Posted in Kafevend Blog
While Finland is at the top of the chart where coffee drinking is concerned, Ireland is the tea drinking capital of the world, with more cups consumed per person than even here in the UK where we like to think of tea as a British institution.
Tea was first introduced to Ireland in the early 1800s, though only members of the upper class were able to afford it at first. It took until the middle of the century for consumption to spread to the rest of society. Due to the poor quality of tea affordable to the general public, milk was commonly added and the tea brewed for a strong flavour to balance the milkiness. Nowadays, while the quality of tea is very good, strong milky tea remains the norm. There's an Irish saying that a good cup of tea should be strong enough for a mouse to trot on, which sounds similarly strong to the tea you can stand a spoon in!
Until World War 2 broke out Ireland sourced its tea from the London Tea Auction, which was suspended for the duration of the war. Then, following the war the Irish government established Tea Importers Ltd, a state guaranteed company, which was able to buy tea directly from its country of origin, thereby cutting out the middle men. The government were keen to develop self sufficiency where basic foodstuffs were concerned and tea was very much a staple then as now. Initially Assam tea made up the bulk of imports, but during the 1960s East African nations began to produce tea. The shorter journey time and the fact that tea was grown and harvested there all year round gave it the advantage of freshness and so East African tea came to dominate; Kenyan tea is especially popular today and constitutes some 60% of imports.