By Vicki Baker
Living in the U.K ‘do you want a cup of tea?’ is probably one of the phrases you will hear the most. Admittedly, I have no official statistics to back this up, but as an educated guess it sounds believable. This social ritual is so ingrained in our culture that people actually seem aghast if you dare to admit that *gasp* you don’t like tea. But, if you really look into the origins and background of the drink itself- and I suggest you do, it’s fascinating- it is apparent that teatime is not exclusively part of British culture.
This was the thought behind Ayako’s idea to host international teatime at Sheraton Park. Last Saturday afternoon (3rd February), in the community room, Ustinov students from a number of different countries joined together to share in each other’s favourite teatime treats- and the results were delicious!
‘I’m a member of Ustinov International Forum, and I wanted to create a break where everyone from different countries share their different stories and how they enjoy tea in different contexts,’ she told me. From Japan herself, Ayako is really interested in Japanese tea culture. ‘I couldn’t see many elements of this in and around Durham, and I was intrigued to know more about the different tea cultures outside of the UK and Japan.’
So she decided to set up this informal event in order to encourage Ustinov’s international students to share their different tea cultures, enabling everyone else to learn something through participating.
Of course, I had to ask Ayako what her favourite thing about Japanese tea culture was and, luckily for me (as they were delicious), she had baked and brought along some green tea biscuits.
‘In Japan green tea is very popular. It is very healthy, but sometimes people from outside of Japan think that it is too bitter, so if we combine it with something sweet, everyone will like it!’
The event itself was successful in combining Western and non-Western traditions, and gave everyone the chance to try something new.
‘I didn’t know how many people were interested in tea culture!’ Ayako told me when I asked if she was happy with how the event went, ‘I’m so happy that I can see many countries being represented here and that we have the opportunity to learn and make friends over tea!’
Some of the other snacks that were enjoyed were Pu erh tea from China- which I was warned was extremely strong, but a nice alternative to a regular costa coffee- and nut cookies which were the perfect accompaniment. Other highlights included cheese biscuits from Indonesia, a green tea panna cotta and, of course, some classic chocolate digestives!
The event was a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon and, judging by its success, Ayako can hopefully be persuaded to put on another one sometime soon…
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