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Spilling The Tea

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If you ask anyone abroad what the national beverage of Ireland is, I would wager that they’re likely to say Guinness. After all, Guinness has been successfully plying their trade for years now – 258 years, to be exact – with Irishness as a large part of its brand persona. It has the harp, and the Irish music, and that ad at Christmas that shows Dublin looking perfect and makes you feel a tingle of excitement… I mean, Guinness really puts forward a good, solid argument for why it’s the natural choice for the nation’s official beverage.

Despite all of this however, Guinness just doesn’t get the job done. It doesn’t win that coveted spot in the hearts of Irish people everywhere. It’s not what Irish people ask their mammies to send them when they move abroad, to be drank with packets of Taytos and slices of brown bread with real butter.

Clearly, the national beverage of Ireland is tea.

… and not just any tea. You’re either a Lyons tea person, or a Barry’s tea person. There’s no room for other, lesser brands of tea. Get away out of here with your Lipton, Twinings or Tetley’s. Don’t waste your breath offering PG Tips. Lyons or Barry’s are the only acceptable brands of tea on this island. If you’ve ever watched Father Ted, the character of Mrs. Doyle is not so much a caricature as a slight exaggeration; when you visit someone’s home, often one of the first questions they’ll ask you is whether you’d like a cup of tea, and if you decline, you will be asked if you’re sure. If you decline again, you’ll be asked to reconsider, and the cycle will generally continue until you give in… so really you might as well accept the first offer, if only to save time.

I am actually an Irish anomaly; I held out on drinking tea for about 26 years. All my life, I drank only hot chocolate – preferably with many, many mini-marshmallows – until a fateful day four years ago when I finally surrendered and joined the tea-drinking masses. In the end, I was no match for the endless national browbeating. I now drink tea (Barry’s, obviously, since it’s undeniably the superior brand) and coffee (Nespresso Dulsão capusules are my favourite) and I don’t even sweeten it.

I know. Big strides.

It turns out tea is useful for every occasion. Sweet tea if you’re in shock, and iced tea if you’re too warm. Hot tea and biscuits for chats with friends, and hot tea and a book for evenings alone. Coca tea for altitude sickness, and chamomile tea for winding down. Tea cups if you’re feeling fancy, and mugs of tea if you mean business. I have fully come around. I now understand the wonders of tea. It is multipurpose, much like the pancake.

I do have a secret though. A terrible, shameful secret. Sometimes I crave something a little more… exotic. Sometimes the taste of Barry’s isn’t enough to get my juices flowing, and so, I have a confession to make. I hope you’re sitting down for this.

For the past few years I’ve been cheating on Barry’s tea.

About three years ago, somewhere in the state of Florida, I came across Tazo tea and fell deeply in love with the variety* available. There was zen tea, chai tea, pumpkin spice tea, and I piled boxes of the stuff into my Target shopping cart with the sort of frenzied excitement I usually reserve for a sporting event or a trip to the zoo. I arrived back in Ireland and stacked my Tazo tea collection in the bedroom, far away from the box of Barry’s so as not to feel guilt over this infideli-tea**.

Since then, every trip to America has involved stripping the aisles of Target of all boxes of Tazo tea. They are one of three American items that I insist on hoarding like I’m preparing for an impending apocalypse. The other two items are peanut butter M&Ms – which for some reason that is beyond human comprehension have yet to reach Irish shores – and the honey that comes in the bear-shaped container***.

I also compulsively raid hotel rooms for their individually packaged teabags, and now have a tea chest in the living room that houses an impressive number of truly bizarre tea flavours. Not only have I become a tea-drinker, but I have developed a natural curiosi-tea**** for all the different flavours out there and their effects. I have become a tea explorer. I try to drink tea wherever I go now, to see what’s out there that I haven’t yet discovered. As a late bloomer, I find myself trying to make up for lost (tea) time. Moroccan mint tea was a fast favourite. Matcha tea in Japan was also delicious.

Still though, I always seem to come back to Barry’s in the end.

My once-dormant Irish tea gene must be a dominant one.

*Varie-tea! It took enormous willpower not to insert that pun.

**I apologise.

***I cannot explain my love for the honey except to say that the bear-shaped bottle just cheers me up no end, although I did once make the mistake of microwaving one of them and you should know that it was a tragic mistake. The bear melted and shrank until he was a hideously deformed, stumpy version of his former self. It was quite depressing. He still had his eyes and they had changed shape just enough to look sort of accusatory and horrified. I tried to keep him for a while but every time I caught sight of him I felt like I was in The Tell-Tale Heart; Honeybear Edition, so I finally gave him a sad burial in the bin.

I feel like this anecdote makes me sound a little peculiar.

So… pretty accurate, really.

****Don’t judge me.

 

0 thoughts on “Spilling The Tea

  1. Lipton is god-awful. And it’s all I seemed to be able to find when I was last in the States. Its no wonder they all drink coffee if that’s the foul muck they have on offer! I’ve never tried Barry’s or Lyon’s, as they’re not really on offer in the UK, but google is a wonderful thing.

    I’m not massively set on all the different types of tea. There’s only one type worth drinking: English Breakfast. Strong English Breakfast. Strong enough to stand your spoon in with one sugar. It’s the only way! 🙂

  2. Your line about tea being useful for all occasions reminds me of the Kinks song Have A Cuppa Tea. It describes all the cures tea provides, but the best line is-
    You get tea as a mid-day stimulant
    You get tea with your afternoon tea
    Something about that line you get tea with your afternoon tea just cracks me up! As for me I managed to avoid coffee all through my college years but cannot function in the morning without it. But I like a nice tea often. Usually a Twinings (more available than Barry’s). I know, I know…get away with me. But we find special ones too such as Assam or Gunpowder as well.

        1. 😛 Good. One never knows over the internet for obvious reasons so I was making sure. Don’t want to unintentionally offend honey-bear terrorists! You never know when they sneak over and “TAKE OUT” your honey bears! I’d faint straight to the kitchen floor at the sight of gory honey everywhere! 😮

  3. You’re a Tea Jennie! It’s the same here, Whisky and Irn-Bru get all the hype but all everyone drinks is tea! I’m a Scottish blend girl but need to try Barry’s, I’m not sure if I have when I’ve been in Ireland. I love Tazo tea too. Peanut butter M&Ms and peanut butter Lindt chocolate balls are always in my US shopping list! (They sometimes have the M&Ms in Topshop here so check out there if your near one)
    My sister just came home from India with a suitcase full of tea’s to try. Happy days!

      1. I just googled it, turns out it’s a Scottish saying 😂who knew?! It’s basically someone who drinks lots of tea and is fussy about which teas…like a wine connoisseur but tea!
        It’s like a tiny box with about 20 in it and ridiculously overpriced but it’s enough to feed the habit until the next trip across the Atlantic!

  4. I was born and raised on homemade Lipton’s sweet tea, so I go through a gallon of the stuff every other day. My Fella (an English gent) drinks Tetley as that is the best America has to offer in terms of English Breakfast tea, of which I partake in once in a while. Tazo Chai tea is especially amazing with a splash of Pumpkin Pie flavor creamer from International Delights. So yummy!!

      1. If you go to a restaurant in the south and order it, you may as well have ordered sugar with a splash of water; I usually get it cut (half sweet, half unsweet). Since I’ve been making it for so long, I’ve perfected my own recipe. It’s definitely my go-to beverage at home.

  5. Don’t feel bad, my mother microwaved the bear once, so you are not alone. And, I’m not judging, but then she was 90 years old. When my kids visit Ireland they always bring back Irish Black Tea. Morrocan Mind does sound delish.

  6. Poor, poor plastic honey bear! You should be ashamed of yourself, Quinn!😫😂

    I used to work part time in a tea emporium (it was a normal suburban shop that sold tea and gifts), so I was able to sample some incredibly exotic and expensive teas. I always went back to my favourite Earl Grey. Have you ever tried Blue Mountain tea? It is fruity and delicious.

    Have you spent time in South America? Not many people would include coca tea for altitude sickness in a piece about tea!

  7. I’m far less cultured in the tea department than you (I have no idea what brand I’m drinking right now, but it’s some sort of green tea). However, The only acceptable addition to tea is whiskey and honey. One or two of these (Hot Toddy’s) will make any chilly night just about perfect.

  8. Father Ted as a racist is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Also, if I’d have known this, I would have mailed you all my Tazo tea. My office has them by the bundle and we get to help ourselves. I’m not much of a fan. Way too…frou frou. Which is a shame because I was really hoping for the orange to be good. For me it’s the Thai tea that comes in the bright orange bags and Chinese green tea. The less I can read on the label, the more authentic it is. Hahah.

    1. I hear you’re a racist now, father!

      I have a serious addiction to the zen tazo, the chai tazo and the pumpkin spice chai tazo. I think you can only get the pumpkin spice one in the autumn, but I really love it… What’s the Thai tea in the orange bags?? I like green tea but for some reason I always feel nauseous after drinking it and I don’t know why!

      1. Oh man…if you’ve never had Thai iced tea…it’s this wonderfully strong Ceylon tea mixed with orange blossom and star anise. It becomes bright orange because it’s served iced and with a good generous amount of sweetened condensed milk. Great for a warm summer day.

          1. For fear of just lumping them all together I don’t want to automatically say yes, but I’m almost positive they must. And I mean it has definitely crossed borders already. I can get Thai tea specific for this particular style at my Asian market in the US.

  9. Tea, biscuits and honey bears OH MY! Very insightful into the Irish ways – which I love to hear, especially with your writing style. I love your blog so much! If you ever need emergency honey bears or tea – I would be happy to send a care package! I also love Tazo’s zen tea…. I keep it stocked at home and my work 🙏🏻❤️ tis a necessity!

      1. Hahaha that cheered me up immensely. Such great puns! Who knew there were so many tea puns? Also thank you for your lovely offer. If things get too desperate around here I might take you up on it! For now I’m off to have a tazo zen!

  10. Oh ma lord. I thought only Pakistanis were this insane about their tea. Tazo is pretty badass. I had a phase where I use to buy all these different flavoured teas and steep them perfectly and drink them with my pinkie in the air. But then I got over it. Btw I am drinking tea while typing this.

    1. Hahaha I definitely don’t steep them perfectly and often I actually forget I’ve made tea and then have to microwave it (I KNOW, I know this is wrong and I should just make a new one)! I just like trying them all!!

  11. As an Irish-Scot, I was sure I had a dominant tea-gene. Then my partner walked into my life all the way up from t’North, and it’s never been the same again. Can’t even call his tea-gene ‘dominant’, that’d be too kind – ‘aggressive’ is more accurate. (Hot chocolate was/is my replacement, too, but instead of tea, it replaces coffee – I didn’t touch coffee until a few years ago, and even now it’s a rarity, often doused with as much milk as possible).

    …just realised this is a strange intro as a new follower, but hey, it covers a lot of bases! 🙂

  12. Morrisons over here have a small ‘Irish section’ where I stock up on Barry’s Tea, Kimberley Biscuits and Red Lemonade. Team Barry’s all the way! I may have been born in London, but my Grandad has kept the Irish alive in me 😛

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