“RIGHT now,” says Hannah de Val, “I’m young and I want to try things I’ve never done before. That’s why I’m here. If you can’t experiment when you’re a teenager, when can you?”
The question hangs in the air for just a second.
Then this 18-year-old psychology student, of Endcliffe Village, makes a decision. “I’m going to have the mango flavoured tea next,” she says.
Greetings, reader, from the new year’s first meeting of the Sheffield University Tea Society.
When it comes to brews, you can bet your last bag (or selection of loose leaves) these youngsters are just a tad pot-ty.
Every week the group - thought to be one of only three student-led societies of its kind in the UK - gather around the kettle to talk tea, drink different flavours and organise outings to city cafes.
Often, they arrange a day trip to another town, such as Lincoln or York, to do a ‘crawl’ of the tea-rooms. Occasionally, they will debate the merits of milk or no milk (“tea should be absolutely unadulterated,” notes 19-year-old Daisy Timms), or mugs or cups.
Safe to say, if students have a reputation for binge-drinking, the members of SUTS are the proof that doesn’t always mean cut-price booze.
And now for the first time in its three year history, the group is inviting non-academics to go along and mash up.
“Here’s the thing,” says secretary Rob Cooke. “You can’t walk down a street without stumbling over a coffee shop these days but there are hardly any places where you can go and get a nice cup of tea. It’s a sad state of affairs but we’re fighting back one brew at a time.”
And successfully too it seems - with more than 70 paid-up members now on the group’s books
“Yeah, it’s a bit niche,” notes Rob, a 19-year-old history and politics student of Barber Road, Crookesmoor. “But I’m also a member of a mediaeval re-enactment society so personally I’m used to that.”
Niche, also, are the flavours the group samples at any given meeting.
Tonight’s exotic theme offers lime tea, mango tea and passion fruit tea while previous evenings have seen the suppers introduced to chocolate teas, Christmas teas, chai teas and fruit teas.
This being Sheffield, Yorkshire Tea is always available too.
“We try and have a few new ones every time,” says president, founding member and linguistics student Sarah Haigh, 30, of Eastwood Road, Sharrow. “That’s the whole point behind the society. There are so many different varieties of tea out there that you’d never get round to trying them all on your own but being part of a club means you turn up every week and there’s something new to give a go.
“It’s very much an informal thing. We don’t rate or rank the tea. We just brew up, open some biscuits and then sit around having a natter. It’s always a lovely atmosphere. The only thing members need to be is passionate about the drink.”
Meetings are held weekly in Meeting Room 3 of Sheffield University’s Octagon Centre on Tuesdays at 5pm. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.