A Decent Cup of (Vegan?) Tea

How do I love tea? Let me count the ways… actually let’s not do that or we’ll be here all day. Let’s just say there’s a reason Mrs. Doyle is my favourite Fr. Ted character and leave it TEAat that. I’ll just also leave this picture of an actual grocery shop of mine here as supplementary evidence. I love the stuff. I have extremely exacting standards in the tea department, with weak tea being top of my beverage taboos. Just… why? As every good Irish person knows, there is no situation so great or grave that it cannot be improved by a nice cup of tea. Bad day at work? Tea. Bad back? Tea. Bad news? Tea. Just given birth? Tea. Exciting news? Well sure just sit down here with a nice cup of tea and tell me all about it… It’s simply a fundamental part of life. It could also well be the reason for our next civil war, with familial and geographic factions of Lyons or Barry’s drinkers fiercely loyal to their brew of choice.

Prior to World War II, Ireland was the third highest tea-consuming country in the world per capita, with our brew imported via the tea market in London – until tighter export controls in the UK during the war meant that we lost 75% of our supply. Knowing full well that the notoriously ‘roll over and take it’ attitude of the Irish public wouldn’t hold up if they were denied tea, the government quickly set up a new importing agency and a 3867421massive warehouse in the Dublin docklands that could hold a full two years supply of tea leaves for the nation. Tea Importers Ltd (props for naming originality!) dealt directly with tea producers in the countries of origin and quickly discovered that darker teas than we had been getting via England were more popular here. Now Irish people drink some of the highest grades of tea in the world, with gold label black tea dominating the domestic market. None of the weak and thin Indian teas, nor the bergamot laden Earl Grey so popular ‘across the water’ in the UK cut it for us.  Our high grade tea leaves guarantee that the less heavily marketed ‘black stuff’ of Ireland is crazy delicious, and that I can’t go on holiday without a stash of teabags somewhere on my person.

It’s Day 18 of Veganuary, meaning I am more than halfway through, and I knew going in that if there was one potential trauma for me in the month it would be not being able to have a decent cuppa. I drink a wide range of herbal teas too, but I knew they weren’t going to cut it. The morning mug of ‘real’ tea is the only reason I have managed to get to work for about ten years, and I am a twitchy edgy mess if I don’t get to unwind with another cuppa in the evening. I need my ‘real’ tea.

Continue reading “A Decent Cup of (Vegan?) Tea”

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Becoming one of them?

After over two decades of vegetarianism, I’m trying veganism for the first time this January. I’m joining over 20,000 people and counting who have signed up to Veganuary 2016 pledging to live without meat, fish, dairy and all other animal based food for thirty-one days. Pretty much the entire family got a nasty bout of gastroenteritis during the no-mans land between Christmas and New Year – and so the start of Veganuary went without a hitch. It’s very easy to be vegan when you literally aren’t eating anything! I’m writing this on Day #7, but for normal eating purposes it’s more like Day #3. So the food has yet to prove an issue but mentally it’s already taking it out of me if I’m honest.

You see, even as a vegetarian I found vegans a bit… off. Weird even. It all seemed so extreme. What on earth were they eating? How did they cope without a decent cup of tea?! I don’t get what the problem is with wool? Or with honey? Bees love honey, don’t they?! Vegucated is a highly watchable documentary currently streaming on Netflix which follows three meat and cheese loving New Yorkers as they attempt to be vegan for six weeks. I watched it for the first time last week and wholly identified with the Vegucated crazysequence where director Marisa Miller Wolfson talks about how she had always thought vegans were weird. Later Brian, one of the three subjects of the documentary, confesses the same. Yup – that’s how I felt for a long time. It didn’t help that the only vegans I met for many years were either hard-core animal activists (the animal version of the awful placarding pro-life nuns who used to terrorise O’Connell St in the 90s) or incredibly unhealthy people with skin conditions who literally cut animal produce out of their diet and subsided on pasta and other refined carbs. So an opinion formed in my mind a long time ago – veganism was not for me. It was too dogmatic, too preachy, there were too many rules and fundamentally I didn’t exactly enjoy myself around the vegans I had met. And like any opinion held for a long time, it’s calcified within me. I’m now doing Veganuary and I’m still thinking –hmmm. Vegan. Am I now one…of them? Continue reading “Becoming one of them?”