If you were friendly with one of the House Prefects, you were always guaranteed a thick stack of those buttery, crumbly biscuits for dipping into your milky tea. At 10am, as the bell rang, all of us would push past the Assembly Hall’s heavy doors and greedily reach for the blue and orange rectangular biscuit tins. The Prefects had control over the tins and if you weren’t on good terms with them, you’d have to ask your mates to share some of their goodies with you, which they always did, but rather reluctantly. It was all about survival of the fittest in that Assembly Hall. No one really wanted to share their elevenses with you. Not even your best friend. Everyone huddled together, with their plastic teacup of fragrant Kenyan tea in their hand, dipping the thin sliver of a biscuit with the frilled edges into the hot liquid till it turned just a tad bit soggy and melted in your mouth with each bite.
Or so I am told.
You see, I wasn’t a born tea drinker like all my classmates in Nairobi. I just stood there with them, committing social suicide by sipping on my cloyingly sweet Tree Top orange squash, injected with all those fascinating preservatives and neon colours. It was the only drink the school had to offer us non-tea-drinkers. It wasn’t a very posh drink. I suspect what saved me from total social embarrassment during elevenses was my smart navy blue uniform skirt, which our housekeeper, Anna, had lovingly hemmed for me so it reached just above my knee- just like all the other fashion-conscious-thirteen-year-olds at Hillcrest Secondary.
It wasn’t until years later, when my family and I left Nairobi that I started drinking tea with my Ami. Till today, she always warms my teacup with hot water before pouring tea into it, and then adds just a few drops of milk into the earthy, mahogany tea till it turns a creamy caramel colour. Then she pops in a cardamom pod for fragrance. I love having this tea with a sugar almond-studded biscuit; a ritual I wasn’t able to share with my mates back in secondary school.
Well, at least we all shared the butter biscuits with the ruffled edges back in school. No matter where I have these now, they just don’t taste the same as they did in that Assembly Hall back in Secondary School with all my mates.
Take some of your favourite loose leaf tea and cardamom pod (one per person) and place it in your treasured vintage teapot. Add boiling water and cover with a teacosy. Let it steep for 10 minutes or until the colour deepens and intensifies. The tea should smell fragrant when you lift the teapot lid. Warm your teacup with hot water as my Ami does for me- and serve with full-cream milk and a plate of Kenyan House of Manji butter biscuits.