The Scripps Experience: Scripps Tea

Photos courtesy of the Claremont Colleges Digital Library and Scripps College Archives

Like clockwork, every Wednesday at 3:30 p.m., Scripps’ Seal Court becomes a hub of activity. The space begins to fill with students, faculty, and staff from The Claremont Colleges who drop by for a few minutes or an hour to share snacks and much-needed social time. A Martha Stewart–worthy spread of delicious food and drink is available to anyone and everyone who happens to wander in. Although a giant punchbowl of iced tea is a staple, other treats vary depending on the season—Scripps’ famous chocolate bread pudding is always a crowd favorite. This weekly gathering, known as Scripps Tea, has been a College tradition since 1931.

Judy Harvey Sahak ’64, Sally Preston Swan Librarian and director of the Ella Strong Denison Library, has seen firsthand how teas have changed through the years; Sahak has been an employee of the College since 1976. When Sahak was a student, Scripps Tea was held every afternoon in a common area in Balch Hall, with each residence hall taking turns hosting. The housemother or head resident of the hosting hall was in charge of pouring the tea from a silver tea service into china cups for all in attendance. According to Sahak, back then students were only allowed two cookies each.

During the 1980s and 90s, there was no College-wide Scripps Tea. When the rooms in Balch that had been the tea location were made into the expanded Dean of Students’ offices, tea was discontinued until 2000, when the Commons was established and Seal Court became the center of student activity.

Since 2000, Scripps Tea has occurred weekly and not daily, as before. And, while the fine china has long since been retired, events are often still individually hosted by Scripps clubs, offices, and organizations, such as the Office of Study Abroad and Global Education (SAGE) or the Sallie Tiernan Field House. Attending a hosted tea is an excellent way to stay informed about these and other groups and discover ways to get involved in on- and off-campus activities.

Though Scripps Tea has become more informal over the years, its purpose has remained the same, serving as an opportunity for students, faculty, and staff to connect and get to know each other in an informal environment. As Sahak reflects, the weekly teas “have always helped draw the campus and community together.”

Interested in hosting a Scripps Tea? Contact Public Events and Community Programs. Reservations are made a semester in advance.

For more of our Scripps Experience series, click here.