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Every afternoon a little-known ritual takes place in a quiet hallway in a quiet building on University street. At three o'clock, a bell rings and the hall fills with a gaggle of chemists, engineers and other assorted grad students. They have been summoned by the Tea Queen, who presides over the ceremony serving from a large aluminum beaker inscribed 'tea infusion device' and dated 1953.
"Ernest Rutherford would have to be part of the Tea Club," says the Queen.
The good Tea Queen is Maggie Weller, a chemistry PhD, who is currently leading the decades-old tradition of the 3rd Floor Tea Club. An Englishwoman (appropriately), Weller seems to relish a role that includes furnishing the assembled tea drinkers with a regular supply of milk, sugar and quality biscuits.
Exact origins of the Tea Club are murky but club regular and Chemistry professor, Derek Grey, is certain it began in the late 1940's or early 1950's and that it has always met on the third floor. He suspects the ritual has Cambridge origins and was passed on by two professors who came to McGill after service in the war. Today, the club continues to be a social glue for the scientists in and around the third floor of the Pulp and Paper Institute where the tea is served.
Sharing a mild disdain for the "coffee people," the members of the Tea Club share a host of other quirky rituals, including a cake custom; members must bring cake on their own birthday and every time they publish.
Under the reign of the Tea Queen, the group has seen its membership bounce up and there are reports of occasional summer sessions that stretch into the late afternoon. The tea infusion device seems destined for 50 more years of service.
Does the gang from your department have a regular social activity or tradition - aside from just sitting on a terrace and grousing about the boss? Bowling soirees? Line dancing extravaganzas? Friday night unwinding sessions at a favourite watering hole? The McGill Reporter is looking for submissions as part of its regular feature "McGill 5 À 7." Send a brief description of your regular event to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.