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 ......
Table of Contents
- The Introduction of Tea To Ireland
- Rules of Irish Tea Making
- How The Irish Drink Their Tea
- The Famous Irish "Cuppa"
- Irish Pubs Must Serve Tea:
- Irish Customs When Offering A Cuppa:
- A Cuppa Tea In The Hand:
- The Prize - A "Tea for Two" Giveaway Sponsored By Dolmen County Retailers:
- The Giveaway:
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!
You can also check out Barry's Tea here.
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 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!
(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.
Here are some more ramblings you might enjoy...
My favourite thing - Tayto crisps and a cup of tea.
This was such a lovely, cheery essay on tea. It was the Irish who taught me to drink tea and then, more importantly, how to make it so that it warms the tummy and heartens the soul. And it would be a colder, poorer world without their teaching. So now, a pot of Barry's tea is the beginning of my every morning. And a second, larger pot is the 3:00 spot in the afternoon in the office where I work. We have about 8 dedicated Irish tea drinkers now. Tea-cosy, china cups, fragrant tea....the works. It's a very civilizing thing to do each day.
As always, I get an entertaining education from Irish American Mom. This was a great one! My grandfather loved tea. It was a ritual. Americanized, he would put the hot water in, and wait a few minutes. He would then grab a spoon and move the tea bag around. As he did, it would make the spoon "klink" the cup. No less than 5 klinks but never more than 10. He He never called it anything but "cuppa". He would have toasted bread, dry with his "cuppa"...... Thanks for the good read!
Nothing relaxes after a stressful day, warms you on a cold day, celebrates good news, consoles bad news, or enriches a chat like a cup of tea. I grew up in a house where the kettle was always on the range, ready to make a cuppa or (more likely) a pot to be shared. Today in my house, the kettle on the range has been replaced by an electric kettle-- okay, I admit, I still have my whistling kettle too; and I use that one as well. And always, Barry's Gold Blend in the earthen canister next to the kettles....
Maureen Murphy Bluhm
I drink Barry's Gold Blend with honey every day! I get in in Columbus or Dublin, Ohio, 100 miles away!
Iced tea is my drink, but if I am drinking hot tea, I add Stevia only.
I love my tea hot, strong, sweet and first thing in the morning-then another cup in the afternoon!
I like my tea with a teaspoon of sugar and without milk. I refuse to try iced tea
I am from the south, so I do like my iced tea... but there is nothing better than a hot cuppa or two or three in the morning with cream. In fact, I think, I'll go have one now!
I can still hear my dear old dad asking Mom if she would like a "cuppa tae". We always have tea in the house though we are coffee drinkers as well. I prefer my coffee black but I like a bit of honey and milk in my tea!
I love tea both black or with milk. The story about the offer of tea being given twice in Ireland was really interesting.
So loving your blog! I lived in Ireland for a summer and became very attached to the people and the way of life, and tea. Lyons is my brew of choice, but I like Barry's too. Milk, no sugar.
Loved this post. My husband ordered iced tea (we live in Virginia) when we were in Ireland the first time. The waitress looked at him a little funny, brought him a hot cup of tea and a glass with ice in it.
What an interesting post! Thank you for sharing. I love Barry's tea but have not had the chance to try the treats with it. Thanks for the chance to win a great package!
I adore tea! I went to graduate school in England and I learned to love it when I was there. What I've noticed is that very few people in the US (or at least here in Minnesota) drink their tea with milk. I drink a lot of tea! It makes me feel happy and keeps me from drinking soda.
Shawn Marie Strait
I grew up with soda bread and tea every day with my Irish grandmother. I miss those days.
I loved reading this! I'm totally going to say “Ah sure, you’ll just have a quick cuppa tea in the hand.” to my kids when they want some tea. Too bad I don't have the accent to go with it! 🙂
I love a nice cuppa tay. I used to drink coffee in the morning, but I changed to tea a while ago. It just makes the day better. I like mine with a few grains of sugar-or none-and a drop or two of milk when I am in Ireland.
I grew up watching my (1st gen) Irish American parents drinking coffee (albeit instant coffee like Sanka). Later I realized they were unusual and all my Aunts and Uncles drank tea, as they were raised to, and most of my cousins now as well. When I make tea for my Uncle Tom, the water has to boil at least 3 minutes and there has to be two tea bags waiting in the tea cup/mug. Once poured the water has to steep for **exactly** 3 minutes and 30 seconds, then bags are removed and 1 tsp of sugar plus milk is added. You are not allowed to vary from this method at all without hearing how very wrong you are. 😀
I have had friends visit over the years that have never had Irish tea, and never had it from a teapot. I gave them their first taste, and made a few tea "converts!"
Thanks for the very interesting customs and facts about Irish tea, Mairead. 🙂
I love both coffee and tea with sugar and milk or cream.
Thank you so much for the history lesson on Irish tea. It was fascinating! I love hot tea with milk (preferably brewed in the pot). And thank you for the giveaway!
The purpose in "Scalding the pot" is to provide heat and humidity in the pot so the dried tea leaves will open before and release more flavor when wetted down in making the pot of tea...though I see the benefit of cleaning out the remains of the previous pot of tea.
I love a nice cup of Barry's tea with two sugars and a drop of soya milk with a nice Tayto crisp sandwich buttered with soya spread 🙂
Nothing like a hot cuppa when in Ireland. We are from, and live in, North Carolina, and I've never been able to make tea that tastes the same as it does when we're on vacation in Ireland, even if I buy tea there and bring it home.
I loved this! My favorite cuppa tea is at my parent's house and with my mom's brown bread, butter and marmalade. Thank you so much for these memories from my childhood!
I must preheat my teapot, while waiting for the kettle to sing. I was raised in England, where my best friend's mum and gran taught me to make tea the "proper" way, who loose tea. I still make my tay strong, with a drop of milk... nothing better for the soul!
Great tidbits about tea! I like it very strong, with sugar and milk. A cookie or just toast with jam is perfect!
You can't beat a cup of decent strong tea with milk and no sugar, the trick is to let the tea "stew" be it in the cup or teapot and you must never put the milk in first, yuk! all washed down with a nice custard cream or ham sandwich.
My Dad always compares the English tea habit unfavorably with the Irish one, claiming that in Irl it's not a real cuppa unless you get something (be it biscuit/loaf/scone) to get with it!
Peggy Miller Hopes
I like my cup of coffee but there is just something about a hot cuppa and what it can do for you that coffee just doesn't come close. I have a shelf in my pantry that is dedicated to all my teas and there are a couple boxes of Barrys.
I love them equally.
I enjoyed reading your post very much and found you from Cuisine Kathleen. Ireland was the only Country in Europe that my late beloved hubby and I visited. It was our dream vacation and oh, the memories!
I forgot to tell you that I drink a pot of tea every morning to get my day off to a lovely start. I do drink some sweetener and milk in my tea.
That's fascinating--thanks for sharing! I drink tea every morning at work while everyone else guzzles down coffee. It really depends on my mood that day as to what type--green, black, rooibos, herbal--but I almost always take it with honey. I don't have much experience with milk in my tea except for chai, which is a welcome cold-weather treat.
Besides hot with milk, I do like my tea with a freshly baked buttered scone with strawberry jam and homemade mock clotted cream.
Yum! I love a good cup of Irish tea. Tayto crisps and Jacob’s Club Milk chocolate biscuits? Fantastic! Event better! I'll have to make some scones with homemade preserves to go with the bundle as well. Thanks!! 😀
Perfect! Irish tea with all my favorite additions.
Having my lovely cup of Barry's Tea right now.Would love a scone with it with strawberry jam and cream.Mmmmmmm.
Anne from Pintesting
I love my coffee, but also love good tea. Since HH's (handsome hubby) favorite is Irish Breakfast, this would be a lovely treat to win and share with him!
I grew up in a tea-drinking household. I can remember making proper tea using loose tea in a teapot and letting it brew for my dad when my mom was at work. Barry's is the best tea, and I like it strong with a drop of milk, no sugar. Nothing beats going in to my mom's house where you are immediately offered a cup of tea and conversation.
Interesting article. I enjoy tea more now that it's getting cold. I don't like ice tea at all either.
Irish American Mom
Congratulations to Debbie B, our lucky winner. Her name was randomly chosen by Rafflecopter. I'll send her an e-mail shortly to notify her today was her lucky day. A big thanks to all who participated in this little giveaway. I have thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of your comments. It's lovely to know there are so many tea drinkers out there. Also, I wish to thank Dolmen County Retailers for sponsoring our prize.
Well I'm not Irish and I'm not a mom Lol but I love a good cuppa little milk a little honey but the tea has to be the dominant taste out of the cup. Was curious if the Irish use honey much?
I've just returned home (to Tennessee) from my first trip to Ireland. I'm an iced tea lover and tried ordering it in a couple of pubs. Both times the waiter would say "lemon iced tea?" and assuming they meant including a wedge of lemon in my tea, I'd say sure. What was brought to me was more like syrup over ice. Any insight into what I actually ordered?
Irish American Mom
Hi Leigh - Tea is usually served hot in Ireland and iced tea is seldom served, as you discovered through trial and error. An iced tea syrup infused with lemon is sold in Ireland and this is probably what was used to make your tea. It's a far cry from the sweet tea you are accustomed to in Tennessee. Here's a link that shows the type of syrup used ...
I hope you had a lovely trip to Ireland even if the iced tea was a little disappointing.