First, my apologies for the title and the awkward English (“had had”), but it was the best way to express how tea could have changed history in Ireland. Not to mention our modern day celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day here in the U.S.
Patrick (Patricius) was a Romanized Gaul living in what is now England. The savage Celts in what is now Ireland would raid England and take captives as slaves. Patrick was captured and became a slave assigned to watch the flocks of goats and sheep of his master, one of the kings of Ireland. This was around 425 A.D. and his enslavement went on for about 6 years. In 432 A.D., he escaped and began his journey to convert the Celts from their savagery, with quite a bit of success. He is responsible, directly and indirectly, for the establishment of monasteries where hundreds of documents from the defunct Roman Empire were brought and copied, with illustrations added for an aesthetic touch. Ironically, centuries later, Vikings found these monasteries to be easy pickings for raids.
Tea didn’t get introduced to Ireland until it had first come to England in the 1600s. By then, ale (an early form of beer) had become a commonplace drink, served at pubs throughout the land. Along the way, a day had been set aside to celebrate Patrick, who had been made a Saint. Somehow, celebrating St. Patrick and excessively imbibing in beer became linked in people’s minds in Ireland (not that they need much of an excuse to drink beer and other beverages such as whisky). In the U.S., St. Patrick’s day is an occasion to wear green clothing (symbolizing not one religion or another, but the green that is that wondrous isle), hang out in pubs and bars, hold parades, dye rivers green, watch movies about leprechauns, etc.
So, how would things have been if tea had been around in St. Patrick’s time? Well, things might have been a bit more civilized in Ireland, with the various tribal kings sharing tea instead of slaying each other. Of course, they might not have raided England in the first place and taken Patrick captive, but if they had, he could have become tea master to the Irish kings instead of tending flocks out in the cold and wind and rain.
That would mean we’d be celebrating a “Patrick the Tea Master” day instead of a St. Patrick day. This would involve massive tea parties, including dying rivers the color of a nice cuppa tea and throwing lemon slices, rosebuds, or other flavorings into it. The leprechauns would be guarding caches of tea instead of pots of gold, since the tea would be as valuable as gold. Movies would be about how tea was at the end of the rainbow and the bringer of all good things to life.
Well, that’s my theory, at least.
This St. Patrick’s day, dye your tea green (or just steep a green tea) and toast the land of Blarney: Ireland!