Thursday, March 15, 2012

Emigration, Care Packages & Irish Tea

Seeing as how this weekend is the weekend it is. I figured it would be important to do homage to my home  & to the tea I drink the most. The stuff I love! The stuff of lazy afternoons reading good books or chatting with friends. The black stuff that isn't Guinness. In short this post pays homage to strong black Irish Tea.

Imagine my delight this week when I arrived home to find a large brown envelope :) sitting outside my door.  It contained the essentials for survival as an Irish person abroad; a tin of Cadbury's hot chocolate with a bag of marshmallows on the side, a small gift  and most importantly a box of Barry's tea. 

Now I have lived abroad before and have learned the all important American  term "Care Package". Interestingly enough according to Wikipedia  CARE package  was the original unit of aid distributed by the humanitarian organization CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere).  This has since become know to me as a way to send someone something from home that they are missing in order to ease any of the following; a serious bout of homesickness, cravings for sweets you haven't eaten since you were a child and an uncontrollable desire to read  anything written in your native language that wasn't bought from or isn't available on the Internet. 

Also I have received Care Packages from friends I have met abroad when I had returned home. Most of my really nice green tea has come to me via a good friend of mine still living in Japan. This is doubly awesome as it reinforces a nostalgia for all the new & wonderful experiences you had in a country different to your own.  

However there is a difference of course between leaving to live abroad in a country because you want to experience a new culture & emigrating. Ireland is a country that has suffered way too much from emigration. It is a terribly sad fact of Irish history that a large proportion of its people now live abroad. The history of the  Irish abroad is fascinating & way too long a story to go into fully here but in a nutshell it has defined what it means to be Irish in many ways. 

I remember as a child writing essays on emigration. When the Celtic Tiger got into full swing I was still in secondary school & college, watching the essay topics change to immigration. Sadly those essays on emigration came in handy in the end. 

Nowadays Emigration is not the death sentence it was as regards your connection to your home. Phones, email, cheap plane flights and the internet have made it easier then ever to stay in touch. Plus I think in my case anyway I definately think I will return home. Still nothing beats a care package & mine would not be complete without a box of Barry's.
So here is the run down of two of the Irish teas described by the Irish Times this week.

There are two main rivals in the market as regards tea in Ireland and they are of course Barry's Tea & Lyon's Tea. Most people stick by one or the other but I personally like them both. Both are blended black teas. Both have a wonderful golden colour when brewed correctly & both have a strong flavour. They are what I reach for when I want to function in the morning. According to the Irish Times &  Barry's website the teas used in their blend come from the Assam Valley of India, Kenya and Rwanda. According to their website, Lyon's teas are "grown in plantations all over the world, in countries like Kenya & Indonesia". 

Both companies were founded at the turn of the last century, one in Cork & one in Dublin. By their own reckoning Barry's has cornered about  40% of all tea sales in Ireland with the Irish market being worth about  €78 million (not bad for a country of approx 4million). In short Irish people drink a hell of a lot of tea so if you really want to do something Irish on Paddy's day enjoy a nice cuppa inbetween your whiskeys :P 

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