Do you consider yourself a coffee or tea person? I like both…a lot, but what is really interesting to me is how my tea and coffee drinking habits changed once I moved to Ireland. Coffee in Ireland is really hit-or-miss. For years, it was simply an afterthought compared to tea. It is not uncommon for me to visit one of my Irish friends’ homes, and be offered instant (!) coffee. Many people don’t even have a coffee maker. For espresso, Starbucks serves reasonably good coffee, but it isn’t a daily ritual like it is in the US. The Starbucks near my house opens at 8:00 am. There are great independent places for coffee in Dublin – KC Peaches, 3FE, Coffee Kiosk, Brother Hubbard, just to name a few. As a sign of the changing attitudes towards coffee, the World Barista Championships will be held in Dublin in 2016.
Now tea…tea is a completely different experience. Tea is served hot any time of year, and is a daily ritual for the Irish. Most people take milk with their tea, and maybe sugar. There are two main brands of Irish tea: Barry’s and Lyons. These two brands account for the majority of the market share. The Barry’s vs Lyons debate is similar to the Coke vs Pepsi, or Coke vs Dr. Pepper in the US. Either you’re a Barry’s fan, or a Lyons fan, and never the two shall meet. I drink Barry’s tea, but really only because a neighbor of mine brought me a box of Barry’s Tea the first day we moved into our house. (Thanks Joanne!) And what can I say, brand allegiances are strong, and I have bought Barry’s ever since.
There are places where you can go for “Afternoon Tea” or “High Tea” where it is served with scones and jam, tea sandwiches, and perhaps a small dessert. It is a wonderful experience, and I recommend it to visitors all the time. (Future blog post, perhaps?) However, most regular Irish people just have tea as a part of their day. They have it with breakfast, as their morning or afternoon break, or with friends. The longer I live in Dublin, the more I gravitate towards, tea, especially when the weather is bad. The climate in Dublin is perfect for tea, and there’s nothing quite like a “cuppa” to keep the dull, damp, and dreary weather at bay – even if just for a moment.