Isn’t that cuppa just Tea-rrific?

Adam Balchin’s guide to the nation’s favourite hot beverage

If there’s one thing the Irish can coalesce around, it’s tea. Some might even argue that it’s the true elixir of life, not whiskey, as the Gaelige word may suggest. It’s no surprise the Irish love tea. In fact, we as a nation adore tea so much we are the country with the second highest consumption of tea per capita. Second only to Turkey, and one above the UK. You heard me right.

While we may share a certain affinity for a good cuppa, there’s been more debates on the subject than debates in the Dáil.”

While we may share a certain affinity for a good cuppa, there’s been more debates on the subject than debates in the Dáil. What’s the perfect mug? What temperature? How long to steep? A little sweetness or none at all? Ever try those herbal teas? Today, we’ll try to get to the bottom of a mug (or three), solve the herbal hitch, and come to a tea-ry conclusion over what you should be doing to get yourself through universi-tea!

As Neil Gaiman once noted: “Honestly, if you’re given the choice between Armageddon or tea, you don’t ask, ‘what type of tea?’”

Cupán Hey!

We all know that much like its lesser, energising cousin (sorry coffee-lovers), tea preparation is an art unto itself. Even before you start to get the kettle ready, you’re faced with a flurry of decisions. What mug? Teabag or tea leaves? Singular cup, or are we breaking out the old handle and stout?

Now personally, I’m meticulous when it comes to my hot drinks. Working in cafes does that to a person. My mug must always be just the right size to fit my favourite accompaniment on top: a stroopwafel. For those uninitiated, these delights are caramel waffles that, if left to sit on the rim of a hot cup of tea, will melt into a gooey, euphoric alternative to your classic digestive or three. Not only that, they’ll also trap the steam, thus resulting in a mug of tea that’s still at the right temperature, or 57 degrees Celsius, for the scrupulous among us.

Others will choose a mug that fits their drinking habits. A more open rim and narrower bottom leaves room for less tea, but faster consumption. A broader, more barrel-shaped mug will suit those who couldn’t care less about time or their daily consumption levels.

If you’re a real aficionado for the nation’s preferred beverage, then tea leaves are your bread and butter.”

Now you’ve got your mug sorted. It’s time for the tea leaves or tea bags debate. If you’re a real aficionado for the nation’s preferred beverage, then tea leaves are your bread and butter. If, like for the rest of us, a diffuser is too much effort, a teabag will suffice. Again, in my opinion, there’s everything to enjoy about pouring straight from the leaf. Unfortunately, I left mine at home.

Stay one steep ahead.

Once the water’s piping hot, pouring is your goal. When that’s all said and done, your next set of choices awaits. First and foremost however, how long do you steep for? I’ll advise here. Do not, and I stress this, immediately dump that tea bag in the bin. Steeping tea is a practice so integral to the process that without it, you may as well be drinking hot water and milk together. Personally, it’s a solid three minutes for me. Others may opt for more or less, but I find three minutes retains temperature and allows the tea to actually steep into…tea. So pour your brew, let it sit, finish procrastinating, and toss that soggy tea bag. 

Thé.. au lait? Con azúcar?

Now, I’m not one to judge, but do I really need to recite the reasons why having your tea without milk is by no means as cool as having your black coffee? Coffee, it was meant to be consumed without it. Tea? Just, no. At least that’s my view. Of course, don’t dump any other liquid into your assorted herbal tea, lest you want a strange mixture of semi-skimmed and chamomile.

On a lighter note, use milk at your leisure. A little, a lot, it’s all personal preference. Tea, after all, is a concoction of what you think makes the perfect cuppa. Nevertheless, should you decide to have your tea sans milk, well, expect a heap of praise from me.

Sugar sugar, the world’s new drug. Whether you’ve a sweet tooth, or just prefer a kick out of your morning sip, I firmly believe a teaspoon or so will go a long way in waking the mind up. Personally, I’ve weaned myself off it going in the mug, but know it can do wonders for the early birds among us.

The Herbal Hitch

I often relate the herbal tea market to the sense of wonder I experienced when I went to Hamleys’ 101 ice-cream flavours in London. The sheer breadth and scope of what can go inside a little tea bag is astounding. Aside from their obvious health benefits, certain herbal teas, from experience, can assist with resting in the evening, give you a certain adrenaline kick or just ease the mind and rid it of stress. Some types to try for yourself include Chamomile (great for restless sleepers), Peppermint (for all the decafs out there!) and Hibiscus (for when college is stressful.)

Given the culture that has developed around this weird and wonderful industry, it’s easy to see why people can’t keep their hands off the stuff. It’s tea, but for the 21st centur-tea! (that one was a stretch.)

 

No matter what avenue you follow or what herbal tea you’ve gotten hooked on, the nation’s favourite beverage brings debate, chatter, and most of all, varie-tea!”

Tea-ry Conclusion

It’s easy to see how this great nation of ours has been consumed by discussions around our favourite drink. With so many questions and so many choices to make, one can get buried under all of the swirling opinions. Lucky for you, my perfect recipe is below, and while you might scoff at the idea of a recipe for tea, I’m almost certain it’s replaced water for me. No matter what avenue you follow or what herbal tea you’ve gotten hooked on, the nation’s favourite beverage brings debate, chatter, and most of all, varie-tea!

 

 

Recipe: (Adam’s tried and true)

1 mug (ideally open rim, narrow bottom)

1 tea bag (Barry’s, Lyons, or whatever’s in stock!)

225ml water, boiled.

5ml of your preferred milk(semi-skimmed, full fat, low fat, almond, soya etc!)

(optional) 1tsp of brown sugar

(optional)1 caramel stroopwafel