Reviving tea time, one crumpet at a time

By Daniel Kerwin

People in this country are way too stressed out, but people in other nations the world over have found ways to dedicate part of their day to remove themselves from their worries and focus on decompressing. Some students on campus have adopted afternoon naps into their routines, but for those of you who want to stay awake here is another suggestion: afternoon tea.The practice of afternoon tea I’m describing has its root in Britain and the British Commonwealth. The word “tea” means different things in different places, but the British definition of tea is a black tea that can be drunk with milk and sugar. Afternoon tea is usually observed after the work day is over as a time to ease into a relaxing evening. Macalester students don’t always have the option of relaxing in the evening, but taking the time for afternoon tea would be a therapeutic way to prepare for a hard evening of work ahead.

The only constant in afternoon tea is the tea itself. Usually it is enjoyed with a light snack on the side, but more substantial food can also be included. The word “tea” has even come to commonly replace the word “dinner” in some places where the practice is observed.

What follows is my suggestion how to observe a traditional afternoon tea using ingredients easily found close to Macalester’s campus, and combines a mixture of English and Australian tastes:

Tea, crumpets and Tim Tams

To get the authentic taste I would invest in a British brand of tea. The two I’ve seen most commonly around here are PG Tips and Tetley, and both should be available at Kowalski’s. I like mine with a strong serving of milk and sugar, as do most people form Britain and the Commonwealth, though you can add these according to your own taste. If you absolutely don’t drink tea the British way, you can substitute your favorite hot beverage (though I would definitely avoid coffee); the important thing is that you have a hot beverage that you need to sip at while it cools down so it will force you to take the time to relax.

Crumpets are a type of British pastry that are usually served at breakfast, but can be eaten as a snack any time of day. They are a porous pastry somewhere between a pancake and an English muffin. You will need a toaster to prepare them (set to the medium setting) though in a pinch you can place them on an oven tray. The standard way to prepare them is slathered in butter, which then soaks throughout the pastry, but you can also add savory toppings such as peanut butter, or as I recently discovered, cheese. Crumpets are sold at Whole Foods, a pack of six sells for $2.79.

Tim Tams are a chocolate biscuit (what Americans would call a cookie) that are wildly popular in Australia, and a couple of years ago Pepperidge Farm started importing them to the US and selling them at Target. The basic makeup is two layers of chocolate biscuit with a layer of chocolate crŠme between, all coated in a layer of chocolate. They are sold in three flavors: chocolate crŠme, classic dark and caramel. Try dipping them in your tea for a different taste, and if you feel creative you can bite off one end of the biscuit and suck the tea through it like you’re using a straw. You can find Tim Tams at the Target on University Avenue.