The world of breakfast teas would not be complete without Irish tea. This strong and brisk black tea is always served with milk and sugar. It’s an important part of Irish culture so it’s not uncommon to drink it with other, originally Irish drinks. Read more about Irish tea and how to drink it like you’re in Ireland.
What is Irish tea?
Tea was brought to Ireland from Ireland in the 18th century. Just like in England, it was first reserved for a higher class. Once it became widely available, it soon became a staple in Irish homes. Today, tea is one of the most popular Irish national drinks. Unlike Chinese or Japanese tea, Irish tea is not a tea grown in Ireland, although today, there is a Camellia sinensis tea garden in Ireland too. Irish tea is a name from the strong black tea that’s often served for breakfast or in the afternoon, usually with food. Just like English tea, Irish tea has to be strong enough to accompany a hearty meal. Because of its strong, malty and brisk flavor, it’s usually served with milk and sugar.
What is the best Irish tea?
Irish tea can be any black tea prepared “the Irish way.” Or, it may imply a special Irish Breakfast tea blend. Irish Breakfast is blended with different teas, mostly Indian Assam and sometimes Sri Lankan teas too. Today, there are no rules on how to create a perfect blend, but it always needs to be strong, bold and high in caffeine. Sometimes, it may be made from Assam teas only. Today, many breakfast blends may not even include Assam black tea, but Irish Breakfast is almost unimaginable without it. In fact, other teas were not introduced to Ireland up until the second half of the 20th century, so it doesn’t surprise that Assam tea became a must in these strong breakfast blends.
But Irish Breakfast is not the only “Irish tea”. Two more teas can hide under the same name. The first one is tea prepared with Irish Cream. Irish Cream is a liquor made from Irish whiskey, cream, sugar and chocolate originating from Ireland, first created about 50 years ago. Irish Cream can be drank pure, but it’s often added to coffee and lately – black tea. The most common black tea types to mix with this liquor are pure and malty Indian black tea and strong breakfast blends.
The third type is a simple black tea, served with a simple shot of Irish whiskey. And of course, with some milk and sugar too. This tea is actually quite similar to Irish Cream tea, as they share very similar ingredients. However, expect Irish Cream to be a little sweeter and creamier.
What is the strongest Irish tea?
The strongest Irish tea will probably be the one made from the special Irish Breakfast blend. They will contain more Assam tea leaves and are likely to have smaller broken leaves to brew into a strong cup. Irish Breakfast will be full-bodied, with a very deep red brown color and a brisk, strong malty flavor. Smaller broken leaf Irish Breakfast Assam blends from specialty tea shops tend to be quite strong in flavor.
Caffeine content or Irish tea is likely to be higher than caffeine content of English breakfast tea. However, because many people enjoy the flavor and mouthfeel of strong Irish tea, decaf types are available too. Strong and full-bodied tea will have a beautiful orange-yellow color when you add a splash of milk, compared to weaker teas that may look more yellow-brown or brown-grey. Although decaf teas won’t contain caffeine, they will still be full-bodied and rich.
How to drink tea like you’re in Ireland
If you want to drink tea like you’re in Ireland, prepare to have a lot of tea. The average yearly consumption in Ireland is around 1300 cups of tea per person. That’s over 3.5 cups a day. Tea in Ireland is available from every supermarket, both loose leaves and tea bags, which are a staple of every Irish home.
You can make a cup of proper Irish tea, both with tea bags and loose leaf tea. Bring fresh water to a boil. Add 1-2 teaspoons of tea leaves into a tea infuser and place it into a mug. Alternatively, use one tea bag of strong black tea or special Irish Breakfast blend. Steep tea leaves for 3-5 minutes in boiling water. Remove the strainer or a tea bag and add a splash of milk and some sugar. To make an Irish Whiskey tea, simply add a shot of whiskey. Drink while it’s hot.
Tea should always be accompanied by at least a snack, so serve it with some biscuits or with a proper meal.
Irish vs English breakfast tea?
Want to know more about Irish and English Breakfast teas? Learn what is the difference in caffeine content, which teas are used for blending English or Irish Breakfast and how to make your own Irish and English breakfast blends here.