A Teatime Tradition Begins in Sanborn Library


Sanborn Library offers a tea service each weekday afternoon at 4 o’clock.

Herbert Chang serves tea at Sanborn Library.
Herbert Chang ’18 serves tea at Sanborn Library. (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

A student server at the wooden desk in the front of the room (who, on special occasions, wears a white shirt and black tie) pours from a white ceramic teapot. The tea is free. Cookies are offered in exchange for small donations dropped into a glass jar next to the tea tray.

Like the Georgian-style library, with its hand-carved butternut paneling, marble fireplace, second-story arched alcoves, heavy lamplit tables, ornate chandeliers, and leather armchairs, Sanborn Tea has a rich history.

“Sanborn House was built to honor Edwin David Sanborn, Class of 1832, an English professor so devoted to his students that he would invite them to his house every afternoon to have tea and share the books in his library,” says Donald Pease, the Ted and Helen Geisel Third Century Professor in the Humanities. “His son, Edwin Webster Sanborn, Class of 1878, left a legacy to Dartmouth College, asking that a College library be built and that tea be served every day, as it was in his father’s study.”

“It’s a wonderful story about a permanent commemoration of a Dartmouth English teacher, adding to the College the warmth and conviviality that Sanborn knew his own family home held for students.”

When Pease joined the English department faculty in 1973, professors were expected to attend tea along with their students each day, “because it was the place where you could build the morale of your students and deepen collegiality.” 

These days, afternoon tea is voluntary. “The benefit of lifting the requirement is that faculty who are there really want to be present. But what I liked about the mandate was the rich sense of history that we all shared, working and studying in that space,” says Pease, who still occasionally drops by for afternoon tea.


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