There is a certain hospitality associated with tea. I experienced this kindness on my trip to England; you won’t go to visit anyone without being offered a cup of tea or the host putting the kettle on within moments of entering their home. This tradition is quite true in Ireland as well, and although there are a few differences in preferences and tea strength, the warmth and generosity is no less apparent.
Irish tea, or cha (Irish slang which can be connected to many other languages, including Chinese and Portuguese), is strong, spicy black tea that is mainly composed of Assam tea leaves known for its body, briskness and malty flavor. Some blends also contain a percentage of Ceylon tea leaves, a Sri-Lankan tea known for its golden color and rich, intense flavor.
Because the tea is very strong it’s taken with a good amount of rich milk with or without sugar, and is usually added to the cup before the tea is added. Some even add all of these components to the pot before serving.
There is always time for tea! In Irish culture, tea is typically taken 3 times a day: Morning Tea, and the two most well-known, Afternoon Tea and High Tea. With these tea times, more often than not are they accompanied by breads, pastries, potato dishes, or digestive cookies.
Along with Cha, a cup of Irish tea is also referred to in Gaelic as a ‘cuppan tae” or my favorite, anglicized version “cuppa tay” of which always reminds me of Eliza Doolittle’s untrained tongue in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion.
Now its time to enjoy the Irish tradition for yourself! So steep a cup of tea, cha, cuppan tea or “cuppa tay”, like this strong black tea blend from Ambessa Teas, and enjoy it the Irish way: with good company, a cozy chair, and of course one or several of these delicious breads and pastries:
- citrus shortbread
- Irish soda bread with salted maple butter
- cheddar scallion scones recipe
- glazed apple muffins
- apricot oatmeal cookies
And remember, there is always time for tea!