Cream Tea

“You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present.” – Jan Glidewell


I sometimes find myself wishing I were somewhere else, with someone else, doing something else. That isn’t to say I never like my present situation, but I’ve been lucky to have several places in my life where I genuinely enjoy spending time. I can be perfectly happy at my university, but still wish I could be at summer camp. Just as easily, I can be having fun at summer camp and wish I were back at school with my friends or at home with my family. This yearning for another place was strengthened by the very act of studying abroad.

Yet, as my time here is dwindling, I’m beginning to recognize that there will be moments when I’m at camp, at school, and at home when I’ll be wishing for days spent in Oxford. As I reflect on my time spent here I’ve thought about the little things I’ll be missing in a few months.

I was first introduced to the cream tea at the Vaults & Garden café when Rachel posted a picture of it on her Instagram with the caption, “my favorite place in Oxford”. I texted her immediately so I could be let in on her not-so-secret favorite spot. One Tuesday after a long day at my school placement I asked Paige if she wanted to come with me. Wearing business casual outfits, we made our way to the city center to try out the cream tea endorsed by Rachel. Paige was first in line and was bombarded with a series of questions when she tried to order her tea.

“What kind of tea would you like? Would you like a plain or raisin scone? What jam would you like? We have blackcurrant, strawberry, and raspberry jam.”

I took note of all the options and had a much smoother ordering experience than Paige. I remember being glad this place was not as stressful as the soup store in Seinfeld. We paid for our tea (grateful for the abundance of student discounts in Oxford) and brought our trays to a table. Both of us tentatively spread clotted cream onto a small section of our scones but after just one bite, we were officially fans and proceeded to cover our scones completely.

Not even two days later, Paige and I returned to the place that would feed our addiction. I feel more like a local student than a transplant when I order without thinking my plain scone with raspberry jam and earl grey tea. A woman told me that the British people try to fix everything with tea. Cream tea certainly became my comfort on tough days. I went many times by myself and met up with friends on the weekend or after a particularly stressful day of classes. It was a mandatory stop when my mom came to visit and probably the thing I will miss most when I leave Oxford.

I have at least one more visit scheduled to indulge in my favorite treat, but realistically I could be spotted at the Vaults & Garden café any day of my last week here. I have a feeling that I’ll be drinking tea when I’m home, wishing I could be having it with a scone in Oxford. When I’m sipping my tea and spreading jam and clotted cream onto a scone, I’m not thinking about camp, or university, or home, because in that moment, the present is exactly where I want to be.

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