It’s the staple of every care package sent abroad, but as more and more coffee shop chains crop up all over Ireland it's tme to ask: Has the Irish relationship with tea become strained?
Our fellow tea-lovers in Britain have certainly cut down on their tea-guzzling ways, despite a history steeped in the love of a good brew. New figures from the British Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs show that in the 26 years between 1974 and 2000, there was a dramatic weakening in the British desire for a cup of tea, with figures dropping from an average of 23 cups a week to just eight.
Not everyone is convinced that the British have completely abandoned their national drink, however, as although they may be drinking significantly less of it, tea is still the number one choice for a hot beverage, with 84 per cent of the country throwing back at least one cup a day.
“In 1974, tea accounted for 50% of the nation's daily intake of fluids. That figure has since dropped to 37% of the national intake of fluid, so it is still a significant amount,” said Bill Gorman, the chairman of UK Tea and Infusions Association, an independent non-profit making body dedicated to promoting tea and herbal infusions in the UK.
The Republic of Ireland may have seen a similar decrease in consumption, but it still leads the way in terms of worldwide tea-lovers, and can still proudly claim the title of the largest per capita tea-drinking nation.
Read more: Ten top reasons why the Irish love their cup of tea
According to research carried out by Bord Bia, the Irish food board, in 2010, tea is the unchanging category on Irish supermarket shelves and is still included on every good shopping list.
“In an ever changing world, tea provides much needed consistency,” said Orla Donohoe from the Consumer Foods Division at Bord Bia, revealing that 90 per cent of Irish tea drinkers always return to the same brand of tea, never swaying from their favorite.
Such is the connection between an Irish person and their favorite brand that 59 percent of shoppers say they instantly look for their favorite on reaching the tea shelf and never look at the other options.
“In an Irish context, tea is very much a security blanket,” Donohoe continued. “Although some Irish consumers are opening up to the possibilities of imported tea brands, familiarity and consistency of the tea experience is hugely important.”
Although some Irish people may have taken to polluting themselves with coffee during the week or on workdays, tea is still thought of as a seven day a week consumption item to be taken at any time during the week or weekend, especially at meal times.
The Bord Bia report found: “People don’t opt out of tea in the way that they may do with coffee, which is for many people associated with the working week. In Ireland, tea consumption coincides with mealtimes – tea has a far stronger relationship with food for Irish consumers, than other hot beverages.”
“Tea consumption is on the rise at night-time - because people are at home more often and tea is a comforting affordable reliable beverage that people are turning to at home.”
Bord Bia also found that the rise in coffee consumption may have been brought on by the influence of the Celtic Tiger, with new disposable income being spent on frappuccinos out with friends instead of a mug of Barry's/Lyons at the kitchen table.
With some people now trying to cut down on their caffeine intake, however, and a loss in the amount of disposable income in Ireland in recent years, tea has still maintained its place in poll position.
“Clearly the growth in popularity of coffee in this country coincided with consumers having more disposable income,” the report wrote.
“And its growth, for some of that generation, was at the expense of tea. Some consumers are re-evaluating their caffeine consumption however and (re) turning to tea, as the safe, comforting, maternal alternative. Consumers have slowed down and tea fits with that slower pace.”
If you love tea, do it in style with the range of Irish Ceramics from the IrishCentral Gift Store.