Irish Tea Party Traditions

by Jenna Pope
The Irish drink more tea than the English.

The Irish drink more tea than the English.

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No one throws a better tea party than the Irish. This is because the Irish drink more tea per person than any other nationality, rounding out at four to six cups per day. Tea is served during the "Elevenses" around 11 a.m., in the afternoon between 3 and 5 p.m. and at high tea which is served with the evening meal around 6 p.m. Special occasion tea parties can be held at any time of day.

Irish Tea History

Irish slang for tea is "cha." In Gaelic, the language historically spoken by the Irish, "cupan tae" means "cup of tea." Tea was first introduced to upper-class Irish men and women in the middle of the Nineteenth Century. It grew in popularity and eventually became less expensive and a favorite of the working classes. Initially, tea was imported from England. During World War II, however, Ireland became neutral to the war, much to England's ire. Shortly thereafter, Ireland had to begin importing tea from other countries because the British refused to sell the Irish any more tea.

The Tea Party Table

A fine, white damask linen table cloth is traditionally used by the Irish on their tea table. A bunch of clover in a clear Waterford crystal vase is a typical Irish centerpiece. Porcelain cups and saucers, in addition to small porcelain dessert plates are arranged on the table. The teapot is normally Irish pottery. Silver is the customary flatware for the Irish tea table.

Irish Tea

The Irish enjoy full-bodied tea blends that include Assam Tea as the main ingredient. Assam Tea, alone or combined with Ceylon, East African or Sri Lankan tea are typical Irish tea blends. Earl Grey tea is another Irish favorite. The Irish brew their tea strong and combine it with milk, half-and-half or heavy cream. Sugar cubes are added by the individual, to taste.

Meals and Dainties

"Elevenish" morning tea parties serve scones, biscuits, oat cakes and Irish soda cakes along with the tea. Butter and jam spreads are also served. For afternoon tea, cucumber-and-cream-cheese sandwiches are a favorite, followed by shortbread cookies, Irish tea cakes and Irish breads. High tea is always served with the dinner meal.

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