Ireland is the largest tea consumer per capita of any country in the world.(*In 2008. This statistic fluctuates slightly.) They take their tea VERY seriously! You won’t find a convention, work meeting or other event that does not allow for a morning or afternoon tea break on the schedule! The slang for tea is “cha” in Ireland and the rich and poor alike love tea time.
Tea was first imported to Ireland in 1835 where it became popular with the wealthy crowd, but it wasn’t until later in the mid 1800s that it spread to the rural people and all of Ireland was hooked. Small grocers were opened in the towns and villages and they started exchanging butter and eggs for tea and sugar.
In Gaelic “cupan tae” means cup of tea, and the Irish make it a strong cup. Irish tea is blended to be mixed with a lot of rich milk-up to 1/3 of the cup for some. The custom is to add the milk to the tea cup first, then pour in the tea. Irish breakfast tea is often a strong blend of Assam and Ceylon and most people would only drink it for breakfast, though the Irish love it strong and would use this blend all day long. Even during the traditional Irish wake, after a family member has passed away, it’s expected that a pot would be continously boiling to make tea for company.
Irish tea is served generally three times a day; 11:00 in the morning, 3:00-5:00 for afternoon tea and a high tea at 6:00 pm, serving as the evening meal. Many think of high tea as formal or fancy, but it’s actually a working man’s tea that serves as a meal. Afternoon tea is the more “fancy” of the three teas-the one with scones, breads, jam, curds and other dainties.
Editor’s note: This article was written by Brenda Hyde, who edits “A Journey of Grace and Whimsy.” And, “Old Fashioned Living Community.” Visit these websites for a real treat: there are articles about tea, gardening, and recipes galore.