May you always have walls for the winds,
a roof for the rain, tea beside the fire,
laughter to cheer you, those you love near you,
and all your heart might desire.
This St. Patrick’s Day, if you truly want to feel a bit o’ the Irish, set down your pint of Guinness and raise a “cupán tae” (“cup of tea” in Gaelic) to your lips instead.
Somewhat surprisingly, Ireland is the largest tea consumer, per capita, of any country in the world. Their favorite brew is Irish breakfast tea, a strong blend of Assam and Ceylon teas, and is traditionally served with milk. And while they may call it Irish Breakfast, their tea of choice isn’t only served at breakfast. It is said that in every Irish household a pot of tea is brewing from morning until night, and even an Irish wake serves tea before anything else.
Like in the United Kingdom, tea in Ireland is a social tradition which has been upheld through generations. Tea was first imported through Britain to Ireland in 1835 where it became popular with the upper crust. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s when the Irish began importing their own tea from China that its popularity spread to rural residents. Small grocers opened in towns and villages and began exchanging butter and eggs for tea and sugar.
So this March 17th, when honoring St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, fill your pot with a cup of strong tea to accompany a serving of Irish soda bread, butter and jam. On St. Patrick’s Day everyone is Irish!
Traditional Irish Soda Bread
(courtesy of bakingbites.com)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 – 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350° F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients and stir together. Add buttermilk and mix with a large spoon (or with your hands, shaping your fingers into a “claw”) until the dough comes together. You might need two tablespoons more or less buttermilk depending on the weather. The dough should be moist, but not so sticky it is very hard to handle.
Shape into a round and place on baking sheet. Cut an X into the top with a sharp knife and bake for about 45 minutes, until dark golden. A toothpick will come out clean. Cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before slicing.
This bread is best served soon after baking. Serve with butter and/or jam and tea!