Kinsale Road
Phone: 021 496 6644

Considering that I grew up in Dublin in the 1960s and 1970s, I was an early adopter of Barry’s Tea. Or, I should say, my parents were. I have very early memories of a yellow tea tin, the hallmark of Campbell’s, but by the time Barry’s were selling tea beyond the city limits of Cork, my family were on it.

I suppose that would have been the ‘sixties, only a few years after Anthony Barry had departed from family tradition and started wholesaling tea. Originally, Barry’s was sold solely from the family shop in Prince’s Street which opened at the dawn of the twentieth century.

It was a local legend and its fame, in a sense, went before it. In 1934, Anthony Barry, the son of the founder, was awarded the Empire Cup for tea blending, confirming what the people of Cork had known for over thirty years: that Barry’s Tea was no ordinary tea and that the palate that created the blend was flawless.

Barry’s grew and grew, but solely by word of mouth, and in time the family were prepared to sell to a few other retailers in the city of Cork. It had become as solidly identified with Cork as the bells of Shandon or the Lee itself.

But the rest of the country – apart from the Cork exiles, of course – remained largely unaware of Barry’s Tea until the 1960s when it was decided to go into the wholesale business. At the same time, the blend itself took a slightly different direction as Peter Barry, grandson of the founder, turned to East Africa as the main source of the teas that went into it.

In so doing, Barry hit on an important truth: Irish people adore the robust, round, fresh flavours of African teas. And while that remains the core of Barry’s, the taste profile is framed, if you like, with a seasoning of teas from Assam and India. Creating and maintaining something as complex as Barry’s Tea, has never been easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it.

There have been attempts to copy the formula. Own-brand teas (we will spare their blushes) have been created in a vain attempt to ape the Barry’s style but with preditable results. Barry’s is Barry’s. It’s as simple as that.

I was brought up on loose leaf tea, as were most people of my generation and the loose leaf version of the rich Barry’s Classic Blend is the one I still use but I do find it reassuring when I spy a box of Barry’s Tea Gold Blend tea bags (the nation’s favourite tea) when I’m out and about. And, of course, Barry’s has not stood still; there are fruit and herbal teas, these days, and green teas too, both straight, organic and flavoured with mint and lemon.

Barry’s advertising has, in recent years, hinged on the brand being, essentially, part of what we are, part of the national fabric. Not many brands can claim that with any degree of credibility but Barry’s, family owned and by now firmly established as a national institution, doesn’t have to. Everybody knows.