Wet the Tea for St. Patrick’s Day
St. Patrick’s Day is both a cultural and religious holiday celebrated every year on March 17th, the anniversary of the death of St. Patrick himself, the most prominent patron saint of Ireland. St. Patrick’s Day started as a celebration of the emergence of Christianity into Ireland; however, more recently it is also known as a celebration of the heritage and culture of the Irish.
The celebration of St. Patrick’s Day is known for its parades, music, drinking beer and whiskey, and wearing green. Lent, a six-week religious observance in preparation for Easter, is observed during this time which involves prayer, repentance, almsgiving, and abstinence from pleasures of life such as eating and drinking. However, these Lenten restrictions are lifted for the holiday which explains much of the tradition surrounding the consumption of alcohol on this day.
Ireland, in general, seems to be stereotyped for its pubs and its consumption of beer and whiskey. This may be partially due to the holiday of St. Patrick’s Day. However, Ireland is overflowing with tea.
The Irish have a saying, “wet the tea” and it simply means to get a kettle going and start brewing some tea. The Irish take their tea pretty seriously; in fact, Ireland is the second-largest consumer of tea in the world, just behind Turkey. They consume roughly 6lbs of tea per person every year.
If you are unaware, Ireland is a European island in the North Atlantic with Great Britain to the east. The Irish sea separates it by about 12 miles. Most of the Island is known as the Republic of Ireland while a small portion to the North is still part of the United Kingdom. Roughly 8.5 million people populate the island in total.
Tea spelled tae and pronounced as “tay” in Ireland, first made its way to the Emerald isle sometime in the 1800s by way of the Indian Trading Company. At first, it was known as a luxury item reserved for only the most wealthy, since it was just too expensive to import. As Ireland’s economy grew, tea became more readily available to the masses. Today it is common for every household in Ireland to have a teapot and cupboard stocked with tea to go along with it.
What type of Tea do the Irish Drink?
St. Patrick’s Day, a day that shines a light on the Irish, is all about the color green. The shamrock, a green 3 leafed clover has become a symbol for the Irish. It was used by St. Patrick to illustrate the concept of the holy trinity. Ireland is also known for having lush green landscapes. So, naturally, you might think that the most popular tea in Ireland would be green tea. You would be wrong. Nothing, but black will do.
Assam is a state in northeastern India, a region where most of the tea imported into Ireland comes from. Assam tea is a black tea, which comes from the Camellia Sinensis plants grown in the Assam region. It is bold and spicy with a strong malty flavor. This is the preferred tea choice in Ireland.
In fact, the Irish have their own tea blend called Irish Breakfast Tea, which is generally a combination of Assam, Ceylon, or some other black tea, but mainly just Assam. It is bolder than your typical English breakfast tea, and yet, not as robust as a Scottish breakfast tea. The Assam tea is what gives it its red color and malty distinctions.
How the Irish Prepare a Proper Cuppa
A cuppa in Ireland always means the same thing. Never coffee or any other type of beverage. Cuppa always refers to a proper cup of tae.
The process of preparing tea in Ireland is damn near sacred and heaven forbid you mess it up. The Irish are quite picky about how their tea is prepared.
First, start with getting the water boiling and I mean a rolling boil. Tepid water just will not do.
Second, you must warm the teapot before wetting the tae. This is done by pouring a small amount of the boiling water into the teapot and then swirling it around for a bit. You will then dump the water out. This removes any previous tea residue and helps prevent cooling the boiling water when it is placed in the pot. Some even warm the teacup or mug as well.
Third, pour the scalding water over the tea. Do not wait so the water does not have time to cool.
Remove the tea from the water, stir a bit, and enjoy. The Irish like their tea hot, never cold or iced, even in the warmest of weather.
How Irish Tea is Served
Well, believe it or not, all of Ireland does not drink their tea in the same way. I know right? People have preferences? They sure do and Ireland is no different. So, there is a dialogue that must take place beforehand that allows you to get to know your guest’s preferences. This all happens pretty quickly.
Some considerations might be what type of container you will serve your tea in. A teacup or a mug? Also, a fresh jug of milk is best to have on the table. Some like milk poured over their tea and some like tea poured over their milk. Some like no milk at all. Some prefer sugar or none at all.
Some of your guests, depending on the person and/or the time of day, may prefer the first draw of tea for a lighter cup while others prefer the bottom of the barrel, strong, black and robust.
Whatever the preference it is important to get to know your guests beforehand.
Where to Find the Best Tea to Begin your Irish Tradition
The best place to start is with fresh quality tea and this always means loose leaf. You could go with some of the most popular brands of tea in Ireland like Barry’s Tea or Lyons, but these teas are tea bag teas and they generally contain some of the lowest grade tea on the market.
I mean, Fusion Teas does carry some of the highest quality loose leaf tea at the most affordable prices. And we carry a huge variety of tea and tea blends including Irish Breakfast Tea and Assam. These are pretty much the teas of the Irish.
Irish Breakfast Black Tea
For a right sturdy cuppa, look no further than this full-bodied, smooth and robust blend. Our Irish Breakfast Tea blend is a unique combination of Chinese and Indian Black teas. Its medium dark red-brown liquor is malty, brisk, and hearty. It can be enjoyed with a full hearty breakfast, some soda bread, or a few sweet biscuits. It is also enjoyed all day long with friends or as an afternoon treat.
Assam Black Tea
That’s right, our Assam tea is a single estate tea from the Mokalbari Estate in the Assam valley. While most Assam teas are low-grade, CTC teabag teas, ours is an orthodox loose leaf tea that can be re-steeped up to 3 times. That’s the kind of quality you can expect. Boom! Pick up some of this malty, spicy, and brisk tea today.