When I was attending Concordia University in Montreal, I worked for The School of Irish Studies. Tea was a big deal in this department and several of the Irish professors introduced me to Barry’s Tea gold blend. The staff kitchenette was never low on Barry’s Tea. To me, this tea tasted very bitter. I always had it as a last resort tea if I forgot to bring my own stash of other teas. I once mentioned to one of the Irish professors that I wasn’t too keen on it. She responded as if not surprised with my remark, “It’s an acquired taste. Try it with milk.” As a vegan, I wasn’t going to try it with milk, but I continued to have Barry’s Tea as a last resort.
Having grown up in a rural area of Ontario, Canada that is deep in Western Europe roots, to me, tea was always associated with the Brits. “Would you like a cup of tea?” As a child, I could never say that question without pretending to be British. So, I was recently surprised to learn that neither England nor Ireland have the most tea drinkers globally. In fact, it is Turkey!
Now that I have started a tea business, I am constantly tasting new teas and adding my own something to existing flavours. Today I decided to taste test an organic English breakfast and an organic Irish breakfast tea back-to-back. Typically, I have had Irish breakfast tea bags, and not loose leaf. Today, I was able to get a good look at what Irish breakfast looks like before seeping. The sample I received was finely ground and it was browner than the English breakfast tea. Not a familiar sight for someone who has been taste tasting a lot of Earl Grey varieties in the past few days.
The English breakfast tea was more my style with a smoother and flavourful taste. The Irish tea was bitter with its malt taste that comes from India’s Assam leaves (English teas are typically made from Ceylon leaves imported from Sri Lanka). Sipping on the Irish breakfast, I was brought back to the university and could hear the professor’s voice, with her Irish accent, remind me that it was an acquired taste.
I like to drink my tea “black,” with nothing added, but it’s understandable why most people will add milk and sugar to their Irish breakfast tea; it softens the full-bodied malt-like flavour.
Whichever one you chose to drink, sip it slow, enjoy the flavours and if you have a chance, taste test both and see how you compare the two. Have fun!