A Cork County Legacy
Text by Britt Crawford • Photography Courtesy of Barry’s Tea
While tea’s history in Ireland might be more than a century younger than the island’s neighbor across the Irish Sea, the Irish thirst for the beverage is just as ardent as that of the English. Since tea’s introduction to the Emerald Isle in the 1830s, several family businesses and large companies have striven to earn the honor of being Ireland’s most popular tea brand, but only a few have gained that distinction.
“Barry’s Tea has a long-standing reputation in Ireland and abroad, especially amongst ex-pats,” shares Camille O’Flanagan, spokesperson for Barry’s Tea. “Many of our customers have grown up with our tea, and it reminds them of home or of a loved one.”
The company was founded in the southern Irish county of Cork in 1901 by James J. Barry with the intent to blend and distribute only quality teas to customers. As proof of the namesake family’s efforts, James’s son Anthony Barry earned the Empire Cup for tea blending in 1934. In keeping with his family’s heritage in the tea industry, Peter Barry, Anthony’s son, made his mark on the company by introducing the idea of wholesaling its teas, and started acquiring teas from regions in East Africa in 1960.
For the first six decades, Barry’s Tea operated and sold its products exclusively out of the original shop on Princes Street in Cork. But as the brand’s popularity grew, the company decided to spread its reach. In the 1960s, Barry’s Tea began distributing to other shops in the surrounding suburbs and then slowly expanded beyond Cork until Barry’s Tea was sold throughout the rest of the country.
Today, the business continues to hold the standard for high-quality teas to its name. For more than 50 years, the company’s Master Tea Blender Denis Daly, who trained under Anthony Barry, has utilized his extensive knowledge, expertise, and craft in tea blending and buying to ensure Barry’s Tea maintains its repute. While tasting the teas—usually three times a day—is a substantial part of his responsibilities, Denis also visits the finest tea gardens in Rwanda, Kenya, and India’s Assam Valley once each year, meeting the growers and building relationships that help him procure only the best teas.
Barry’s Tea offers a variety of products in both bagged and loose-leaf form. In addition to the company’s signature blends—Gold, Irish Breakfast, Master Blend, and Decaf—Barry’s has added a selection of fruit, herbal, and green teas to its collection within the past few years.
“Our Gold Blend is our much-loved blend and would be a staple item in many households in Ireland,” Camille adds. “Drinking our tea is often a source of comfort and familiarity, especially to those living overseas.”