Tea, Embedded in Irish Culture

After seeing tea, or the Camellia sinensis plant, in the Poison Garden at Blarney Castle (see previous post), I found it reassuringly in one of the lovely glasshouses in Dublin’s National Botanic Gardens,

National Botanic Gardens, Dublin

with a decidedly non-toxic description that touts its popularity and its role in hospitality.

Info on tea, National Botanic Gardens, Dublin
Although Camellia sinensis itself seems a pretty pedestrian plant,

tea plants

the beverage is entwined with Irish culture, and we found tea, milk, and sugar (okay, and instant coffee) in our hotel rooms (along with a reminder on the 100% Rainforest Alliance Certified teabag to boil only the amount of water needed):

at our Airbnb:

tea party vignette

on windows (teacup—”Here’s looking at brew”; teapot—”Nothing to tea here”):

in tea shops (pictured here is Cupãn Tae, which serves and sells its own blends of loose leaf tea):

Cupan tae tea shop

and on the airplane as part of Afternoon Tea:

Afternoon tea box

The Irish drink a lot of tea, coming in per capita second only to Turkey. Milk is generally added to the tea—a carryover tradition from the late 1700s–early 1800s when most people could afford only cheap tea so compensated by brewing the tea very strong and then adding fresh milk to make it palatable. Today, a small pitcher of milk will be found on many restaurant tables, although the tea is generally teabag and not loose leaf.

And in a lovely country that is often chilly, often rainy, often windy, a bracing hot cup of tea is perfect any time of day or night.irish-tea-montage-web


Tea in the Poison Garden

Tea. In the Poison Garden. In Ireland, land of tea drinkers.

Apparently recklessly risking their lives, in 2016 the Irish drank more tea per capita than any other country except Turkey!

Skull and crossbones on Camellia sinensis tea sign

So after being taken aback by the skull and crossbones, I did read the rest of the sign:

The ‘cup that cheers but not inebriates’ turns out to contain a highly addictive substance, caffeine, withdrawal of which results in a variety of unpleasant effects.

Contains caffeine and tannin. Caffeine is addictive; five cups a day are said to be sufficient to produce addiction. Withdrawal or reduced usage after excessive consumptions [sic] leads to dizziness, headaches, constipation, indigestion, palpitations and insomnia.

Camellia sinensis info sign

Well, okay, true enough.

But the sign continues:

The effects of caffeine addiction are, often, underestimated because it [sic] challenges the general view of what being an ‘addict’ means. But the physical affects [sic] of caffeine withdrawal are well documented and can be similar to withdrawal from tobacco or heroin.

Okay, aside from the grammar errors, I have issues with the information because, well—really?

Caffeine addiction can be equated to heroin addiction? I seriously think not.

I get that caffeine is addictive, and that it is a drug that happens to be legal. And I know that high levels of caffeine can be dangerous. But while a drink like Ammo apparently has around 171 mg of caffeine per ounce, tea has a paltry 3–6 mg of caffeine per ounce!

Maybe if you ate an entire tea plant? Daily?

tea plant

Okay, maybe I am overreacting. After all, the Poison Garden (which, granted, did contain some deadly plants) was located in Blarney Castle. Which was built in 1446.

But tea didn’t make it to Ireland until the 1800s.

Perhaps a tad bit of blarney here?

Click here to read my previous post, which introduced this poisonous plot. . . .

Next up: a look at what the rest of Ireland has to say about tea. . . .

Sources: (1) “Annual per capita tea consumption worldwide as of 2016, by leading countries (in pounds),” Statista; (2) “Ammo Energy Shot,” Caffeineinformer.


Ireland and Its (poisonous!?) Tea

Returning home from a great vacation really sorta sucks.

You can hold reality at bay only for so long before you have to face the dirty-clothes-filled suitcase, piles of junk mail, overgrown lawn, skunk-sprayed dog.

I wanna be back here, in Ireland,

—where light posts sprout shamrocks—


—bespoke sweaters are all the rage—


—mystery enchants—


—extreme beauty astounds—


—rugged stone walls confound—


—and, of course, poisonous tea abounds—


(Not to worry—all will be explained!)

The 2017 Eclipse, with Tea


This is going to be incredible!

So pick a spot where you can witness this spectacular sight. Sadly, if you, like me, are here in Michigan—where the forecast just around the time of the eclipse is for clouds and rain—find a pub instead. . . .

But for all you lucky non-Michiganders, enjoy a cup of the green tea classic Himalaya VIEW while you are staking out your site.


Next you want to look up (with your NASA-approved glasses only!), sipping TEMPLE OF HEAVEN, the finest of the green gunpowder teas, for a premier celestial event.


As you see the moon move into position, savor some Oriental MOON, a black aroma tea that is as exotic as the event you are experiencing.


Eventually the moon will appear centered in front of the sun, like a DARK PEARL. The exquisiteness of this oolong mirrors that of the sight before you.


The sun, a fiery star, hidden behind our humble moon. It is changed, its power seemingly blunted. Perhaps a subtle white tea, Strawberry STARfruit, reminding us that this is only an illusion.


Day and night interchange for a moment, confusing birds, frogs, us. Reality suspends, enchantment enfolds. Honor this moment, drink in this magic. With the only possible choice: Arabian DAYS and Arabian NIGHTS.


A profound phenomenon, ENLIGHTENMENT.


Note: All teas shown here are available at TeaHaus!

Loose Leaf Tea in an Art Museum Exhibit

Loose leaf tea in an art museum? Unexpected perhaps, but tea—along with its ware and ceremony—has been integral to Western culture for hundreds of years and to Asian culture for thousands!

Currently, TeaHaus loose leaf tea is part of an ongoing exhibit, Elegance from the East: New Insights into Old Porcelain, at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, providing visitors the opportunity to  see and smell teas that are similar to what 17th-century Europeans would have been drinking.

Here, curator and scholar Shirley M. Mueller pulls together seemingly disparate strands—the porcelain trade, the neuroscience of collecting beautiful items, miscommunications between cultures, art, and tea—into a compelling narrative!


(Video provided by Shirley M. Mueller)

Teas shown in video are available at teahaus.com.

For more on Shirley’s exhibit, see my previous blogs:
Tea, Porcelain, and Our Brains—yes, there IS a connection here!
Women and Tea: Making It Their Own
Miscommunication and Mistakes, Fired into 18th-century Teapots and Plates
How Old Is That Teapot? Using Art to Date and Interpret Art  
A 1644 Shipwreck and Its Teapots
“Modern” Teapots in a 1700s’ Shipwreck    
The Valuable Tea Protected the Porcelain after This Ship Sank in 1752

Still Enjoying Tea at the Art Fair!

  • comfortable shoes?  √
  • sunscreen?  √
  • a lot of time?  √

Then you are ready for the Ann Arbor Art Fairs—because I guarantee you will (1) walk for hours, (2) see a staggering amount of amazing artwork, and (3) meet some incredibly creative artists who love what they do!

So, as a continuation of my last post (tap here to see), I bring you more tea-inspired artwork.



Valentine Studios, Jack Valentine (jackvalentinestudio.com)


Tree of Life Art Works, by Kim and Katherine McClelland (treeoflifeartworks.com)



River Turnings, by Cliff Lounsbury (riverturnings.com)



o happy clay! by Peggy Crago (pcragopottery.com)


Eshelman Pottery, by Paul and Laurel Eshelman (eshelmanpottery.com)



Nancy Gardner Ceramics (nancygardnerceramics.com)



Delores Fortuna (twentydirtyhands.com/delores-fortuna)

Note: All photos used with permission of the artists. Feature photo of teapot, wood, by Cliff Lounsbury (River Turnings).

Enjoying Tea at the Art Fairs

Unbearably hot and humid + storm clouds looming = Ann Arbor Art Fairs week

Because—as we annually lament—Michigan weather always seems to be at its very worst for this annual event!

And the art fairs (four of them, running simultaneously) are not taken lightly here. One of the nation’s largest outdoor fairs, this four-day event features over a thousand artists and crowds of people.

Yesterday my daughters and I hunted out tea-inspired artwork. We had a great time, talking with amazing artists who are passionate about what they do, and seeing incredible art ranging from whimsical to elegant.

Enjoy this sampling!


Rebecca Lowery Ceramics (rebeccalowery.etsy.com)



Stephen Rich Nelson (www.stephenrichnelson.com)


Highers Pottery Studio, Stan H. Baker (Higherspottery.com)


Sheep Incognito by Conni Togel (www.charisma-art.com)

brownlee-2-web brownlee-1-web

Ed Brownlee, Ceramics


Dunnmorr Sudio, Robin Morris (www.dunnmorrstudio.com)


Little Wolf Ceramics, Valerie Walchek (www.instagram.com/littlewolfceramics)

Note: All photos used with permission of the artists. Featured photo taken by Rebecca Lowery.