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There are two subtle differences:
One, the British, in their endlessly-ever-so-polite way, will ask if you might like some tea. The Irish, pour you tea. See the difference? If you try to demure, they will stare at you quizzically.
“No tea? Are you sure?”
“Yes,” you say. “I’ve just had some.”
“Oh that’s alright then.” And then they will pour you more.
Two, the accompaniments. The British have a little cookie, maybe a half an English muffin (which, indeed, are just called muffins there). The Irish, on the other hand, often eat a second lunch. Cheese, jam, a hunk of bread, a piece of fruit, and, whenever possible, chocolate.
I fecking love the Irish.
In the US, we drink Earl Grey, or Oolong, or Chamomile. In Ireland, you drink “regular” or herbal. And in Ireland, “regular” is invariably Barry’s Gold Blend. Barry’s is, as far as I can tell, a blend of Assam tea. Barry’s over all accounts for 40% of all tea sales in Ireland. It’s reddish-brown, slightly bitter, and has a strong clear flavor, sort of like chicory and leaves.
Brewing it strong or weak is a matter of preference–adding lots of milk, not cream and definitely not SKIM milk, is standard.
My favorite memory of teatime in Ireland is from Gubbeen, the dairy in West Cork I spent a week working for. I started work at 8 a.m., but the rest of the team, 4-6 other women, depending on the day, would be there at 6:30 or 7. We did various cheesemaking type things, then would break for tea around 10 a.m. Breakfast tea was the same as what you had for afternoon tea, except maybe with peanut butter or yogurt added in.
Sometime around 9:30 a.m., Rose, the head cheesemaker, would start brewing the Barry’s and bringing out food. The owners of Gubbeen call Rose The Admiral. She was at some time an officer in the army, but more importantly, Rose is one of those women who is so brusque and efficient that she can be harsh and a little terrifying. The kind of women you immediately want to impress. Born and bred locally, in her fifties or sixties (it is entirely impossible for me to tell with Irish country dwellers…she could look younger for the fresh air and good cheese, or older from harsh weather and whiskey), Rose spends ten minutes of each cheesemaking day laying out a knife, napkin, teacup and plate for each and every dairy worker.
“It’s time for your tea. Go on now.”
Not a question or an invitation. Just, time for tea. For everyone. We would all sit and butter bread and lop off hunks of cheese and half bananas in relative silence.
Joe and I just finished 3 glorious months in Ireland, followed by one in the UK. Long enough to start jonesing for tea every day at 10 and 4, even now.
Just like anything else, you need to find the type of something that you like. I hate sugary sweet apple juice or cider. But make it taste tart and I am a huge fan. Oddly one of the favorite apple drinks I tried was the companies “medium” variety. It tasted like lots of fresh apples thrown into my mouth in one go. Much better I thought then their “tangy” one. So I guess you never know. This juice was made by Llewellyns Orchard. Great stuff if you find yourself in Ireland and can try it.
Some ciders remind me a lot of sour beers. They hit you right up front and then have a nice aftertaste. They also go great with some foods like turkey or lamb or at least it did for us during Thanksgiving. I know very little about cider and so don’t really know if this is a great version of this style but I liked it a lot. French Sparkling Apple, ‘Antoinette’, Dry, Duche Longueville was what we drank with dinner on Thanksgiving. You should be able to find this is the states.
Finally there is the craft cider that sits right next to all the good Irish craft beers. This stuff was like a slightly sweet saison. Great flavor and just delicious. I tried a full bottle of MacIvors medium and liked it but I got to have a taste of the dry and that is where the gold is at. I can’t imagine this is available in the states but you never know – one day it could be. Or look for good local cider – it might actually be better then you think.
Ah Guinness – I have had many pints of the black over the past few months. During the holidays it was great to be able to check out a new pub by just nursing a Guinness for thirty minutes or so. Tasty, simple. I did start to notice that some bars got the nitro mix better then others. The Skeff in Galway pours a damn fine pint.
Mulled wine is a better then I expected. Not only does it heat you through and through but you get a pretty complex flavor going with spices and cooking. Don’t use a very cheap wine but also don’t use anything too expensive. I used this recipe
Three cheers for Irish Whiskey! I have had so many great tastes of whiskey this holiday season. Different flavor components, many different cost levels, and a whole lot of good times. Jasmine and I held our first annual Cheestmas and drank a good bit of whiskey paired with cheese that day. Overall the two went rather well together. Cask strength can be a bit much unless you have a big cheese. Cooley was a good whiskey cheese. The Tyrconnell port finished whiskey was one of my favorites – this is some complex delicious whiskey. Try to find if you can.
I am a sucker for holiday beers and Galway gave me plenty of them. I very much missed our annual holiday party and all our friends back home but my Anchor Holiday and a Founders winter made me think of the States and all the past years. I also got to taste a really exciting Irish brewery’s holiday beer – White Gypsy Xmas. Good sweet stuff.
Port! Who knew (besides lots and lots of people). I like port and damn does it go well with chocolate cookies. This was just a relativly cheap Taylor’s ruby port. I would like to try some more serious aged ports.]]>