Mention afternoon tea and visions of “the 1 percent,” lounging in posh British castles and gardens, come to mind. And, at the beginning of this academic year, this concept returned to the castle-like environs of Firestone Library. Rather than experiencing the joys of late meal or venturing to one of Princeton’s coffee shops, University students and faculty can now enjoy afternoon tea in Firestone Library’s Tiger Tea Room on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.
On these days, tea is served for $15 per person from 2–4 p.m. by reservation, which is available on WASE. The service allows visitors to choose a pot of tea or French press coffee, as well as an arrangement of sandwiches, scones, and pastries, replete with the customary clotted cream and strawberry jam. Afternoon tea also comes with a reserved table in the Tiger Tea Room.
On the day of our reservation, my roommate and I walked in, chose our tea flavors (I ordered English Breakfast because it fit the occasion, and she ordered Jasmine), and were directed to a table in the back corner of the room. Upon taking our seats, we talked leisurely and enjoyed our study break.
Within five minutes, the staff brought out our tea and snacks. The stacked tea tray comprised a cucumber and dill sandwich, a chicken salad sandwich, a lemon poppyseed scone, a French cookie covered in dark chocolate, and a blueberry tart.
Over the next hour we enjoyed the food between sips of tea and conversation, and completely forgot we were still at Princeton. Eating our fancy snacks from the bottom to the top of the tiered stand completed a journey of the palate. It began in a savory manner with the sandwiches, then transitioned to a slightly sweet but tangy scone, and finished with the sweet cookie and tart. The peaceful ambience of the tea room contrasted with the window’s view of Washington Road, separating the afternoon tea from students rushing to class.
The experience was almost luxurious, but it did reaffirm Princeton’s stereotype of elitism. What is more elitist than afternoon tea? As my roommate and I sipped our tea, we discussed whether afternoon tea really was the best addition to campus, given that many students regret the University’s reputation of being more elitist than many of its peer institutions. Additionally, $15 is definitely more expensive than grabbing a cup of coffee on Nassau Street or in the Coffee Club.
The service, however, also included a substantive snack and an experience that makes you forget, if only for an hour, that you’re on campus. The other reservation in our time slot seemed to be taken by a professor and a family member seeking Princeton’s leisurely side. Since afternoon tea isn’t only marketed toward students, it felt like less of a “college” experience — even though it’s in the library.
I recommend taking a trip to the Tiger Tea Room for afternoon tea at least once in your Princeton career. High-class luxury aside, afternoon tea was a great venue to relax, talk, and laugh. It was very entertaining to pretend for an hour that I was in England, and the time slot in the mid-afternoon serves as a break between classes and studying to compose yourself and regain motivation.
If you yearn to escape, however briefly, from the Orange Bubble, afternoon tea is your place.