Irish Tea Traditions
By Brenda Hyde


Ireland is the largest tea consumer per capita than any country in the world. They take their tea VERY seriously! You won't find a convention, work meeting or other event that does not allow for a morning or afternoon tea break on the schedule! The slang for tea is "cha" in Ireland and the rich and poor alike love tea time.

Tea was first imported to Ireland in 1835 where it became popular with the wealthy crowd, but it wasn't until later in the mid 1800s that it spread to the rural people and all of Ireland was hooked. Small grocers were opened in the towns and villages and they started exchanging butter and eggs for tea and sugar.

In Gaelic "cupan tae" mean cup of tea, and the Irish make it a strong cup. Irish tea is blended to be mixed with a lot of rich milk-up to 1/3 of the cup for some. The custom is to add the milk to the tea cup first, then pour in the tea. Irish breakfast tea is often a strong blend of Assam and Ceylon and most people would only drink it for breakfast, though the Irish love it strong and would use this blend all day long. Even during the traditional Irish wake, after a family member has passed away, it's expected that a pot would be continously boiling to make tea for company.

Irish tea is served generally three times a day; 11:00 in the morning, 3:00-5:00 for afternoon tea and a high tea at 6:00 pm, serving as the evening meal. Many think of high tea as formal or fancy, but it's actually a working man's tea that serves as a meal. Afternoon tea is the more "fancy" of the three teas-the one with scones, breads, jam, curds and other dainties.

Irish Shortbread

(8 ounces)1 cup butter
(4 ounces) 1/2 cup caster sugar (superfine/baking sugar)
(8 ounces) 1 cup all-purpose flour
(2 ounces) 1/4 cup cornstarch

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the flour and cornstarch. Roll out and cut into squares or rounds and bake in a slow (300 degree) oven until done.

Another dessert for tea...

Chocolate Potato Cake

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
2/3 cup caster (fine) sugar
2 oz. plain chocolate, melted or 4 level tablespoons cocoa
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup cooked mashed potato
1/2 cup butter
4 tablespoons milk
2 eggs

Cream the butter and sugar with the mashed potato, then add the melted chocolate or the cocoa. Add the beaten eggs, alternately with the flour and the salt. Finally pour in the milk, mixing well, to make a soft dough. Well grease two 8 inch cake pans and divide batter equally between them. Bake at 350 degrees oven for 25-30 minutes. The top springy to the touch when done. Cool for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. Frost with whipped cream or desired frosting.

Sultana Scones

1 cup white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 pound butter, softened
2 ounces sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 ounces milk
handful of sultanas (golden raisins)

Sift flour and baking powder. Add butter, blending until mixture is butter-colored. Add sugar and continue to mix well. Add half the beaten egg and all the milk. Add raisins, mixing well to make a sticky dough. Turn dough onto floured board and knead at least 5 minutes. Flatten the dough and cut into rounds. Place on greased baking sheet or hot frying pan. Brush tops of scones with remainder of beaten egg. (I sprinkle with white sugar) Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. You can cook over a gas flame or open fire using the hot skillet. Place scones in pan and cook 7-8 minutes. Turn and repeat. This is a more traditional method than baking.

Drop Tea Scones

2 cups all purpose flour
1 level teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 level tablespoon caster sugar (superfine/baking sugar)
1 level tablespoon golden syrup or corn syrup
1 egg
1/4 pint milk

Sift the flour, soda, cream of tartar and salt into a bowl. Add the sugar. Beat in the syrup, egg and milk to form a smooth batter. preheat a lightly greased griddle or thick frying pan. Drop medium spoons full of the mixture and cook at medium heat until bubbles appear-much like cooking a pancake. Turn and cook on the other side. Remove and place in a clean tea towel or cloth until ready to serve. Serve with butter, honey or jam. Makes 15.

Irish Herb Scones

1/2 pound potatoes
4 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1/4 teaspoon savory
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
1/4 teaspoon powdered sage
Oil for frying

Boil the potatoes, then pass through a food mill. Mix the flour, salt, oil and herbs with the potatoes. On a floured board, roll this dough to a thickness of about 1/4-inch. Cut the dough into triangles 3 or 4 inches wide. Fry in very hot oil on both sides until light golden.


From Brenda Hyde, owner of Old Fashioned Visit her for more tips, recipes and crafts. Sign up for her free newsletters here: