One of the most civilized things to come out of Ireland is Barry’s Tea. Funny that Thomas Cahill didn’t mention this in his book How the Irish Saved Civilization. He talks about the monks laboriously copying old Greek and Latin writings, preserving the ideas of great minds like Aristotle for future generations. However, a good cup of Barry’s Tea plays its part today and has a very inspiring effect. Ideas start popping into my brain as the first drop hits my tongue, and they grow more fantastic as that caramelly goodness envelops my tastebuds.
The story of Barry’s Tea doesn’t go back all the way to those monks in the days after the Roman Empire had fallen into decline. Even so, Barry’s is a tea company with quite a history behind it. Starting at the beginning of the 20th century (1901) and going strong today, they made tea drinking commonplace not only in Ireland but in the U.S. and other countries. Founder James J. Barry, grandfather of the present chairman Peter Barry, set up his first retail shop in Cork City on Bridge Street. The original tea blend was Indian and Ceylon. Ten years after that first shop opened, a second shop was opened on Princes Street and nine years later was focused solely on blending teas. An emphasis on quality garnered awards and a growing market share.
In the 1960s, Peter Barry began incorporating teas from East Africa into the blends, with very positive response from customers. In fact, in 1967 Barry’s had to expand its facilities for blending, packing, and wholesaling teas to keep up with the growing demand. (Success has its price.) Automated packing helped, but they made sure that the quality of their tea blends remained high.
Barry’s Tea is in four of every 10 cups of tea served in Ireland today. One reason is that they have expanded beyond their starting blend into a more varied tea line.
The Classic Blend is still around. It’s joined by their Gold Blend (a personal favorite), their Irish Breakfast Blend (Kenyan and Assam), their own version of Earl Grey with Chinese black teas mixing with oil of Bergamot, decaf blends, Chamomile Herbal, and two new arrivals (a rooibos and a pu-erh). Their South African Rooibos is a healthy and naturally caffeine free herbal infusion. And by dipping their toes into the growing pu-erh market, a tea that is rich in antioxidants and growing in demand, Barry’s is definitely keeping up with the times.
Barry’s Tea has fans ranging far and wide, including guitarist Adam Clayton of the Irish band U2. He carries the tea with him to assure he always has on hand a tea he loves. Sounds very sensible.
Breakfast blends are quite popular in many parts of the world and are gaining over coffee here in the U.S. It’s a market that is getting more and more crowded, but Barry’s Tea seems to be staying ahead of the pack here as well as in Ireland. Try a potful with your crispy bacon, eggs over easy, and buttered toast. Of course, it also goes well with yogurt, fresh fruit, and a fat-free bran muffin. Yum!
Tea Time with A.C. Cargill: Saving Civilization one Post at a Time.