Referral Friday: Cuppa cuppa Barry’s Tea


Referral Friday is part of an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch’s Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!

For the first two and a half years I was on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, I was very, very good. Which is to say, I was, in the parlance of Elaine Gottschall and hard-core SCD-ers, a fanatical adherent.

That meant many, many things were out, both in their whole form, rice, sugar, wheat (although who the hell wants to munch on wheat is beyond me), and, worse, as trace elements: the fillers, extenders, and sweeteners that make life both delicious and convenient, albeit frequently unhealthy.

Coffee was entirely out, as the only acceptable forms of it and its caffeinated cousin, tea, were “black” and “weak.” I’m fine with the former but sweet mother of pearl, what is the point of weak coffee except as some kind of ingenious torture? No, I switched immediately to black tea with honey, and then spent the next two and a half years looking for the best-tasting variety of each.

Thanks to The BF and his own interesting travels, I discovered Barry’s.

Deeply Irish, with some of the ugliest packaging this side of a tampon box, Barry’s is everything a tea should be: robust, clean and emphatic, even at the low volumes an SCDer is forced to enjoy it at. At full strength, it would likely kick your sorry ass all the way to Killarney, even as it had you boo-hooing for more. Barry’s is EFFIN’ DELICIOUS, my friend, and highly addictive.

Yes, you will have your fancy types talking up PG Tips (or yer hoi polloi insisting that grocery store-available Twinings is so refined). Smile, and let them. Only turn on your bestest of friends to the Barry’s, and they will speak your name with the hushed tones of wonder and adoration usually reserved for saints and Malcolm Gladwell, pre-Outliers. (Oh, like you didn’t know he’d tipped.)

If you live in a big and bustling metropolis, I urge you to seek out your local purveyor of imported Irish (and sometimes English) goods. I buy mine from the lovely ladies at the Irish Import Shop here in Los Angeles, two boxes of Classic Blend at a time, since the hardnoses refuse to accept my Mastercard for purchases under $10, no matter how much business I bring their way.

You can also purchase from them online, which I highly recommend, as then their brick-and-mortar shop with its fresh, fresh bounty will stay in bidness. Or, if you have a thing for Amazon and skipping sales tax, well, at least you can buy your Barry’s through this link and net me a few pennies into the bargain.




Image by malias via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.


  1. Haha. Pretty sure it’s only b/c they don’t *know* about Barry’s. But you raise a good point: among the people who do have familiarity with both, who thinks what is “fancier”?

  2. Hmm. I am a tea fanatic. Right now I drink Mighty Leaf Organic Breakfast from Whole Foods. I also like Hartley’s. Perhaps I will give Barry’s a try.

  3. I’m not really sure how they’d be ranked – PG Tips is an English tea brand, but a very ordinary one. Barry’s is an Irish tea brand, and while it is ordinary (everyone and his granny has Barry’s at home, it’s not a remotely exclusive thing), it’s clearly miles better. But I’m Irish. Maybe I should ask my English boyfriend and report back what he says, in the interests of balance.

  4. I’ve never considered barry’s to be a “fancy” tea, rather, I think of it as the tea drinkers’ equivalent of unfiltered cigarettes – it’ s the strongest tea I’ve ever tried. I once had an office across the hall from an irish editor, and she gave me some one night – her mom was sending it to her from ireland. after that, I found an english tea room by 2nd and santa monica (in santa monica) that carried it, then later the irish shop in hollywood (I think andrew ward turned me on to that place).

  5. I think you should know that the country (Ireland, that is), is divided into Barry’s people and Lyons’ people, and if that shop stocks Lyons tea (which has even uglier packaging), I’d urge you to try some just once for comparison. I’m a coffee-drinker, but when it’s tea, only Lyons has the kick I want. And PG Tips and Twinings? That’s what we find when we’re away on holidays… Please! Call that tea?

  6. Ha!

    Guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the real tea drinkers came out of the closet with this one.

    As a fellow coffee-drinker (what? I didn’t say I was a fanatical adherent anymore!) I’m verrry excited to try Lyons. Thanks for the tip!

  7. Hysterical! this post gets the brits chomping at the bit in the tea stakes. I was also outraged at the suggestion the hoi polloi were enjoying twinings, while the poshos supped on PG tips – this has cultural and class repurcussions that could cause a revolution in England, to put it in American terms; the hoi polloi drinking Twinings is about as likely as confederate solidier sitting down to tea with a Yankee general, and the upper classes being seen in the vicinity of PG tips, about as likely as the queen suppin on gin and juice! My personal preference? Yorkshire Gold.

  8. Natalie – Another new one to try out–thank you!

    And really, the only reason PG Tips are anything here is because they are scarce. As in, you can walk into any Ralphs in L.A. and buy you some Twinings, but you have to have the secret password to find the PG Tips. (I didn’t think it was all that, anyway, although I love the shape!)

    LPC – Oh, dear me, yes. You are too kind! For anyone else dropping by later, look at this nice thing here.

  9. No no no…

    Although since moving to Los Angeles I’ve had more Barry’s than usual (it’s the only Irish tea in my local grocers), there is ONLY ONE TRULY DELICIOUS TEA – Lyons!!

    In Ireland you can only drink one of two tea brands and there is bitter rivalry between supporters of each…

    But Lyons is the true connoisseurs choice!

  10. I looooove Barry’s!! Lyon’s is nothing to write home about. Bewley’s however, is quite good. But Barry’s is truly the BEST. My mom thinks the loose tea is better than the tea bags. I like the bags for convenience.

  11. Heh, bitter rivalry. I’ve tried brewing both Barry’s and Lyons so as not to get a brutally bitter cup, and have never succeeded. I mean, really really tried, as both brands are easier to come by here in San Francisco than PG Tips. They do taste just dandy when tarted up with loads of sugar and milk (indeed, they still taste like tea, whereas PGT kind of fades). This makes me ask — are you die-hard Lyon’s drinkers all taking your tea that way?

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