I suspect a euphemism... Pirates & Plunder, Yaquinto 1981
"Sailors are, and always have been, sailors. Immediately after reaching a port after a hard tour of sea duty most sailors will make a bee-line for the nearest Lady to engage in polite social conversation over a cup of tea and a plate of crumpets... Professional conversationalists, being professional, have certain specific qualities they look for in a potential customer who seeks to enjoy their company and spirited conversation. These qualities will influence not only the length and depth of the conversations but may indeed influence any monetary consideration. The adage that 'Talk is Cheap,' does not apply in Port Royal.
Sailors, for their part, greatly desire to indulge themselves in feminine company and most definitely in as much conversation and tea and crumpets as possible when in port. The reason for this being that tea and crumpets are not the usual shipboard fair [sic], and female conversation is most difficult to come by on a man of war. Failure to obtain sufficient tea, crumpets, and conversation can cause a deep, disturbing sense of frustration and loss on the part of the sailor often causing him to become somewhat sour of disposition and occasionally rash or aggressive toward those in his immediate neighborhood." - Pirates & Plunder, Book II, p43-44
(Review available on rpgreview dot net slash node slash 185)