Sunday, November 21, 2010

Irish stout: Barry's Tea offers golden moments

I like good tea, I seek out good tea, I've had a lot of good tea. But there are still teas that tea snobs would frown upon that I adore. This whole thing started, truth be told, with Mother's boxes of Constant Comment, a cup of which still warms my heart with or without her. More than most, though, I love a cup of Barry's.

Lainie used to say you could clean an engine with this stuff, and I'll bet a hot cup of Barry's would at least degrease a windshield. But I can't help it. I like the strong stuff — a strong "cupan tae" ("cup of tea" in Gaelic).

Barry's is an Irish company, with a huge chunk of the market there. "Irish Tea for relaxed people who enjoy life and good company," they say. I'm partial to the Barry's Gold Blend, bags of finely chopped tea usually blended from Kenyan sources as well as Assam. Ireland tea blends used to be almost all Assam, until Ceylon teas came in during the ’60s. The Kenyan teas came later, from the Rift Valley, and they provide perfect balance for the maltiness. There's usually a lot of hullabaloo about these teas working best with Ireland's water, but it has the ring of myth or marketing. Even with my filtered Chicago tap, every bag brews flawlessly and delivers a hearty liquor with a bewitching amber-red color.

Barry's has fun with social media. They just started a new video series, interviewing Irish artists for interesting segments (although so far these have little or nothing to do with actual tea). On the main website, they're soliciting customers' "golden moments" as experienced with cup of Barry's. I submitted mine: I can't have a bowl of oatmeal without a cup of Barry's. The strong brew with a hint of malt is heavenly against the oats, the brown sugar, the butter, the occasional fruit. A golden moment, indeed.

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