I was sure that John Thorne, in his first book, Simple Cooking, had discussed the topic of Toast in pretty exhaustive detail. It must have been in another of his essay collections; I haven't been able to find it. Now that bruschetta is everywhere, it is not so unusual to read about toast in food magazines, cookbooks, and weblogs. When I read that illusive Thorne article, it was a pretty odd idea to take toast seriously. A "Peanuts" cartoon of the same period made mild fun of Linus' Science Fair Project:"Toast" -after all, nothing could have been more obvious and self-explanatory.
I recall that he (Thorne, not Linus) talked about the crisp v. hot dilemma. That is, if your breakfast toast comes right out of the toaster, and is immediately slathered with butter, it will be hot, but a bit soggy. If, as many English people do, you put it in a toast rack as it pops up, so that it can all be served at once, it will be crisp, but cool. And your butter better be soft, or it won't spread nicely.
Personally, I tend to go for the crispness, and I keep my butter spreadable in one of those ceramic butterbell things. But not always, because I like my hot food, and coffee, really hot. One way to have a breakfast toast that's really hot and crisp is to toast some Nan. A kind of nan that you can buy at an Indian grocery, and has cumin and onion in it, is particularly good with breakfast eggs. It comes out of the toaster so absolutely boiling hot that you have to watch out for the roof of your mouth, and it is really nice and crisp, especially around the edges.
Helen Gustafson, who was apparently the Chez Panisse tea guru, in her nice, quirky and seemingly out of print autobiography/tea book, passed along instructions for Pepper Toast. This may be the plainest written recipe of all time. I cannot quote it exactly, because it was a library book, and I haven't found a copy for myself yet. As I recall, she credited David Lance Goines: Recipes Suitable for Framing, a sort of portfolio of prints of nicely decorated recipes, which was a collaborative effort with Alice Waters, in the sixties, I think.
Make some nice toast, the way you like it and spread with butter.
Top with freshly ground coarse black pepper.
Have this with your tea.
I do this frequently. Some people like it, though others have rolled their eyes. Other nice, non-sweet, no prep toppings for toast to have with tea include some really fabulous, posh salty stuff called Gentleman's Relish, which a visiting relative brought me from England. I scraped every last bit from the jar. You probably wouldn't like this if you are an anchovy hater, but rest assured it is nothing like marmite (ick) .
I do wish I had a copy of that recipe portfolio,as I am a fan of Mr. Goines posters. I have his Acme Bread poster, though, and a couple of others . I also wish I lived near Acme Bread, because if I did, my toast would be off to a much better start. As it is, there are some sorts of bread that are just not available around the Pittsburgh area. If I lived near Acme or a similarly excellent bakery, I would just buy my bread there, and be done with it. I don't think it's possible to equal that sort of thing at home, without going in for brick ovens and so on, which is not something I intend to try. Ever. But I have come up with a relatively uncomplicated way of making a baguette that I prefer to anything I've been able to buy so far locally, and I'll pass that along.
Of course, jams, conserves, jellies, etc. are also naturals with toast and tea. I'm beginning to make some, and am find the process weirdly engaging. I have just finished dealing with some very hot White Peach Conserve with Basil. I feel like a mad scientist. There are 6 cute little jars on a kitchen towel cooling.