Tea drinking is a staple in many Irish households. How could it not be? There’s nothing like a nice hot cuppa in the morning. According to one of Ireland’s favorite tea brands, Lyons Tea, the average Irish person drinks about five cups of tea each day, and about 300 litres per year. Tea is the most consumed drink in the country. Because tea is such a popular drink nowadays, it’s hard to imagine a time before there was tea in Ireland. However, that was indeed the case hundreds of years ago.
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According to legend, the idea of drinking tea was first discovered in China in 2737 BC when the then Emperor Shen Nung had paused to boil some drinking water while on a walk. As he was about to drink, some leaves blew into his cup, giving the water a pleasant taste and gold colour. This is only legend, but evidence of tea drinking in China has been traced back to the Han dynasty, which lasted from 206 BC to 220 AD.
Tea did not reach the Irish shores until the 1800s, and it was initially not widely available to everyone. It was brought to them from India by English merchants, and was seen as a luxury item that only the wealthy could enjoy. Tea parties were popular among those in the upper class, and tea drinking was even discouraged among lower class people. Nonetheless, tea drinking persisted through The Great Famine, and it did not take long for tea to become accessible to all.
Since the British were in power, the better quality tea was usually sent to London, and the tea that was originally imported to Ireland was generally cheaper in quality. This led to people in Ireland adding milk to their drinks to cover up the taste. In turn, the tea in Ireland had to be brewed stronger than the tea in England.
Another reason the Irish started to add milk to their tea was because the hot water had begun to crack their China. Pouring a bit of milk before the water helped to solve this problem. Even though Irish tea companies began buying better quality tea straight from the source in India in the 1960s, these drinking customs are still practiced today.
Tea in Ireland is almost always served with milk and sugar; it’s just the way to do it. If you are dairy free, a great alternative to cow’s milk in tea would be oat milk. I like oat milk because it’s thick and creamy, but has a very subtle taste that compliments Irish breakfast tea very well. There are many dairy alternatives to be put in tea that can be found in this study.
As I mentioned before, Lyons is one of the popular tea brands in Ireland. As I’ve been doing research, I have noticed that it basically comes down to Lyons and Barry’s. I come from a Barry’s family, and that is basically the only tea we drink. However, I would not be opposed to trying Lyons sometime!
A perfect cup of tea can be made by following these steps:
- Fill a kettle with water and bring to a boil on the stovetop.
- Put your tea bags or tea leaves into the teapot.
- When the kettle begins to whistle, add the boiled water to the teapot immediately, and allow the leaves to steep for 3 – 5 minutes.
- Remove the teabag, pour the tea, and add whatever you like!
There are many different ways to make tea, but pouring the boiling water over the tea bag or tea leaves is essential in the proper diffusion of flavor.
All this talk of tea has made me crave a cuppa… time to put the kettle on!