Sipping Through Time: Exploring the Rich History of Loose-Leaf Tea in Ireland

     Welcome to our journey through the enchanting world of loose-leaf tea in Ireland; where every cup tells a tale steeped in history and tradition. Nestled amidst the rolling green hills and misty landscapes, Ireland's love affair with tea dates back centuries, intertwining with the nation's cultural fabric and daily rituals. In this blog, we'll delve into the origins of tea in Ireland, explore the customs surrounding its consumption, and uncover the enduring significance of this beloved beverage in Irish society. So, grab your favorite mug, settle in, and join us as we embark on a flavorful exploration of Ireland's tea heritage.
     It hasn't always been easy for the Irish.  Their long history has a story to tell, which, in turn, introduced tea to their society.  In 1801, Ireland had become a member of the "Act of Union". This union brought together Scotland, England, and Ireland.  The British monarchy at the time was very persistent at keeping Ireland from being a free state.  And so with Great Britain in control, they also controlled, you got it....tea.  
     Tea at this time was already extremely expensive due to importing the tea straight from China, which included steeply priced tariffs.  The British basically kept the highest quality tea for themselves, and gave the worst to Ireland.  The tea they received was harsh, bitter, tea dust. It was mostly made up of Assam, African, and Darjeeling black teas.  In order to counteract the acidic and brass taste, the Irish combined cream and sugar into their tea and fell in love with it!  Soon enough, Ireland's people came to enjoy creating new customs, traditions, and times in which to enjoy their tea. 
     Once again, hard times struck the Irish people.  During the mid 1800s, "The Great Hunger" hit the land and its people.  Most of the Irish worked as tenant farmers, owing rent and goods to their British landowners.  When the cost of goods and supplies went up, the farmers could barely afford to feed themselves and their families.  Also, mold known as Phytophthora infestans caused a destructive plant disease that spread rapidly throughout Ireland. The infestation ruined up to one-half of the potato crop that year, and about three-quarters of the crop over the next seven years.  Because potatoes were the main source of food for the farmers, this infection had a terrible impact on Ireland's population.  Before it ended in 1852, the Potato Famine resulted in the death of roughly one million Irish from starvation and related causes, with at least another million forced to leave their homeland as refugees. 
     With all the starvation and death becoming reality for too many Irish, we also find out that the British monarchy was still having Ireland export more goods to the English than ever before.  Imagine, you are working a farm with little to nothing, still owing rent to the landowner with no food or gain for yourself, while being expected to export your goods to those who think they are more worthy. 
   Tea had become so incredibly expensive that most Irish families looked down upon it.  The people of this time had notions that enjoying tea was frivolous and a waste of time and money, and addictive!  Women during this time were considered 3rd class citizens.  It didn't please the men for their women to be sitting around all afternoon, drinking tea, gossiping, and "planning an uprising".  Instead, they wanted their women to raise their children, tidy and keep the home, while farming alongside their husbands.  This was an ACTUAL thought during this period, as it was for many other countries around the world. 
   The story of tea coming to Ireland is one of fight, one of determination, and one of victory.  in 1935, Samuel Bewley decided to import tea directly from the source-India.  No middlemen needed, which was one of the main reasons that tea was so expensive.  Samuel Bewley was a man of many titles.  He was an apprentice to a silk merchant before owning his own silk merchant business. He was a ship owner that participated in trades with Barbados and North America to import things such as silkworm gut, opium, and dyed fabrics.  That led him on a long journey to where he was able to be involved with the legislation of importing tea directly to Ireland after the monopoly held by the East India Company ended. 
     Now that tea was so much cheaper for the people of Ireland, all classes of citizens were able to afford the good.  Finally, Ireland could get a little bit of normalcy back, along with the happiness that tea brings to an individual, as well as a group of people and family.  A finer quality of tea was available to all classes.  Remember the harsh, brass tea that was left over from whatever the British took for themselves?  Recall the amount of sugar and milk it took to cover up that acidic tea leaf?  Even with the finer quality of tea, the Irish continued to pour in that milk and sprinkle in the sugar.  The Irish loved this tradition so much that they were known to brew their much finer tea very strong so they could still taste the tea with milk and sugar.  A long time taste and memory that they don't ever want to let go of again.
  The Irish fought hard for the tea culture they have today.  It is a very important part of most every Irish persons day.  The average person in Ireland drinks anywhere between 4-7 cups a day, which equals around 6-7 pounds of dry tea leaves a year!  They are second to India for the country with the highest amount of tea consumption.  Because of the Irish hospitality and friendliness, when a guest comes to your home you offer them tea upon arrival.  Immediately!  The guest can refuse, which is frowned upon, and rarely done.  They drink tea in the morning, tea at "Elevenses", afternoon tea, and high tea.  It's said that they don't brew a cup at a time, but a kettle to drink from all day. No wonder they are number two in the world for tea consumption!


     Seems as though the Irish never had it easy when it comes to food, drink, and other goods.  The constant control of Britain was a big player in Ireland's many adversities.  Through time, Ireland won its Independence, fought for what they believed was owed to them, and drink their tea with smiles on their faces, because tea in Ireland isn't just a cup of leaves, it's a history worth thinking about with each sip.

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