June 13, 2024

Tolkien’s hobbits probably eat about seven meals a day. Between breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner and supper, the hobbits are constantly eating. The Irish are the same way with tea and coffee.
While people generally think of the English as the ones who have tea and coffee all the time, the Irish are just as guilty of this hot drink obsession. After every meal, whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner, Irish waiters ask their customers if they want coffee or tea. Professors give us tea breaks halfway through class (granted, each session lasts almost three hours) and at any time of the day, you can find cafés clogged with patrons enjoying their liquid joy. Tea and coffee anytime. At breakfast. After breakfast. Mid-morning. After lunch. In the afternoon. After dinner. In the evening. People here drink tea like water and coffee…well, just as much as Americans do.
I personally don’t partake much in this custom. I’ve never liked coffee, and tea gives me headaches, so I stick to my water – a good idea, considering the amount of walking I do on a daily basis. However, I have gotten used to the idea of several tea times throughout the day. To me, this means a moment for a mental break, a time to calm down and clear my thoughts. I find it entirely relaxing to sit down with a scone and jam and let the world pass by, even if for just a few moments.
The amount of coffee shops in Dublin attests to this Irish love. I can’t walk far in this city without being more than a couple minutes from a café. In fact, every museum, library, large shop and castle has one attached to it, as if the city is encouraging you to take a tea break.
In my opinion, this is something we don’t do enough of in America. More than anything, the tea and coffee tradition reflects Ireland’s tendency to take things just a little slower. The joke in Ireland is that if someone tells you they’re 20 minutes away, that could actually mean five minutes or 50. Whenever I take the bus, I make sure to get to the bus stop early and plan time in case the bus is late. The sense of urgency that Americans have towards time simply doesn’t exist on this island. People feel content to take it slow, keep it easy and lose the stress.
By now, I’ve gotten used to the mental breaks throughout the day. Breaks for tea and coffee — or, in my case, a good scone — gives me the chance to sit back from the day and watch the city go by. So maybe the next time you’re feeling stressed, you should stop, take a minute, and make yourself some tea.

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