Cuppa Tea, Anyone? Ireland’s Other “Black Stuff”
Of Course It’s Hot!
On my second day in Ireland my Irish friend took my husband and me out to lunch. I ordered iced tea, something I did not do again. The server, who I believe was also the owner, was very polite and said, “We don’t have that. But I’ve had it before. It’s good.”
Tea in Ireland is hot. My friend, who is well acquainted with Americans, said he had another American friend visit who kept ordering hot tea, and the Irish found that very funny. Of course it’s hot. Who would order it lukewarm?
The Iced Tea Threat
It only recently occurred to me that the server might have thought I wanted a bar drink. I didn’t. I guess I could have thrown ice cubes into the tea myself! But being a visitor, I was trying to mind my manners. The BBC reported on a suspicious package left at the front door of the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Stormont Building. It contained a bottle of iced tea. I swear it wasn’t me, but I wonder about the message it sent. Give us our iced tea! What do you think?
The Proper Service
It’s no secret that the Irish love their tea. The Irish drink more tea per capita than any other country. And I truly do love it as well. It did not bother me a bit that tea was offered breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the presence of tea making facilities (forget the coffee) was considered essential in a bed and breakfast room. I suppose that is in case breakfast, lunch, and dinner was not enough tea for you.
My first encounter with Irish tea, in Ireland, was at the café at Newgrange. Sandwiches and salads came in Styrofoam, but the tea was served in a small tin pitcher with china cups and a wee pitcher of milk. And I soon discovered that from small café to bread and breakfast to elegant restaurant, tea was served essentially the same way. I love that!
Of course you have to have your late afternoon tea time complete with biscuits and brack.
Why Irish Tea is Special
It’s interesting to note that Irish breakfast tea is a blend of black teas, mostly Assam, which is from India. The British Empire, as we know, once included India. There is more to the story about how particular the Irish have been about imported tea, which resulted in the finest quality. This web site explains more. http://www.owensirishtea.com/history.html
The tea is strong and dark, appealing to many coffee drinkers. It’s said the richness of the tea is why it’s served with milk (and sugar, of course) but I’m a rebel, I guess. I prefer mine straight.
The most popular Irish brands of tea are Bewley’s, Barry’s, and Lyon’s.
Why is tea so important in Ireland? Perhaps one reason is that it’s a wonderful way to welcome someone—sit down, have a cup of tea. Since ancient times the Irish have insisted on showing hospitality to visitors. To see how important tea can be, watch this Barry’s TV commercial.
Anyone thirst for a pot, yet?
Cindy Thomson is the author of Celtic Wisdom and Brigid of Ireland. She enjoys exploring Irish history, especially the Early Christian period. She has written numerous articles on Irish genealogy. Visit her blog Celtic Voices and her web site where you can sign up for her monthly newsletter.