The Story of Bewley’s, an Irish Fave Tea

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Recently, Bewley’s tea appeared on our list of the 10 top teas for taking the chill out of November. This is a tea enjoyed by many, not just in Ireland, so sharing the story of Bewley’s seems a good idea at this point.

There was a time when tea was unknown on the “Emerald Isle” that we call Ireland. And then came people with entrepreneurial spirit who thought, “Hey, I think some tea would go over big here.” One of these people was Samuel Bewley, founder of what is now a top tea brand in not just Ireland but throughout the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Canada, and Japan (hey, they go nuts for Enya, so why not Bewley’s?).

Actually, tea was already somewhat known in Ireland by the time that Bewley and his son, Charles, decided to go into the tea business. There was just a monopoly in place by the East India Company on all tea imports. In 1835, the Bewleys, who were descended from a family of Quakers that had moved to Ireland from France in the 18th century, decided to bring in a shipload of chests full of tea directly from Canton, China, to Dublin. That turned out to be the least risky part of their venture. The biggest risk was if a wider portion of the Irish population would go for tea. They needn’t have feared. The Irish took to tea like the proverbial duck to water. Quack!

(Photo credit: Cup photo by A.C. Cargill, composite of other public domain and Bewley’s images, all rights reserved)
(Photo credit: Cup photo by A.C. Cargill, composite of other public domain and Bewley’s images, all rights reserved)

Thus, a tea dynasty was launched. It has grown ever since and now includes a tea line up of:

  • Dublin Morning
  • Irish Breakfast
  • Irish Afternoon
  • Original Blend (gold taste award winner 2010)
  • Gold Blend
  • Special Blend (gold taste award winner 2010)
  • Earl Grey
  • Darjeeling

For those of you sensitive even to the relatively low levels of caffeine in tea versus guayusa and coffee, most major tea brands have decaffeinated versions. Bewley’s is no exception (gold taste award winner 2010). Add to this a line of coffees.

Bewley’s Grafton Street Café – if you’re ever in Dublin, check it out! (Photo credit: From the Bewley’s site) [Hi, Bewley’s, want to sponsor this article? See our Sponsors page for more info.]
Bewley’s Grafton Street Café – if you’re ever in Dublin, check it out! (Photo credit: From the Bewley’s site) [Hi, Bewley’s, want to sponsor this article? See our Sponsors page for more info.]
They also have a fabulous café that opened in 1927 on Grafton Street in Dublin and would have cost €15 million if built today. It serves an extensive menu, from traditional breakfast items to pizzas for lunch, and of course lots of their teas. If you’re planning a trip there anytime soon, don’t miss ’em. Then, there are the hotels in Dublin at Newlands Cross, Ballsbridge, Leopardstown, and the Airport; and in the UK one at Manchester Airport with another in Leeds.

One thing that has helped Bewley’s Tea build their reputation, and thus grow as they have, is their attention to quality. They maintain close relations with the growers and select the best of the crop for their blends. The teas come from the Assam and Darjeeling regions of India, from Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), from China, and from Africa (including Rwanda and Kenya).

Most of their teas come bagged but some are available loose for us purists. Either way, steep up a potful and be transported with the first sip to the land of the leprechauns.

Their recommended method for preparing the perfect “cuppa”:

  • Boil fresh water and, once warmed, use a little of it to warm the teapot and also your cup.
  • Place teabags into the teapot (they recommend one teabag per cup but leave the exact number up to you).
  • When the water boils, add it to the teapot straight away, and let the leaves infuse for 3-5 minutes.
  • Remove the teabags, give the tea a quick stir, pour a cuppa, add milk if desired, sit back, sip, enjoy!

For the most part, I agree with the above. I find a bit of sweetener is also quite nice. Whatever way you like it, don’t miss out on the Irish tea classic. Enjoy!

© 2015 A.C. Cargill photos and text

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