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 ……
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 ….
The Prize – A “Tea for Two” Giveaway Sponsored By Dolmen 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.
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 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.