By Louise Baker
The average college student has a schedule typically inundated with a mix of classes, extracurricular activities, and of course, a social calendar. As such, all-nighters, late nights, and sleep-deprived afternoons are par for the course. Perhaps the most popular remedy for sandy eyes among undergraduates are caffeinated beverages. Of course, there are your standard energy drinks such as Red Bull and the like, but when you want to make your caffeine shot a social opportunity – and in college, most things turn into social events on some level, given the communal atmosphere – going for coffee or tea is a popular activity. These days, your local coffee shop serves, in addition to standard lattés and mochas, quite a selection of tea, for British-style Earl Grey to green tea with a good dollop of honey. And of course, everyone knows that any college campus worth living on must be within at least a couple miles of a decent coffee shop.
Tea in the Land of Women
Of course, at certain schools, tea isn’t just a pastime – it might as well be a way of life. In particular, Bryn Mawr College of Pennsylvania has a rich and storied tea culture dating back to its nineteenth century origins. Bryn Mawr, a quiet Gothic campus on the wealthy Main Line area outside of Philadelphia, is a women’s college that traces its roots back to the days when clever, well-bred girls – in lieu of attending the then all-male Ivy League universities – flocked to “Seven Sisters” colleges, which afforded them educations meant to equal those of their male peers. Bryn Mawr – alongside Wellesley, Barnard, Mount Holyoke, Smith, the now coed Vassar, and the now defunct Radcliffe, was one of these “Sisters.” And with the tradition-saturated climate of the time, young women of course were also expected to maintain a certain degree of “propriety.” What constituted propriety? In addition to white gloves and pearls, afternoon tea was a standard affair. Of course, the Seven Sisters colleges of today are a far cry from their relatively stuffy historical selves, but at least at Bryn Mawr, “teas” remain an integral part of campus culture. Of course, a “tea” at Bryn Mawr these days is a very nonspecific event. Any old gathering can be called a tea, and often, one substitutes Coke or Sprite for tea. Every once in a while, though, there’s still the girl who will brew everyone a good steaming pot of darjeeling – and proper tea is, of course, also available in the dining halls.
Although coffee remains the king of caffeinated beverages, particularly in the college crowd, tea is certainly climbing in popularity. It is, at the very least, a healthier alternative, so the next time you open your mouth to order that latte at the student-run café, consider substituting a green tea.
See also: College Dorm Teatime
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