Having gone from a fast-paced, high-stressed work environment to a sloth-paced, chill office, I go through some real lulls throughout the days here. Dealing with afternoonitis is more important than any other place I’ve worked at and I am fortunate that my local colleagues are big on afternoon tea breaks too.
I was a bit confused when I was new to the office, sitting at my desk, to hear my colleagues walk around announcing “I just made hot water” or “there is hot water ready”. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with that information. I now understand that it is a call out for people to know that they can go and make their teas and coffees as someone has gone through the painstaking effort of putting literally the only office kitchen appliance to use: the kettle.
Tea time, like any other workplace, is a chance for everyone to gather around and storistori while enjoying a nice hot cuppa. The difference between here and New Zealand is that nobody here is putting on the French press or coffee filter and there are definitely no packets of TimTams making the rounds.
The hallmarks of afternoon tea in the office are as follows:
3-in-1 mix sachets
Very common in Asia, we usually have Vietnamese, Malaysian, or Burmese brand of instant sachets containing powdered milk, sugar, and tea or coffee. Mix it in a mug of hot water and you instantly have your sickly-sweet hot drink. Sometimes they come flavoured.
If 3-in-1 mixes are not available you make your own 3-in-1 mixes. This is created by loading your cup with a teabag or some instant coffee, then adding sugar and milk powder before adding hot water. Because the office does not own a fridge, nobody bothers with getting actual milk. Instead, milk powder is the norm. This allows the drinker to enjoy nice little lumps of solidified powder dregs at the end of the drink.
Tea-less afternoon tea
Some people just opt for milk powder and hot water, but it still counts as afternoon tea. To make this afternoon tea stretch a little further, people will break up plain crackers (called biskit) and dump them in this hot-milk-water. That way your crackers get nice and soggy and you get cracker crumbs to top off the milk solids at the end of the drink.
As previously mentioned, no TimTams here, but plain crackers are the usual snack. These crackers are called “biskit” and are sold at either 1SBD or 2SBD for a pack of four. Affordability is key. Put them straight into your hot drink to enjoy some texture in between your sips. See above photo.
Better than Biskit
Sometimes, someone may decide to splash out and get something more than biskit. That is when they roll out the bread. Either sliced white bread, yellow bread, or some sort of bun. Don’t expect butter on that bread though, you spoilt Westerners.
Noodle Teacup Vessels
The office is no place to store kitchenware and mugs are no exceptions. The office of 30 people only holds four spoons and five ceramic mugs and who can tell whether they will still be there by the end of the year. Here, it’s disposable cups all the way. But the most resourceful in the office know that if you just had cup-noodles for lunch, don’t even think about throwing that cup away! You’ve just got yourself a pretty swell extra-large teacup that you can use after you finish your cup-noodle lunch. That way you can get a hint of chicken/beef/pork flavouring with your tea or coffee.
So long plunger roast in funny quirky office mugs. Hello to 3-in-1 mixes in disposable cups!