Friday, March 13, 2009
Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with an Irish tea party
May the Leprechauns be near you
Samuel Johnson once said, “I am a hardened and shameless tea drinker.” I guess I am too. I no longer drink coffee, and it is a source of never ending frustration to me that restaurants that brew coffee do not also brew tea. The pallid, dusty remains of the leaves that come in tea bags are as insufficient to the achievement of a satisfying “cuppa” as instant coffee is to the achievement of a great cup of “joe.” On St. Patrick’s Day, a great “cuppa” with a hearty breakfast, a good scone or a piece of soda bread makes a comforting treat.
A traditional Irish breakfast usually consists of eggs, sausages (“bangers”), toast and jam, and sometimes kippers or some other kind of meat or fish. It can also include pancakes. One needs a good stout tea to stand up to this kind of breakfast. Irish breakfast teas, blended from Indian and Sri Lankan (Ceylon) black teas and produced by companies like Taylor and Harrogate, Harney and Sons and others, are made to complement such a breakfast, as well as the traditional corned-beef-and-cabbage supper. They are strong and hearty. Another good, vigorous tea for these meals is Harney and Sons’ Queen Catherine, a blend of black teas from three regions in China.
Online sources include www.teadog.com, www.uptontea.com and www.plymouthtea.com, all of which carry good loose teas with detailed descriptions of origins, aromas and flavor. Barry’s and Lyons teas, available in local grocery stores, are the Irish equivalent of Red Rose or Lipton here in America, but if you can manage to find the loose tea versions, they are better than average. If you really do not want to brew your own tea, the best for these meals is Yorkshire tea, which comes in bags but actually does have some flavor. Some of the newer tea “pouches,” produced by companies like Mighty Leaf, contain small tea leaves rather than ground tea, and so are even better than the usual bags.
Afternoon tea, of course, demands something a little different. Darjeeling tea from India and Jasmine from China are popular choices. These teas are lighter, a little sweeter and spicier, and pair well with the small sandwiches, scones, slices of soda bread, jams and cakes that are part of the afternoon tea ritual. A smokier variety like Earl Grey can provide a flavorful contrast to these foods, but the heavier smoky blends, like Lapsang Souchong, can overpower them and are best left, I think, to an after dinner savory like cheese and grapes.
Once you have chosen the right tea, invite over some good friends (whether they are Irish or not), offer the goodies listed below and celebrate the fact that Spring begins three days after St. Patrick’s Day.∆
Use thin cucumbers with undersized seeds. Peel, score, and thinly slice the cucumbers, salt and let sit. Meanwhile, thinly slice fresh homemade bread; cut into 2 to 4 inch rounds with cookie cutter. Drain cucumbers and pat dry. Lightly spread bread with mayonnaise, top with cucumbers, and sprinkle lightly with grated red onion. Serve as is or covered with a second round of bread. Can be refrigerated for a while, covered with wax paper.
© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito