Oi Polloi

Earl Grey Tea, Jamaican Ginger Cake and “Reggae Hour”

Published: Wed Apr 06 2011

As OiPolloi regulars will know – we like a good read of Manzine from time to time. Here they’ve kindly let us re-publish one of our favourite stories from issue #3, where Sam Blunden outlines the combined joys of tea breaks and reggae tunes. What’s not to like there? Seems fitting for a sunny day like today too.

N.B. the image above of is of Nick Jakins’ Reggae Hour, which was inspired by the original story.

Over to team Manzine…

Thinking Man’s Crumpet

Considering an Irie combination of bakery & beverage, and the atmosphere it engenders in the modern workplace

No.3: Earl Grey Tea, Jamaican Ginger Cake and “Reggae Hour”

by Sam Blunden


I used to work in what I presume is/was a standard new media environment. It was a really nice ex-light industrial big room with stripped wooden floors and big loading doors, which were no longer used to shift product so much as to generate an extravagant draft. The people who worked there were really pretty nice, and I’m still in touch with some despite having since gone our separate ways. Anyway, despite how nice the individuals there were it sometimes seemed that the whole place was run on a renewable energy of fear and anxiety – the majority of which perpetrated by one large corporate client.

In a bid to combat this over-arching discomfort and pressure we attempted to instil a rigorous regime of structured breaks, which gave birth to Reggae Hour. It seems to fit the kind of highly irrational, fractious working environment common to the fluffier industries.

Reggae Hour needs three ingredients: Jamaican Ginger Cake, Earl Grey tea, and some reggae playing on the iPod. This “High-Tea Selassie” should be a fairly easily executed moment, though it probably shouldn’t happen too often; once a week tops, and probably on a Wednesday/Thursday afternoon.

It’s a treat, but it’s not the last days of decadence. It’s not austere, but it’s not over the top either and somehow it seems to invoke the past a bit – in a good way. The reggae is a good tempo; the tea is quite gentle (no big caffeine boom and bust) and there’s probably a limited amount of e-numbers in the cake. There’s a degree of gravity about this combination of beverage and baked-goods, while still being a treat. It’s gentle, warm, milky and sweet, and the ginger feels like it’s good for you. Earl Grey feels like a refined choice of tea, which helps, but also there’s something about the flavour (I think it’s bergamot, a kind of orange blossom extract) that goes really well with the ginger. You’ll really need it anyway, because apart from being the ideal accompaniment, Jamaican Ginger Cake is one of those cakes which will attach itself to the roof of your mouth with a barnacle-like tenacity. The cake is really sweet, but not sickly. The gooey top bit just seems to be a layer with additional moisture, but there’s no icing or fondant or anything too much to make it feel like a sophisticated, restrained choice.

I also noticed that as well as engendering a mild sense of anti-corporate resistance and camaraderie in the office, for the duration of Reggae Hour the office was permeated with a gentle new air of eroticism – sexiness, even. This can be encouraged with some tweaks – just add butter, for example, and maybe lean more towards lover’s rock. 

Reggae Hour Slurp Ten by Sam Blunden

(We’ve added some helpful links to YouTube internet piracy – so you can have your own easy access Reggae Hour anytime the feeling takes you – OP)

1. “Chalice In The Palace” – U-Roy

2. “Rock Steady” – Alton Ellis and the flames

3. “Ali Baba” – John Holt

4. “Gwarn” – Pato Banton

5. “If I Don’t Have You” – Gregory Isaacs

6. “Soon Forward”  – Gregory Isaacs / Sly & Robbie

7. “White Belly Rat” – Lee “Scratch” Perry

8. “Wear You To The Ball” – U-Roy

9. “Tom Drunk” – U-Roy

10. “Ting-a-Ling” – Shabba Ranks