This Weekend with Bridget is a recurring column. Every week, she recommends a place to visit or a way to have fun at home. Send her an email at email@example.com.
This weekend’s adventure: Slow down this weekend and enjoy afternoon tea, a small pleasure that can be a steady presence in an uncertain world.
What to know: I’ve spent many weeks now using this column to introduce you to places and people you should visit on an upcoming Saturday or Sunday. My recommendations often require you to spend money or to get in the car.
But sometimes, the best weekends are those that aren’t planned. Sometimes, they are the ones we spend at home, enjoying the small things, like tea, that we forget can have a big impact.
My experience: Last spring, I was lucky to spend those first long and uncertain weeks of the pandemic in the home I grew up in, surrounded by my family. We were together, but separate, spending hours in different rooms of the house, engrossed in our own virtual worlds.
In the late afternoon, the kitchen, with its promise of snacks and a hot kettle, was always where we found each other again.
Seated at the table, the sugar bowl between us, Mom and I would unwrap bags of Earl Grey tea, speaking about everything and nothing while they steeped.
Our spoons clanked against the side of our mugs as we swirled in splashes of milk — just enough to turn the tea chestnut brown. My brother would wander in, searching for pretzels in the pantry. Dad too, to put dishes in the sink or to sneak a cookie from the container in the corner.
Afternoon tea is a ritual that's been passed down for centuries. It's a time to gather and to gossip, to be still and to be present. For me, it's woven into so many of my best memories, and when I fill the kettle on an ordinary day, I am reminded of all of them.
I am reminded of the cups of strong, black tea I drank on a trip to Ireland — like the one on the island of Inis Oírr which warmed my hands after the cold and blustery ferry ride from Doolin. I drank it thinking about my maternal great-grandmothers, Irish immigrants both, who are the reason I drink my tea with milk.
I’ve clutched a cup of tea while writing late into the evening or while turning the pages of a good book. I’ve stashed travel mugs in the cup holder of my car and in every bag I own. I've enjoyed tea in hotels and in cafés, in cities and on mountaintops, in friends' backyards and in relatives' living rooms.
All of those of teatimes over the years were special, but someday I'll look back on the ones I had during the pandemic and remember them fondly too — remember the way swirling in the milk was a reassurance in a time of worry and uncertainty. The teatimes I had with my family in the early days and now alone in my own apartment, have been important and necessary in a new way.
Tea brings me warmth in what’s recently been a chilling time. It’s a small pleasure which constantly reminds me that soon, very soon, we’ll again be able to partake in the bigger things we love.
Make it yourself: Let a bag of black tea, like Earl Grey or English Breakfast, steep for 90 seconds — or longer, it’s really up to you. I like to let mine lavish for several minutes. Add a few splashes of milk and a teaspoon of something sweet: sugar is nice, but so is honey.
Enjoy your tea with toast and jam, or a biscuit with butter. Cookies of all kinds are also welcome, though shortbread or oatmeal raisin would be lovely.