LIFE IN A SOCIETY where workaholism has replaced cars as a way to out-do the Joneses leaves little time for the reassuring rituals of yesteryear. Fewer people take off for lunch these days, much less for tea. Indeed, invitation to tea often means you'll be asked to buy something or donate something.

On the other hand, tea -- the drink, as opposed to tea, the event -- has enjoyed a substantial rise in popularity lately since coffee has received bad press due to high prices, caffeine content and additives.

Tea drinkers, reformed or born, still enjoy the morning meal pattern of something substantial to nibble while perusing the morning paper. For many, this means something sweet: coffeecakes or doughnuts. Others loathe sweet food before noon, knowing it will send them right back to bed with squinting eyes and a throbbing head. Quick, however, is the key word, whether sweet or savory. WHOLE WHEAT MUFFINS (12 muffins) 2 cups whole wheat flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 cup brown sugar 1 egg, beaten 1/4 cup oil 1 1/2 cups milk

Combine dry ingredients. Beat together egg, oil and milk. Fold this quickly into flour mixture just to moisten. Lumps will remain. Spoon into greased muffin tin. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. CINNAMON KUCHEN (1 8-inch kuchen) 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 cup brown sugar 2 cups plus 6 tablespoons flour 1/2 cup butter 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 cup sugar 2 eggs, separated 3/4 cup milk

Grease an 8-inch baking pan. Combine cinnamon, brown sugar, 6 tablespoons flour and 2 tablespoons butter and work together with fingers or pastry blender until the mixture resembles small peas. Set aside. Sift remaining flour with baking powder and set aside. Beat remaining butter with 3/4 cup sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg yolks. With clean beaters, beat egg whites until fluffy. Continue beating while adding remaining sugar until the mixture forms stiff peaks. Stir flour and milk into creamed mixture, then fold in egg whites. Turn into prepared baking pan and top evenly with cinnamon mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes. This moist cake will hold admirably overnight. APPLE COFFEECAKE (8 to 10 servings) 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans 1 1/4 cups sugar 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 cup butter 2 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 1/2 cups flour 1/2 cup whole wheat flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1 cup plain yogurt 1 tart apple, peeled, cored and sliced

In a small bowl, combine nuts with 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon. Set aside. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.

Cream butter. Gradually add remaining sugar, beating constantly until fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Sift flours, soda and baking powder and add to butter mixture. Stir briefly and add yogurt. Blend for 1 minute at medium speed, scraping the bowl often with a rubber spatula. Pour 2/3 of the batter into prepared pan and top with apples and 1/3 of the nut mixture. Pour in remaining batter and top with remaining nut mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 to 70 minutes. Cool completely in the pan. PRUNE COFFEE CAKE 12 ounces pitted prunes (about 2 cups) 2/3 cup hot water 2 cups flour 1 1/2 cups sugar 1 teaspoon each baking soda, salt, allspice and nutmeg 1 cup vegetable oil 3 eggs 3/4 cup buttermilk 1 cup chopped nuts Chopped nuts and pitted prunes or confectioners' sugar, for garnish

Combine prunes and water in electric blender. Blend until smooth by turning on and off and scraping sides of bowl down with rubber spatula. Combine flour, sugar, soda, salt, allspice and nutmeg. Add prunes, oil, eggs, buttermilk and 1 cup chopped nuts to flour mixture. Mix until thoroughly blended. Turn into greased and floured 12-cup tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 65 to 70 minutes or until cake is springy to the touch and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan 10 minutes. Turn out onto serving plate and allow to finish cooling. Sprinkle with nuts and prunes or confectioners' sugar. CHEESE MUFFINS (12 muffins) 1 cup unbleached flour 1 cup whole wheat flour 1 tablespoon baking powder 1/4 cup sugar 1 egg, beaten 1 cup milk 1/4 cup salad oil 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese 1/2 cup walnuts

Sift flours, baking powder and sugar into a large bowl. Set aside. Beat egg with milk and salad oil. Pour into dry ingredients and mix very quickly. Fold in cheese and walnuts with just a few strokes. Lumps should remain in the batter. Pour into paper-lined muffin tin cups, filling the cups 2/3 full. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.