taken with anything and everything.

During breakfast, with toast, cornflakes, whatever.
During ‘elevenses’ (a ‘tea break’ c.11am) with some sort of biscuit (what you call cookies).
During a mid-afternoon break, with cake. Or a bar of chocolate. Or a packet of crisps. Or whatever else you use to plug your mid-afternoon cravings.
During posh ‘afternoon teas’ (which no one except tourists eat), with petite sandwiches, scones, and, yes, cakes, by the boatload.

Basically, tea goes with everything. Apparently it accounts for 40% of the average Brit’s fluid intake.

Tea in the morning, tea in the evening, tea at supper time,
You get tea when it’s raining, tea when it’s snowing,
Tea when the weather’s fine.
You get tea as a mid-day stimulant
You get tea with your afternoon tea
For any old ailment or disease
For Christ sake have a cuppa tea.

-The Kinks

Quite right

“Buttie” is, I believe, similar to the German Butterbrod, i.e., “sandwich.” A chip buttie would be a sandwich made with what Americans would call French fries.

If I’m not mistaken, a jammy piece would be just a slice of bread with jam.

A potato sandwich? Add bacon to that and I’m in.

In a British sandwich, unlike an American one, the bread is always buttered (margarine will do as a substitute). That is where “buttie” comes from, I think. “Buttie” is not really part of my dialect, though. It is mostly a North of England and Scottish thing.

Oddly, one of my favorite lines from Ian McLagan’s All The Rage is “Wakey Wakey, Tea and Cakey!” Go figure.