The Irish Cuppa Tea Plus A Giveaway From Dolmen County Retailers

Believe it or not, Ireland is one of the leading consumers of tea per capita on the planet. Now I would have assumed India or China might receive this honor, but no, the people of Turkey, Morocco and Ireland love their cuppa the most.

And I for one, am a tea-loving, Irish woman. I love to start my day with a nice, warm cup of tea, or should I say pot of tea, because one cup is never enough.

And so today, let’s explore this phenomenon of Irish tea drinking, followed by a wonderful “Tea for Two” giveaway, sponsored by Dolmen County Retailers.

Before I share the details of this giveaway, let’s first enjoy a little ramble about the Irish cuppa tea ……

Cup of Tea and Biscuits

The Introduction of Tea To Ireland:

 

Tea was introduced to the Emerald Isle by the Anglo Irish aristocracy in the nineteenth century. This new Indian import was way too expensive for regular Irish laborers to enjoy in the early years of that century.

Before the Great Hunger, tea was reserved for guests of honor only, likely the doctor or the priest. However, once Ireland’s economy improved in the latter half of the 1800’s, the nation’s affinity for this hot brew just grew and grew.

Vintage China Teacup, Saucer and Plate

Rules of Irish Tea Making:

 

By the turn of the twentieth century every Irish mother was an expert tea maker. Or perhaps I should say “tay maker”.

In the Irish language the word for tea is “tae”, and is pronounced “tay”, which explains why so many cups of “tay” are poured in Ireland every day.

And believe me, every Irish mother knows exactly how SHE makes her tea.

God forbid you forget to scald the pot before adding the leaves or the tea bags. This scalding process involves adding a small amount of boiling water to the empty pot, swishing it around for at least 10 seconds to remove any residue from previous brews, then discarding the hot water.

When I was a little girl in the 1970’s I only remember tea being made with loose tea leaves. In the 1980’s the popularity of tea bags grew. Irish tea drinkers quickly discovered the ease of clean up with this wonderful invention.

But now, back to the rules …..

Only boiling water is acceptable to “wet the tay.” None of this tepid, warm water found in so many American hotels for dunking tea bags hiding weak, tasteless tea leaves.

A boldly flavored, black leaf is imperative for proper Irish tea.

Irish tea is brewed in a teapot rather than directly in a cup.

This facilitates the process of properly “drawing the tay.” Exactly how long the pot must linger over a low heat to produce the perfect shade of brown varies from family to family, and even from person to person within a family.

And for some Irish mothers, the pot must be swaddled in a homemade, knitted, tea cozy to achieve perfection.

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How The Irish Drink Their Tea:

 

Some like it weak, some like it strong, but nearly all Irish people like it hot. No ice tea for most true Irish men and women.

And don’t get me started on sweet tea. Just like coffee, it’s not for this Irish gal. Even after living in the southern United States for the best part of eighteen years, I still can’t drink this southern favorite.

But I digress. Back to the Irish hot brew ……

Some Irish like their tea as dark as porter when it’s finally poured from the pot, and nine times out of ten milk is added.

No fancy lemons or flavorings.

Just a drop or two or ten of milk, and for some a spoonful of sugar helps the tay go down.

Tea and Scone

Hmmm Yummy

The Famous Irish “Cuppa”:

 

In Ireland a “cuppa” always refers to tea. No “cup a joe” is associated with the term “cuppa”.

We’ll stick to ordering “a cup of coffee”, and reserve the highly honored title of cuppa for none other than our favorite beverage.

In fact, having a “cuppa and a chat”, may be Ireland’s favorite pastime.

Of course there are a few superstitions surrounding your cuppa, with floating tea leaves and rising bubbles predicting the arrival of strangers, letters and riches. If bubbles rise to the top money is on the way. But in some parts, to receive your fortune you need to lift the bubbles onto a spoon before they burst on the edges of the cup.

In my granny’s house floating tea leaves indicated a letter was on its way, but alack and alas there are no more letters in our tea with the adoption of tea bags. E-mails and tea bags must have ensured the demise of letters in the mail. In some parts, floating leaves meant a stranger would soon arrive at your door.

I remember rescuing a floating leaf, placing it on the back of my left hand beneath my thumb, then thumping it with the side of the other hand. The number of hits it took to get the leaf to stick to the other hand told how many days you had to wait for your letter. Perhaps others counted the days to wait for the stranger to arrive in this same manner, and I believe some counted the years till they wed in the same way.

Green and gold china teacup

Irish Pubs Must Serve Tea:

 

No respectable Irish household would be found without tea, and believe it or not, Irish pubs are legally required to provide tea.

I was so surprised to discover this little intricacy of Irish law, but perhaps that’s how those who abstain from alcoholic drinks came to be known as “tea totallers”

 

Irish Customs When Offering A Cuppa:

 

Now when offered a cup of tea in Ireland it is customary to first decline, and to await a second offering of refreshment. In a previous post, I explored this little Irish cultural nuance. One reader, Milly explained this Irish habit beautifully in the comments section of that post:

 

“During the famine, a host, to be polite, would offer their guest some refreshments.

The guest would understand that it was likely there were no refreshments to be had,

and would politely decline.  If the host had nothing to offer,

no further offer would be made, and both parties would understand the situation.

If a second offer was made, it would mean that the host was in fact

in a position to provide their guests food/drink,

and at this point the guest may accept.”

 

Thanks for this wonderful insight, Milly.

A Cuppa Tea In The Hand

 A Cuppa Tea In The Hand:

 

Another peculiar Irish tradition is the offer of a “cuppa tea in the hand.”  When a hostess doesn’t want to put too much pressure on a guest to indulge in a cuppa, the invitation is worded as follows:

 

“Ah sure, you’ll just have a quick cuppa tea in the hand.”

 

The simple sentence is full of innuendo and hidden intent. The hostess is telling her guest she understands what a busy person her guest just happens to be. There is no pressure to have a cuppa, but if the guest does decide to imbibe, a quick departure will be totally understood. There isn’t even an expectation that the guest would have time to sit down.  A cup of tea can always be gulped down standing up if the world is calling.

Oh, the nuances of Irish tea drinking ….

 

Tea for Two from Dolmen Retaileers

The Prize – A “Tea for Two” Giveaway Sponsored By Dolmen County Retailers:

 

Customized gift card from Dolment County Retailers

To celebrate the importance of tea drinking in Irish culture, Des Lee from Dolmen County Retailers has graciously sponsored a prize for a giveaway for readers of Irish American Mom.

One lucky winner will receive a Tea for Two Giftpack containing a box of Barry’s Gold Blend Teabags, 2 packets of Ireland’s favorite chips or crisps – Tayto cheese and onion flavor, and 4 Jacob’s Club Milk chocolate biscuits, a perfect treat with a cuppa tea.

Dolmen County Retailers is a new business whose goal is to bring you a taste of Ireland, even when you are far away from home.  Irish people living abroad often long for a taste of home. Sometimes it’s Irish tea they crave, or biscuits or a special chocolate bar or crisps, or a favorite treat from childhood. Dolmen County Retailers aim to provide a full range of these items which are easy to order with a few clicks of a mouse. Des Lee and his team take care of the rest, shipping your favorites to wherever you are in the world!

They even include customized message cards at no extra charge.

 

The Giveaway:

 

I’m making just a slight change in the giveaway entry process this time around. With more and more entries for each little competition on my blog, manually writing out tickets is beginning to take quite a bit of time. 

There’s something about paper cutting and pens that attracts little ones. Whenever I heard a little voice ask: “What you doing, Mom?”, I started to reflexively respond with “Don’t touch anything.”

So I thought I would give Rafflecopter a try, to see how well it works. I’m hoping it will make the whole process of running raffles smooth and easy.

Extra entries can be obtained by following along on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. Just log in to the widget below with your name and e-mail address and you should be guided through the steps for entering.

I hope it isn’t too difficult, and thanks to all who comment and enter this little giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A big thank you to Dolmen County Retailers for providing this lovely prize. Feel free to leave a comment, even if you choose not to enter the giveaway.  I look forward to hearing your stories about tea.  

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom

 

And now a little bit of legalize through a quick disclosure: Irish American Mom does not have any financial connection with Dolmen County Retailers and did not receive payment for publishing this post and giveaway. I simply wish to help spread the word about this new Irish business venture. Thank you to all who support the wonderful Irish and Irish American enterprises who sponsor giveaways on my site.

Irish Essence Tours

Today I’m delighted to introduce you to a new Irish Tour Company, specializing in taking tourists off the beaten path, to discover a hidden Ireland. 

As you all know, I love to talk about all things Irish, especially little known, out-of-the-way places in the land of my birth. When Deborah Feery of Irish Essence Tours contacted me about her new company’s dedication to creating customized vacations, focusing on personal experiences, and fulfilling clients’ dreams, I knew this company may be a perfect match for some of my readers.

 

And so over to Deborah of Irish Essence Tours…..

 

Deborah Playing Traditional Irish Music With Her Father

Deborah Playing Traditional Irish Music With Her Father

Let me introduce myself – my name is Deborah. I’m the founder and Managing Director of Irish Essence Tours. I come from the Midlands of Ireland – County Westmeath to be exact.

The little village where I grew up, Tyrrellspass, is hugely important to me and I am so proud of my heritage.

I am Irish to the bone! Since I was a very young child, I’ve enjoyed Traditional Irish Dancing and played Traditional Irish Music. I started playing the tin-whistle at the age of 4, inspiring me to complete my degree in Traditional Irish Music and Dance at the University of Limerick.

 

So, how did I end up working in the Travel Industry?

 

Well, many years ago, I took a job working with one of the biggest Tour Operators in Ireland. During my time there, I noticed opportunities for improvement. It was apparent to me the industry needed something a little different, so I took the plunge and launched my own Company.

There are literally hundreds of companies in Ireland offering Tours of Ireland and they promise to make them ‘personal’, ‘unique’, or ‘original’, but how many of these companies can deliver on their promises?

The whole idea is a little jaded at this stage. Many of these companies are so big, they are unable to offer the level of personal attention I feel is imperative to our line of business. You receive auto-responders before you actually speak to a real person. How frustrating!

The Travel Industry in Ireland is hugely male dominated. Don’t get me wrong, I am certainly not saying that’s a negative, but a female perspective might just mix things up a little.

 

What’s Different About Irish Essence Tours?

 

Deborah Feery Of Irish Essence Tours

Deborah Feery Of Irish Essence Tours

At Irish Essence Tours I surround myself with a small, closely-knit team of people who have years of experience working in the field. I work hard to ensure I find people with my same passion for the job.  It’s important to me we don’t just see this as work– there’s more to it than just arranging a tour.

I want my team to build close working relationships with our clients, listen to their needs, and if there is anything they can do to make a trip extra special, I want them to go above and beyond, just as I would.

I put a lot of effort into sourcing new attractions and activities for our clients. I especially want to draw more tourism through the Midlands of Ireland which tends to get neglected due to its central location. The Coastal Counties of Ireland are tough to compete with and are seldom shunned in favour of the Midlands of Ireland, but I want to help people discover the magic of the Midlands.

 

Small Group Coach Tours:

 

Irish Soda BreadFor our Small Group Coach Tours, I arrange workshops in Irish soda bread making in a wonderful little Café, called The Grocery, in my local village.

We visit a charming and quaint family-owned Folk Museum just outside of Athlone, County Westmeath. The dear couple who run the Museum love to welcome our visitors; they even open at any time to accommodate our clients.

There is also a family run farm literally 15 minutes away from my home that specializes in organic produce. They conduct instructional workshops for our tour participants.  So much untapped talent!

Irish Nights are a highlight of our Small Group Coach Tours. We visit local pubs in County Westmeath. As Managing Director of Irish Essence Tours, my main tasks are administrative, but when it comes to Irish Nights I just can’t help myself but get involved.

I love to attend these nights, meet my clients and join in with the other musicians providing entertainment. Picture that scene from Titanic where Jack and Rose attend the party in Third Class and the band (Gaelic Storm) raise the roof? That was always my aim for our Irish nights and it’s now a reality.

 

Self-Drive and Private Chauffeured Tours:

 

For our Self-Drive and Private-Chauffeured tours, I ensure people are getting the best value possible in terms of attractions. I started working on a Discount Card Scheme but as we are a relatively new company, many attractions were not willing to offer much in terms of a discount until we have sent a lot of business their way.

Our remedy for this? We take the hit on the attractions that don’t offer a discount. We’ve reduced the cost of these attractions for our clients by paying a percentage of the admission. Every little bit helps when you’re traveling on a budget – right?

Irish Cliffs
As Irish Essence Tours is relatively new, one of the problems we face is people worrying if we’ll survive as a Company. Is their money safe if they book with us? Well the simple answer to that is a resounding ‘Yes!’.

We cannot become members of the I.T.O.A. just yet but we’ve prepared for this and have purchased bonding insurance. It’s important to us that people feel entirely comfortable putting their faith in us from the beginning.

 

Choosing A Name For My Company:

I’m very conscious of the Irish Experience becoming too commercialized and I really think it would be a shame to lose sight of what we are renowned for as a Country – our culture, our history, our raw, rustic magnetism, our authentic charm and gift of the gab, our friendly locals and our wonderful accommodations.

From the beginning, it was important to me the title of our Company represent what is essential to us – the essence of Ireland, the spirit, the core, the soul.

 

This truly was a trip of a lifetime for us.

I find myself looking at it and sighing, wishing we could be back there!

We couldn’t have asked for a better trip and we’re already planning our return for 2015.

The level of personal attention you devoted to every little detail will never be forgotten

– we raised many pints of Guinness to Irish Essence Tours and to you Deborah on our trip!

─ Martha & Jim Foster and Bitsy & Bob Morales, Texas

 

My Dream Is Your Perfect Vacation:

 

For me the time had come to peel back a layer on the whole Irish Tourism package and that’s what we’ve aimed for and hopefully achieved with Irish Essence Tours.

It’s my dream to arrange people’s vacations, so they don’t find the task to be a chore. Some enjoy the challenge but do not realize that as Tour Operators, we get better rates for accommodations, we know the best accommodations in Ireland, and we get better deals on attractions.

Romantic-Ireland-Private-Chauffeured

 

As a Company, we don’t slap on hefty commission charges since we don’t have a huge workforce to pay. We charge what we need to charge, but we certainly don’t believe in excessive prices. People sometimes underestimate the benefits of having a person in Ireland whom you can phone 24/7 should something go wrong. It’s insurance in itself!

So why not take a look at our website, Irish Essence Tours.

Remember we can customize any trip you like to suit your needs.

We’ll do everything we can to make this the trip of a lifetime for you.

 

A big thank you to Deborah for this very informative guest post. Wishing the Irish Essence Tours team every success with their wonderful business.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

 

Irish American Mom

 

P.S.  Irish American Mom is not affiliated with Irish Essence Tours. I hope this post promote helps Deborah spread the word about her company as she builds upon her dream of creating once-in-a-lifetime experiences for tourists to Ireland.

 

 

 

Good Friday Traditions In Ireland

Good Friday is a strange name for the day the Son of God was put to death, but it is generally believed to be derived from the term God’s Friday.  To mark Good Friday, I thought I would share some photos of Irish Celtic crosses which I took last summer, and review some old Irish traditions associated with this holy day.

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In Ireland, this day was traditionally dedicated to penance, fasting, and prayer. Some Irish Catholics fasted completely until midday. Then at noon they only broke their fast by eating a piece of dry bread washed down by three sips of cold water, each sip taken to honor the Holy Trinity.

Hot Cross Buns cooling on wire rack

For those who preferred a little less Lenten austerity, one meal and two collations (snacks) were allowed on their Good Friday menu, but fish was recommended for the main meal.  Hot cross buns could be eaten for one collation.

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In the past this was a day of rest with little or no work completed on the land.  One minor task was allowed – good luck and blessings for the summer’s crops could be attained by planting a small amount of grain or seed potatoes.

In preparation for Easter, cleaning and tidying the house and yard was permitted.

No nail could be driven on Good Friday as a mark of respect. Carpenters definitely took the day off.

No animal could be slaughtered, since shedding even a drop of blood was frowned upon.

Fishermen stayed at home with all vessels and fishing nets remaining idle on this holy day.

Good Friday was never the day scheduled for moving house or starting an important project.

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Good Friday is not an official public holiday in Ireland, but banks and pubs are closed. When I was young no pub was open on this day, but I believe in recent years a few exceptions have been made.

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Good Friday is one of the best days to visit a graveyard or holy well.  On this day it is believed holy water has curative properties.

Silence is encouraged by many older Irish people. Remaining silent between noon and 3 pm is a sign of respect for our Crucified Lord, who hung on the cross for these three hours.

Celtic Cross at Cashel

Good Friday has always been considered a good day to die. I’m not sure if any day is a good day to die, but on Good Friday the Irish believe the deceased’s soul ascends straight to heaven.

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If you happen to be a migraine sufferer today is the day to cut your hair. Our ancestors believed a good haircut would ward off headaches for the coming year.  A good toenail and finger trim was also recommended on Good Friday.  Women and girls working in the house loosened their hair, allowing it to hang down as a symbol of mourning.

Penance was practiced by remaining barefoot throughout the day.

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In years gone by there were no fancy chocolate Easter eggs to be found in Ireland. Instead, eggs laid on Good Friday were marked with a cross.  These eggs were then cooked and eaten on Easter Sunday. Also if you were in need of healthy hens, setting eggs to hatch on this day was highly recommended. 

Those born on Good Friday and baptized on Easter Sunday often possessed the gift of healing.  Boys born on Good Friday were encouraged to join the priesthood, with the expectation they would become a parish priest or a bishop.

Crucifixion Carving at Cashel, Ireland

These old Irish customs show us that in days gone by, Good Friday was not merely a day to commemorate the sorrow of Christ’s death. Through these simple, solemn customs our ancestors found a way to remember Easter’s spiritual message of ultimate hope.

 

 

Beannachtaí na Cásca Oraibh

(Easter Blessings)

Irish American Mom

The Sleeping Man Mountain Of County Donegal

Mountains throughout the world are said to resemble human form. Ireland too boasts such rock formations, and this summer we spotted the ‘Sleeping Man’ or ‘Sleeping Mummy’ of County Donegal.

With Halloween fast approaching, I thought it might be a good time to share my photos of Donegal’s ghostly hill.

The Sleeping Mummy Mountain, Co. Donegal, Ireland

“The Sleeping Man” mountain of County Donegal lies in peace overlooking the magnificent Sheephaven Bay.

If you look directly up from the pier in the photo above, you can see the silhouette of a sleeping man, where the mountains meet the sky.

The Sleeping Man Mountain, from Ards Friary, Co. Donegal, Ireland

 

Here’s a closer shot where you can clearly make out his human-like form.  I took this photo from the car park in Ard’s Friary.

My husband, being a Donegal man speaks fondly of the ‘sleeping mummy’, but I’m afraid he knows little else. I would love to learn any local legends surrounding it.

Found in the area of Donegal where the legendary Diarmuid and Gráinne were pursued relentlessly by Fionn MacCumhaill, I wonder if there is any mythological link between the great warrior of Ireland and this sleeping giant.

If any reader can shed some light on the mystery of our Donegal mummy, I would love to hear your story in the comment section.

Sleeping Ute Mountain, Utah

Sleeping Ute Mountain, Utah, USA

Image Credit

Years ago my husband and I visited Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado. From there we spied ‘Sleeping Ute Mountain’.

“We’ve got one of those in Donegal,” he pronounced.

“Ah sure, you’ve got everything in the Hills of Donegal,” I replied, with a laugh.

View from Ards Friary, Co. Donegal

It was only this summer I finally got to see, he was not kidding. They do have a sleeping man in the Hills of Donegal.

Blasket Islands, Co. Kerry

‘An Fear Marbh’ (The Dead Man), Inishtooskert, Co. Kerry

Image Credit

Another Irish landform said to resemble a reposing body is found in County Kerry.  Innishtooskert, one of the Blasket Islands, is locally referred to as ‘An Fear Marbh’ (the Dead Man in English).

Legend has it the whole island is a giant who was put to sleep by a druid in days long gone.

Beach near Ards Friar, Co. Donegal

I searched on-line to try to find more information on this Donegal hill, but found nothing. I couldn’t even find the names of the peaks forming his head, shoulders, knees and toes.

Wikipedia has a great list of world-wide rock formations that resemble human beings.  Inishtooskert is mentioned, but I’m afraid our Donegal mummy didn’t make it.

Ards Friary - Beach

And so, this Halloween, may the anonymous, ghostly hill of Donegal rest peacefully overlooking Sheephaven Bay.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

A Full Moon Over Dublin Bay

During my time in Ireland this year I have been a very lucky moon-gazer.  Our summertime night skies haven’t been blighted by typical Irish cloudy skies. I’ve been blessed to observe the full moon in all its glory casting a torchlike glow over Dublin, illuminating both sea and land. Dublin Bay by the light of the full moon is a breathtakingly beautiful sight.

 

Full Moon Over Dollymount

In typical Irish fashion myths and superstitions abound regarding the full moon. Here’s a little sampling of some of these ancient stories.

Full Moon

In centuries past, Irish people didn’t always observe a man in the moon. Instead they talked of spotting the hare in the moon who supposedly carried an egg. A lunar hare image is also prevalent in Chinese, Japanese and Mexican mythology, but I don’t know if he was an egg snatcher in those corners of the world.

In some parts of Ireland the ‘man in the moon’ is said to have once been a lazy Irish boy who was carried to the moon as punishment for his slovenly ways. His inadequate brush sweeping skills were at fault in some stories, and in other versions he failed to carry sufficient water from a well with his bucket. Whatever the poor lad was remiss in doing, he is doomed to watch the sleeping world forevermore.

Full Moon Over Dublin Bay

Now if you are a student of Irish luck and want to learn all the rules for mastering the ‘luck of the Irish’ then pay close attention to these upcoming lucky lunar lessons.

When moon gazing it’s very important to search for the moon over the appropriate shoulder. Spotting the full moon over the right shoulder is considered lucky, but bad luck is inevitable if the moon is first spotted over the left shoulder. You wouldn’t know where to look on a moonlit night.

Dublin Mountains By Moonlight

To maximize your lunar luck then a haircut is in order. You are supposedly ensured the best luck  of all by getting your tresses trimmed in the light of the full moon.

But be careful afterwards as you sleep. You are doomed to the worst luck in the world if the light of the full moon lands on your face as you rest.  Some superstitions go as far as to say you won’t even see the year out if moonlight crosses your face as you slumber. So remember to close your curtains on full moon nights.

The Dublin Smokestacks by Moonlight

Now if you are interested in looking into the future to perhaps spy a potential beau, then head outside with a mirror to examine the reflection of the full moon. Stare long and hard and you might see that special someone.  And again, don’t forget to close your curtains as you dream of your prince or princess, for fear the moonlight illuminates your smiling face.

If you have recently recovered from an illness kneel and pray facing the full moon giving voice to your gratitude for being blessed with the grace to live.  This old superstition is once again an example of how the Irish mixed old Celtic mythology with Christian beliefs.

Dublin By Moonlight

The ancient druids were supposedly great students of the heavenly bodies. They often took their oaths by referring to the powers of the sun, moon, and stars.

This ongoing influence of astral bodies on human affairs is evident in old Irish folk speech. “By the strength of the sun and moon” was a favorite old exclamation.

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If you are as confused as I am by all these lunar directions, then I think it’s best to stick to the old poem we used to say as children.

“I see the moon, and the moon sees me,

God bless the moon and God bless me:

There’s grace in the cottage and grace in the hall;

And the grace of God is over us all.”

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom