Are you a tea or coffee person? Me, like most Irish people, I’m definitely a tea person. You just can’t beat a “cup a’ tay”.
Yes, I know there are Irish people out there who drink coffee and love it, and I am partial to to odd cup of good coffee myself. But coffee has a long way to go to replace tea in Irish hearts. What do you think inspired Mrs Doyle and her “Go on, go on, go on.” in Fr. Ted?
Whatever event happens in life, an Irish person will offer you a cup of tea.
There’s the “Welcome! It’s great to have you home again.” cup of tea for the emmigrant just arrived from the airport, home on holidays. If this is a family member who hasn’t been home for a long time, they will be given tea in the ‘good cup’ first time around. After that they will be served the same mugs as everyone else. If it is an emmigrant who returns home regularly then it’s straight to the mug.
Then we have the “Wait till you hear this” cup of tea for sharing news and gossip. While the kettle is busy boiling, the room is cleared of children and any other unwelcome intruders who are not allowed to hear the big news. This cup of tea is usually accompanied by whispered voices with sometimes audible gasps of shock or peals of laughter – depending on the topic of conversation. It is also often followed swiftly by a second cup if the news is serious or juicy enough.
There’s also the “Oh You Poor Thing” cup of tea. For the friend or family member who has been through a trauma or bad time. This cup is served with orders to “Sit at the table and get that into you.” It is accompanied by food, something to “keep you going”, maybe cake (preferably homemade), or sandwiches if it’s going to be a long day. Talk will be kept to a minimum. You are being given tea and sustenance with some peace and quiet. This cup of tea is served with love to give you strength.
The “Thank you for being here” cup of tea is the one served to large gatherings. Births, Christenings, Graduations, School Fairs, Festivals or Funerals. There is usually a group charged with making and serving the tea. They will ensure there are enough cups, spoons, milk, sugar, teabags and boiling water to go round. The women in charge may make a small gesture of goodwill to the few “yokes who drink coffee” by leaving a jar of instant coffee on a table somewhere.
My final one is the “I’m All Grown Up Now” cup of tea. My girls always got great fun out of their little tea-sets. For years they servied imaginary tea to dolls, teddy bears and any random human that passed by. But girls especially can’t wait for that first real cup of milky tea served in an adult cup or mug. They sit there trying to look all grown up but unable to contain their delight at finally being “grown up” at last.
Oh no, they are growing up. Someone pass me an “Oh Your Poor Thing” cup of tea. Quickly!