Tea and Toast: a Podcast for Quarantine

Virgil Lin, Entertainment Review

Quarantine finds all of us with jittery nerves and an unquenchable thirst to break out of our homes. Here to prompt us to stay calm is The Daily’s May 1st podcast, “A Bit of Relief: Tea and Toast,” featuring a departure from the gloom outside our doors, the smooth English accent, and a reminder to ride out the coronavirus. 

This episode offers a “bit of relief” from the events of the world with the appeal of a relishing morning snack. Hosted by Mark Thompson and Kim Severson, the trivial pursuit of a toasted slice of buttered bread and a cup of “one of the most disheartening things about American life” is simple and calming. 

Severson begins with “a perfect piece of cinnamon toast.” Any bread will do — white bread, self-made sourdough, a dense brioche — it doesn’t matter. Throw it into the toaster and the bread will sort itself out. Just make sure to babysit the slice as it toasts, Severson says. 

A minute later, a metallic clang signals the toast is complete. Copious latherings of butter and cinnamon are necessary when the bread is still warm. Following this, the crunch of the comfort food as it’s being consumed is strangely relaxing to listen to. 

The slow, ambient music coupled with the noises of Severson’s kitchen (noises we can all relate to comfort) makes the experience feel almost normal, that we’re at home not because we have to, but because we want to be. 

And what’s better to soak in the normalcy than a cup of tea?

“Hot tea got my country [the United Kingdom] through two World Wars,” Thompson states. “…the end of the British Empire, the breakup of the Beatles, the 2008 Financial Crisis, and yes, even that recent debacle with Harry and Megan. So it should be able to get you through the coronavirus too.” 

At least, that’s the expectation. The effectiveness of a cup of tea depends on how it’s made, and according to Thompson, Americans are absolutely dismal tea brewers. 

To him, the proper method for proper tea lies with the water, tea leaves, and milk. 

The water is first brought to a rolling boil before even touching the tea leaves. It brings out the flavor much more sharply than with tepid water. There’s no rush in choosing the type of tea leaf, though, as long as you enjoy it. 

It’s a slow process, and patience is key when making tea. That is certainly reflected in the episode, but it makes the cup all the more satisfying. Also adding just a splash of milk only makes the tea better. Simple, easy, and soothing — that’s all the cup needs to be. 

“A Bit of Relief: Tea and Toast” isn’t an extraordinary episode. But in a world surrounded by such extraordinary circumstances, a sense of averageness is coveted and certainly worth our time. 

“And that’s really, really all I’m looking for right now,” Severson says. “Safe, happy, and delicious.” 

For now, it’s an excellent motto to live by. Stay safe at home, find ways to consume spare time, and might as well wait it out sipping tea in one hand and crunching toast in the other.