The Collegian
Thursday, July 09, 2020

Tea & Bread nights: An inside look into one senior's mission to make food and build community

<p>Freshly baked bread and mugs full of hot tea are on display at one of senior Callie Cinque's popular Tea &amp; Bread nights.&nbsp;</p>

Freshly baked bread and mugs full of hot tea are on display at one of senior Callie Cinque's popular Tea & Bread nights. 

Sunday nights at senior Callie Cinque’s apartment are reserved for baking bread and brewing tea for guests to drink.

“I like the idea that food can bring people together as a community,” Cinque said.

Cinque lives in one of the University Forest Apartments on campus and, for her senior year, she decided to start Tea & Bread nights.

In addition to hosting these weekly gatherings, Cinque serves as president of The SEEDS Project and is a member of Alpha Phi Omega. Cinque also rows crew for UR, plays club volleyball and gives Richmond-area food tours at an off-campus job. 

She’s also currently working on her honors thesis on gluten and the biochemistry of food.  

Cinque said she liked combining her major with her love of food.  

She did research for a cognitive neuroscience lab every summer starting after her freshman year and through junior year and then did an internship in East Hampton, New York, with a popular bakery the summer before her senior year. 

Since there is no specific food science major at UR, Cinque is majoring in molecular biochemistry, minoring in psychology and concentrating in neuroscience, she said.

Cinque said that she remembered hearing people tell her that whatever it was you were passionate about in your life, you would start to see everywhere. She had known she wanted to be in science, but had not been sure about going into research or medicine, she said. She recalled being nervous about figuring out what she wanted to do career-wise. 

“I remember being on a career website and on the side tab I saw ‘Food Science’ and I thought, ‘Oh, what’s that about?’” Cinque said. “Suddenly I was like, ‘Wait that sounds so cool,’ and then I realized I’ve always been so into food and all the projects I can take an independent direction on, I’ve always used food.”

Cinque said she would advise other students trying to figure out their major and passions not to limit themselves.

“I would say not to box yourself into things,” Cinque said.

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She said students forcing themselves to stick with clubs or classes they knew they weren’t enjoying could add extra unneeded pressure to them. There is a lot of time for forgiveness and you should find the things you are actually excited to be a part of, Cinque said.

Tea & Bread, however, is not a club but more of a casual gathering. 

There is no obligation to attend and it is not listed on the University of Richmond Student Activities webpage. Cinque said she had started the weekly gathering because of her love of baking and bringing people together.

“It’s a Sunday night, so you’re kind of already exhausted from doing work all day and you don’t really talk to people a lot on this campus unless it’s through another organization or while you’re running somewhere else …  so [Tea & Bread] is kind of like a space to make a place for that conversation,” Cinque said.

When you walk into Cinque’s UFA on a Tea & Bread night, the smell of fresh-baked bread hits instantly. The apartment itself is warm. There are baking decorations and tea mugs strewn about the apartment, and lots of people are engaged in conversation and laughing with each other. 

“It’s a good place to meet and it’s a wholesome way to end your week or start your week, so yeah, I love it,” said senior Jasmine Feng. 

Feng described the atmosphere as warm and Tea & Bread as something she looked forward to being immersed in every week. 

“Callie is obviously an awesome baker, she does really well with that and it’s always fun,” said senior Gibran Merchant, adding that the atmosphere was friendly.

There is no plan to pass down Tea & Bread after Cinque graduates in May, but she would not be opposed to it if it happened naturally, Cinque said.

“Anyone who wants to do it, I mean, can obviously go ahead and do something like [Tea & Bread],” Cinque said. “I’m not going to stop someone from doing that.”

Cinque said she was very focused on Tea & Bread not adopting the formalities of a club. She said she wanted it to remain a chill and relaxing event void of pressure and responsibility.

Cinque said the event was an opportunity for her to explore her passion for food while on campus and develop a community through it. So far, the weekly gatherings have sometimes attracted up to around 60 people, and Cinque said she hoped people would continue to stop by and come in for a bite to eat.

Contact features writer Haley Simms at haley.simms@richmond.edu. 

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