Saturday, January 31, 2009

There Ain't No Party Like MY Grandma's Tea Party

I came to Oxford expecting afternoon tea to be a daily part of every one's life.

Unfortunately, I was wrong.

Afternoon tea is not solicited as a necessary meal of the day. There are some teahouses that offer daily tea but they are kind of expensive. I thought afternoon tea would be easy to find but I have not seen any cafes or pubs advertising afternoon tea except for last Saturday when after a day of exploring other Oxford colleges I saw a blackboard outside of a coffee shop that said Tea Cake and Coffee/Tea for £3.95. I was delighted! This was the first time I had seen any news of afternoon tea so I had to engage the opportunity.

Matt Roe, Ian, Alexia, and I went to Queen's Lane Coffee House which claims to be the oldest coffeehouse in Europe. But I figured I couldn't get tea at the oldest coffeehouse in Europe, that would just be silly, so I substituted coffee for tea in my first afternoon tea (does it still count as afternoon tea? um, I'm going to say yes). I'm not going to lie, when I order the tea cake and coffee special, I assumed that teacake was some sort of vanilla or coconut cake. I was really surprised when the teacake turned out to be something more like a scone, served with strawberry jam and really rich, thick, and creamy butter.

Also let me talk to you real quick about scones. America has lied to us about them! Scones are not dry, quasi-hard, tasteless clumps of batter. No no no. I have had a taste of a real scone and have realized the terrible deception! Scones are moist, buttery, and soft. Basically, they are delicious. America has made the scone out to be more like an English muffin, which when toasted is so hard that it can pretty much cut the roof of your mouth.

Don't be fooled America. Somehow the scone has been lost in translation as it has traveled across the ocean. I'm here to clear up all fallacies.

Even though the Brits no longer embrace the whole afternoon tea business, I have unintentionally begun to make this a part of my daily routine. It started with the graciousness of my friends Kitty Mullet and Matt Foerster who have gotten in the habit of making a pot of tea. In the afternoons we usually have tea when we do homework in the dining room. We sit in this sunlit room that as an uncanny resemblance to that of Miss Honey's classroom (from Matilda) and drink great tea with honey and lemon. I usually am a fan of pure, unadulterated tea, but I now favor the honey and lemon approach.

Also Alexia has discovered that Sainsbury's, the local grocery store, sells a 6 pack of scones for less than a dollar. Sainsbury's has such incredible deals. Now scones have entered into our daily tea and homework ritual. We have even classed up our tea time with the help of a pink tray, a plate with slices of lemons on it, a plate of scones, a spoon for every one, and honey on the side. They actually prepare a tray of tea, it's so cute!

My friends take great care of me and make terrific tea. I enjoy our afternoon tea parties, laced with writing papers and reading books. I feel like we are re-introducing tea to the British culture, in a small way. If only we had any British friends to whom we could tell our tea time stories.


  1. tea time in Britain not advertised?

    my worldview is crumbling away, like the scones of America.

  2. so I had a scone this saturday went i went to a tea house in an old part of indy....... it was great. I guess it was british!