The Irish love tea! That is a universal truth but what is the history and timeline behind our passion for a cuppa? We examine the timeline of tea in Ireland.
Meet an Irish person on the street or visit an Irish person in his or her home and they will have their tea preference clearly stated, tea needs to be strong, milk and sugar optional.
The Irish are snobby about tea. It’s a tradition, the average person in Ireland drinks four to six cups of tea daily. We have carried this sacred ritual with us wherever we washed up. But where does this affinity come from and how did the Irish become one of the heaviest consumers of tea in the world?
Tea has a rich and varied history, having been consumed as far back as 1000 BC. How tea was first discovered is lost to the mists of time. The origin of tea is somewhere in Southeast Asia.
Here in Ireland, we take our tea very seriously. In fact, we consume more tea per capita than any other country in the world, apart from Turkey.
Tea arrived in Ireland in the early 1800s and was classed as a luxury product - drunk by upper-class wealthy people. Tea was expensive to import, it arrived on Irish shores from far off India, transported by the renowned tea clipper boats.
The quality of tea in Ireland is the highest in the world. Tea can cure ills, offers a pick me up, it’s a remedy for coping with all kinds of ailments and digesting news. Irish tea is different.
This is due in part to the difficulties Irish people faced importing tea during the Second World War. When war broke out the British government were forced to limit the amount of tea Irish merchants could buy, which led the Irish to go directly to the source, India.
The Irish taste buds for tea then took a different route to the British. Irish tend to drink their cuppa’s with lots of milk, as a result this requires a very strong tea, so strong in fact a fork could stand upright in a cup of proper Irish tea. After WW2 the Irish started importing tea from Kenya which provided good strong tea.
Tips for brewing the perfect Irish cuppa.
1. Warm the cup by pouring in some boiling water and leave for 5 minutes.
2. Always use loose tea leaves.
3. Always brew with Irish spring water.
4. Use a teapot to brew tea.
5. Leave tea to stew for 3.5 minutes in teapot before pouring.
* Updated in Jan 2022.