Partners In Time

I’m sitting at my desk, one hand cradling my favourite mug – a 17-year-old ceramic vessel with an orange-eyed frog popping out above the Rainforest Café logo, as I try to write this. I sip away at the steaming hot liquid and as it makes its way down my throat and into my stomach, I know all will be alright.

Even though I haven’t written a single coherent sentence in the last few months I know that somehow, I’ll be able to scrape something comprehensible from my slightly vacated brain. But if the doubt sets in and I succumb to writer’s block, one sip of the brown-caffeinated beverage will leave me typing away with streams of rational logic spewing out of my re-energised body (she says…).

Tea. The English in liquid form. It’s our most trusted companion. There at our awakening, a thirst-quencher on our commute, an appropriate excuse to break at 11am, a tummy-settler after a microwaved lunch, an après-lunch affair to prevent mid-afternoon drowsiness, and a final adieu to the day gone-by.

But what is it about tea that makes it so reassuringly reliable? And why do we choose a biscuit out of all the snacks available to accompany our favourite brew?

Us Brits are huge leafy drinkers with ‘13% of us [in 2019] drinking tea six or more times a day’ according to The Grocer. When combined with the ‘45% of us drinking two to five times a day’ that’s over half the population hooked on the beverage!

How have watery leaves succeeded where governments and institutions have failed?

Who knew that such an unassuming bag of tiny dried leaves could connect such a large proportion of the country, transcending big issues such as race, class, gender and sexuality, and illustrating the similarities between people with opposing views?

It has been said that great things come in small packages! But how have watery leaves succeeded where governments and institutions have failed? I put it down to the nostalgic feeling each and every one of us gets when we take a sip of that hot liquid. The aromas, the taste, the warmth. It transports us home, back to good times spent with family and friends sitting around a kitchen table nattering away with sips and nibbled biscuits melodically timed to accompany our stories.

It returns us to times of trouble when we’ve visited friends in floods of tears overcome with a now forgotten worry about the future, to which we’re consoled by the phrase, ‘I’ll put the kettle on’. It takes us to a place where we ponder life, all its injustices, and how we plan to change the world.

The trusty box that sits in the kitchen cupboard or in a glass jar beside the kettle or takes pride of place on the table holds within it that source of reliability. That same place of solace engrained within our psyche. We know that with the well-practiced ritual, the click of the kettle, the tumbling of the water, the dripped removal of the leaves, our confidence in the world will return once again.

Tea and biscuits have seen our country through crisis after crisis

It’s no wonder then that tea and biscuit sales have exploded since the start of lockdown. According to the BBC, ‘we’ve splashed out an additional £24 million on tea and coffee and an extra £19 million on biscuits’ since lockdown began!

That’s an extra “111,972,000 cups of tea a day” says Nisha Mal from Yorkshire Live. Tea and biscuits have seen our country through crisis after crisis, so it’s fitting that we call upon our partners in time once again.

Biscuits. The integral other half to this wedded partnership. The biscuit connoisseurs amongst us will understand the importance of this relationship. Much like a tinder match, the connection must go beyond superficial appearances.

One also has to appreciate the limits of a certain biscuit – some are perfect for a dunk, others better for a dip

Deeper characteristics such as texture, taste, ability to withstand a dunk, all must align with the tea’s fragrance and body. Without this understanding, the marriage is more than likely to end in disappointment for both parties. One also has to appreciate the limits of a certain biscuit – some are perfect for a dunk, others better for a dip. Only a few survive a head-to-toe submerge. Here are some tried and tested combinations inspired by the experts:

  • English Breakfast Tea & Digestive
  • Earl Grey & Lemon Shortbread
  • Chai & Lotus Biscuits

For the more adventurous amongst you:

  • Darjeeling & Florentines
  • Jasmine & Madeleines
  • Assam & Hobnobs

Then for the crazy cookies out there here are some of my own inventions:

  • Ceylon & Cadbury Fingers
  • Lady Grey & Jaffa Cakes
  • Lapsang Souchong & Gingerbread Men

If you’re brave enough to offend the sticklers for tradition have a try of these:

  • Classic Builder’s (milk needed) & a Yum-Yum Doughnut (trust me)
  • Earl Grey (milk needed) & a Scotch Pancake (yes – rip it up and dunk it in!)
  • Fruity Strawberry & a Mr Kipling Angel Slice (rogue, I know)

As we emerge from a lengthy hibernation to find our world in a state of worry, confusion and uncertainty we must remember that there is hope. We will be reconciled with friends and family, jobs will return, and the good times will come again. But whilst we wait, we can find comfort in that box on the shelf in the kitchen, safe in the knowledge that a good old cup of tea and biscuits won’t let us down.

Natasha Phang-Lee

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Featured image courtesy of  Joanna Kosinska via Unsplash. Image license found hereNo changes were made to this image. 

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