Dublin's Best Afternoon Tea
The Merrion Hotel’s resident master, Laura McGinn
The Irish drink more tea per capita than any other nation and yet, upon hearing of the existence of Ireland’s only tea master, I immediately imagined a wise and wizened Chinese man with skin as crackly thin as rice paper.
A pleasant surprise then to encounter The Merrion Hotel’s resident master, Laura McGinn, who, at 26 years of age, enjoys more of a china doll complexion and calls Omagh, rather than the Orient, home. Despite our zealous lust for tea, it’s Dublin’s “coffee culture” whose cup seems to overflow, so how, faced with the folderol of beans and baristas, does one hone in on the art of tea?
“I have a degree in food science and always had an interest in the intricacies of food and drink. But when the opportunity came to train as a tea master, I jumped at it,” explains Laura as she presents a perfectly set out silver tray of three pre-selected teas; Mogentau, Jasmine Pearl and a Darjeeling Summer Gold.
The selected trio of teas McGinn serves range from delicately tinctured green to dark, bitter black. Fearing I’ve revealed myself as uncouth in downing each one, I enquire as to the dangers of mixing my drinks.
“On the contrary, there are massive health benefits from drinking tea; green or black. It’s full of vitamins, minerals and there’s also the calming effect of the tannins and the natural caffeine high. A coffee will give you a high for 30-40 minutes but tea has a slow release caffeine hit that can last for hours.”
Now educated in the simple drink that is harvested on the shady sides of mountains half way across the globe, one question keeps niggling at me. That of the comparison to the fictional tea master that has a place in all Irish hearts, a certain Mrs Doyle. “I shouldn’t admit this, I was at home last week in Tyrone and a priest came in. I caught myself saying; “Would you like a cup of tea, Father?”
McGinn is either in the Cellar Restaurant or in main hotel most days from 3pm onwards.