Friday, March 18, 2011

Barry's Tea

      A few years ago I spent ten of the best days of my life on a very green island in the northeast Atlantic. The previous year had been hell, so it was a much needed change of pace.

      Here in the Midwest, we often don't see rain for weeks at a time during the summer. Where I live, a layer of concrete and blacktop coats thirty square miles of city and cooks its residue of engine oil and gasoline into the 95+ degree sky. Until it rains.

      So, waking up every morning to damp, cool air—in August—was a welcome jolt to the senses. The fresh, musty, earthy smell that follows a Kansas thunderstorm refreshes the mind in ways that even coffee and a great night's sleep can't. And, because it rains 300 days of the year, Ireland smells like that all the time.

      Maybe that had something to do with the effect my morning ritual had on me. My Irish best friend and I would munch on eggs and toast while we consulted the bus schedule or chatted with his family, wonderfully gracious hosts, all of them. And at the center of this was the tea.

      Barry's Tea is the Lipton of Irish teas; you find it everywhere. And the Irish know how to make tea.

      "You have to boil the water before you pour it in," my friend's mom told me on a slow afternoon at home. She did just that and then watched the teapot carefully for half a minute before fishing out the tea bags. Two steaming mugs were topped with milk and sugar and then—well, it was one of the best things I've ever tasted.

      I'm convinced that the tea even has near-magical restorative powers. One of the downsides to exploring an always-damp, green country is the fact that it wreaks hell on hay fever allergies, something I have in spades. The most brutal head cold in the world can't top severe allergies at their worst, yet somehow this tea can get the better of them, at least for a while. Drink it slowly, tilt your head back, and let the warmth soak into the roof of your mouth. It won't cure you completely, but at least it will make you feel human again, not unlike coming down from a splitting migraine to a dull headache.

      Several life-fulfilling adventures happened on that trip. My first castle. Racing high tide as we fled a rocky beach. My first train ride. Running down Dublin streets in the rain while wearing squelchy fuzzy blue slippers (a story for another time). But somehow my favorite memory always ends up being the quiet, companionable mornings I spent catching up with my very much missed friend...

      ...and drinking Barry's Tea.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

You told me this post was going to be good, but it's really spectacular. Thanks again for all your fabulous content!

If everyone I know didn't already want to go to Ireland, now they will.