Tea Time
Originally uploaded by Pat and Amy’s pics

According to the website for Barry’s Tea (the most popular tea in Ireland) and Lonely Planet, Ireland drinks more tea per capita than any other nation on Earth. Wikipedia ranks Turkey and Great Britain slightly ahead of Ireland in the tea drinking race, but suffice it to say that a lot of tea is consumed here.

The Irish take their tea very seriously. I saw this in action on my first day of work. My work day starts at 9:00. Derval, my boss, was orienting me to the job that day and introducing me to several of my colleagues. About five of us were chatting in the main office when 10:00 AM rolled around. Derval said, “Tea?” in an expectant voice, and I watched everyone immediately stop what they were doing, put on their coats and proceed en masse to the canteen across the street.

In the States, while most employers are legally required to provide staff with a 15 minute break in the morning and afternoon, not everyone consistently takes advantage of this time. I know I have been guilty at times of staying holed up in my office at break time to catch up on paperwork or get ready for my next group. Not so in Ireland. The canteen is full every morning with people taking their tea break. Actually, it is more like a light breakfast. Some people bring cereal or porridge from home, some have toast with butter and jam – which is free of charge as is the tea and coffee at Cope Foundation, and some have warm scones which are baked fresh on site. This 15 minute tea time often stretches out to 20 or 30 minutes as people chat and enjoy their mid-morning snack. While time is at more of a premium in the Irish schools I serve, the same ritual of morning tea along with some sort of snack is observed by all the teachers and staff there as well.

In reading this, you might think, “Gee, those Irish sound like a bunch of slackers.” I would disagree with this premise, though. From what I have seen thus far, I would say that they work extremely hard and are very dedicated to the clients on their caseload. Perhaps, because they do work so hard the other hours of the day, they are more appreciative of the breaks that they do have. Craic is an integral part of the Irish persona, and tea time is a great opportunity for craic. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, craic (pronounced “crack”) is essentially the enjoyment of good company, having a chat, or hearing the latest gossip, and is usually associated with drinking or music. When locals talk about a pub in the area that they are fond of, they almost inevitably include “Great craic” as one of its finest attributes.

Perhaps Americans should take a leaf out of the Irish book, and be more willing to sit down with friends and colleagues for a mid-morning cuppa and some craic. I wonder how it would affect overall morale and team building? I am discovering that I quite enjoy this time of camaraderie, and the scones are lovely!