Tea time

Tea is central to the British experience – a particular sort of tea: black (usually breakfast tea), to be taken by itself, or with milk and/or sugar. ‘Nothing but tea’ is preferable to nothing; still more preferable is tea enjoyed with a biscuit, a scone, or something chocolatey. Visiting scholars regularly gather around tea and sweet accompaniments to savour this particularly British delight.

Tea time in Oxford

There are many preconceived notions that arise when one is confronted with the phrase “tea time”: that it is an absolutely critical element of British culture; that it is a very pretentious affair requiring both tea and biscuits prepared in a precise manner; that conversation be overtly polite with cuttingly witty undertones. These are all true.

There are many places, including most of the colleges belonging to the University of Oxford, which will host tea in their halls. It is the way in which subjects of Britain break the monotony of long (and mostly cloudy) workdays, as well as set aside time to meet with their friends and associates face to face. Traditionally (and tradition is very important), the tea served is black, with added milk or sugar as is preferred by the recipient. Shortbread biscuits are the most common treat paired with this delightful steaming beverage, but scones with jam and clotted cream are also most appropriate.

Tea Time as observed by SCIO students is unique, with the tea and food offered being of special quality and the conversation—being held by a group of devoted intellectuals—tends to be particularly witty, and often blatantly philosophical.

British tea time is a sacred—if comfortably prosaic—ritual. This author recommends that students attend as many teas as they are able, if only to take the time to slow down and appreciate the wonderful company around you, whilst experiencing a new cultural tradition. You will walk away enriched, and, if you have had one too many biscuits, perhaps a little sleepy.

Which is perfectly all right.

– Emma K. Suiter –

Michaelmas Term, 2018

Scio Jane Austen
[Mrs Norris] burst through his recital with the proposal of soup. “Sure, my dear Sir Thomas, a basin of soup would be a much better thing for you than tea. Do have a basin of soup.” Sir Thomas could not be provoked. “Still the same anxiety for everybody’s comfort, my dear Mrs. Norris,” was his answer. “But indeed I would rather have nothing but tea."
Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

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