“Will you have a cup of tea?”,
You cannot go into any house in Ireland,
without being asked this question.
Anyone who has watched the comedy Father Ted,
will have laughed at the character Mrs Doyle,
and her fixation with tea.
“Ah go on, go on, go on”, she repeatedly says,
when anyone refuses.
What you may not know,
is that this is not far from the truth,
for anyone being offered a cup of tea in Ireland.
I was having a cuppa today,
and it came to my mind,
what happens in other countries?
Do others have a similar tradition?
Over here a cup of tea,
is synonymous with chat, gossip and friendship.
It is offered in good times and bad.
However there is a certain etiquette,
surrounding the offering and acceptance of a cuppa.
It would be way too simple to just say “yes please”, if asked.
Firstly the host will say,
“Would you like a cup of tea?”.
You reply, “Ah no thank you, I’m grand”.
“Are you sure?”, the host asks again.
“yes positive, but thanks anyway” you reply once more.
Then you chat awhile,
as the host fills and boils the kettle.
Once boiled the host again inquires,
“Are you sure you wouldn’t like a cuppa?”.
This time you pause,
and give the question good consideration,
before once again replying,
“No but thanks anyway, I must be heading away shortly”.
The minutes tick by and the chatting continues.
Once again the kettle is boiled,
and the host this time says,
“Well I’m having a cuppa,
are you sure you wont join me?”.
Without any hesitation on this occasion, you reply,
“Oh go on so, sure I might as well”.
At this point you settle down,
no question of rushing away,
and you both enjoy a cup of tea and a long chat.
The “cup of tea” is an age old tradition in this country.
It can be seen in every house,
in every county.
As a child you wonder at how much tea adults consume.
But as an adult you know,
the cup of tea is code for,
“Can I help?”,
“Wait til I tell you the news!”,
Or “Sit down, my friend I’m here for you”.
So if you have Irish friends,
and you offer them a beverage,
be mindful of this tradition,
and make sure to ignore their first answer,
and offer again, and maybe even again!
photo credit: dullhunk via photopin cc
photo credit: Rayani Melo via photopin cc
30 thoughts on “The truth behind a cup of tea.”
Sadly, most Americans don’t speak to their neighbors much anymore. We converse in my house over a cold beer, but I’ll admit that when I offer a guest one, I’m almost always hoping he or she declines unless I’m really well stocked.
We’re far too friendly (nosy) to ignore our neighbors! I mightn’t be so generous either if it wasn’t just a tea bag.
In our house it’s either an offering of Sweet Tea or Coffee…but yeah we don’t talk to our neighbors all that much either, sadly 😦
What is sweet tea?
Sweet Tea is a Southern Special, it’s iced tea brewed with sugar, add ice and water and let chill, BAM got yourself something cold and sweet to drink!
Thanks. Not sure I’d be calling for one of those. Mind you a hot cuppa might not be practical in heat, which we do not have an issue with!
Not likely, Sweet Tea is very common thing to enjoy while parked in the backyard or on the Front Porch on a warm summers night! In the winter though my hubby enjoys a hot ‘cuppa’ from time to time, I prefer coffee though.
Same goes for the Kiwi’s in New Zealand Tric 🙂
During the breaks we would always go to the Smoko (the shed) to drink a cuppa.. in the beginning i thought: ah! nice, let’s drink a cup of coffee. But soon i found out they were talking about tea (with milk lol, juk, not my cuppa tea ;)) It was fun to see the British habits of the Kiwi’s. Not to offend any Kiwi’s, they’ve got a briljant style of their own!!
Coffee and a chat is growing in popularity but has a long way to go. It is most likely the british who brought this tradition here but we have made it our own!
That’s hilarious… it is exactly how it happened to me last summer when the landlord we rented a house from asked if I would like a “cuppa” when I stopped by to drop off payment. I had my 3 kids with me so I felt like a huge imposition but it became quickly clear that no was not an answer! Not only did she make tea but stuffed my kids with “digestives” and then sent them home with a pack because they liked them so much… I was mortified, but she made me feel like there was no other option! I Love IRELAND!
Yes this is our reality! I’m not sure if we prefer the tea or the chat. I suspect the latter!
This is a great tradition. For us, the common greeting would be “Have you eaten?” Unfortunately, with the increase in the pace of life, we no longer have much time to sit down for a cup of tea with friends.
Have you eaten is a lovely tradition. The pace of life is definitely picking up here too.
Is that why it takes my family multiple tries to get out the door? “Ok, well, I’ll be seeing you, oh wait, did I tell you . . .?” And I do love my tea!
Lol. That is exactly the way it goes. Nice to see you visit, and thanks so much for the comment.
Being raised in a Irish home, I am very familiar with the tradition, since marrying my hubby and moving to Texas, I have learned that hot tea is exchanged for “Sweet Tea” on the porch, and since one must keep much of this drink made up at anytime, you get to the talking and gossip so much sooner! Great post!
Thank you. I just asked a previous commentor what was sweet tea! it is interesting to see where in the world there is interaction and where it is a thing of the past.
So very true! In the town I grew up in there was a lot of interaction between us and just a few other Irish families, but since I moved down south I am amazed at the fact that I have had sweet tea on the porch with complete strangers lol!
This post got me pining for home… Here in France it depends on the time. During the day you offer a coffee, which will immediately be accepted in 9 cases out of ten. in the evening you offer an apréritif, when then turns into an evening meal in most cases at our house. I’m always yacking with my neighbours, who are all OAPs. They are a scream.
At least you still have callers and the opportunity for gossip. I would so miss my cup of tea though!
You must adopt me! I need to spend my remaining days basking in Irish traditions..they are so lovely and warm. Thanks for sharing this..and I’ll be checking my mail for the tickets! Hey, I babysit for free! 🙂
Your welcome anytime. I’ll have the kettle on! (incidently when I am driving to Dublin to see my mum, when I get near I always text, “put the kettle on”). I’m sure you too have traditions we do not know about over here.
I love this post. I really love cultural quirks and traditions like this. I seriously wish we had more customs like this in America.
Maybe you have but you just don’t notice. I just thought of this yesterday. Up to then I never really considered it a tradition, it was just part of most days.
In California, we “do lunch” or have go for a cup of coffee. Not as often as I would like, sadly.
Yes we have begun to do the “lunch” thing too. Thanks for sharing. It’s nice to know what is done elsewhere.
This is so true! I love the tea-tradition in Ireland, with or without a “bickie”. It is one of the things I miss most from my years there, and one of the things I most appreciate when going back to visit.
In America, at least in the Midwest, it seems customer to offer a guest a drink. Funny how drinks loosen people up and good conversation can follow; however, a cuppa seems to be more intimate and real. In my opinion, Americans could use a few more cuppas and a few less drinks. And that’s coming from an an American of Irish decent who enjoys a drink as much as any. May the road rise to meet you and may your generosity outweigh your thirst.