Tea time has officially become my favorite Oxford pastime. Punting on the Cherwell and the pub crawl (bar hopping in Yankee terminology) organized by our program director were a lot of fun and provided many great stories, but setting out time for tea and biscuits (we would call them cookies) is something I can adopt in my real life.
The importance of tea to British culture is unmistakable. We have Starbucks and they have Twinings. However, I don’t actually like coffee, so I was happy to adopt this British custom. In the middle of our three-hour classes we would be given 30 minute breaks to enjoy a cup of tea, or coffee if you preferred, and biscuits. It was a good time to learn about the weekend vacations people had just returned from and to get to know our professors better. It became such a highlight in my day that I would even show up for tea on days when we didn’t have class. Not having to return to International Finance definitely made for a more enjoyable experience.
To take a break in between writing tutorials, I arranged for a few of the other Oxford ladies, Jackie our program director (some of you may know her as Professor Hoell from B-Stats), and myself to partake in afternoon tea at the Randolph, a swanky hotel not too far from campus. Sadly, none of us were able to fit our fascinators in our suitcases, so we had to make do without them. However, we did don our prettiest sundresses for the occasion. The sun did not shine very often in Oxford, so it was best to take advantage when it did.
When we arrived we were shown to the hotel’s lounge where it became obvious that if the Randolph knew how to do anything, it was definitely afternoon tea. The room was like something out of Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence. There were antique lamps in the corners, historical paintings lined the walls and the room was filled with small tables covered in white linens surrounded by sturdy, orange chairs.
Each guest received her own delicate, white teapot, while our server brought out a three-tiered tray stacked with goodies appropriate for an afternoon of tea. They served us precisely cut finger sandwiches and a variety of desserts like fruit tarts, cream puffs, and a raspberry mousse. But my favorite treat was the scones, complete with clotted cream and jam. A delicacy my British roommate had told me about so many times, but only until it touched my tongue could I truly understand what she was talking about: so sweet, so soft, so scrumptious. I’m still wondering why this snack has yet to catch on in the States.
In my experience, tranquility and tea usually go hand in hand. This was our time to take a breath and relax. Not to worry about our impending finals or even what happens once we get back to Georgetown. It was a day just for us girls.
Moral of the Story: A girl doesn’t need an excuse to get dressed up, but it’s always nice to have one.