Barmbrack | Irish Tea Bread

Barmbrack | Irish Tea Bread

A recent visit to the beautiful tea plantations of Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka and buying some factory tea has inspired this post and had me in the kitchen baking a Barmbrack, a traditional Irish Tea Bread. Somewhere between cake and bread and not overly sweet, this homely moist loaf is packed with dried fruit plumped with tea. Sliced and slathered with the obligatory butter and enjoyed alongside a freshly brewed pot of loose tea … well what more can I say.

Irish Tea Bread | Barmbrack with a Coin

Although enjoyed throughout the year, barmbrack is traditionally made at Halloween. During this time a few fortune-telling trinkets like a ring and coin are baked inside the bread. If you get a slice of barmbrack with the coin, you will have wealth and good fortune in life and the ring symbolizes an up-coming romance or marriage. When we were kids a whole barmbrack (or two) would be eaten in one sitting… we all wanted the slice revealing the hidden fortune-telling trinkets. There was always anticipated excitement slicing a barmbrack, but it was also responsible for many sulking faces afterwards. Funny how everyone failed to mention that eating a whole barmbrack would also predict you would gain a few pounds.

Pot of Strong Black TeaYou will need to brew a strong pot of tea and let it cool before soaking the dried fruit overnight, or for at least six hours. You can also line a loaf tin with non-stick baking parchment and have it ready well ahead of time. Then it’s only a matter of weighing and hand mixing in the rest of the ingredients before baking. As we have plenty of dates in our store cupboard, they usually end up in some of my fruit cakes and Date and Walnut Nut Roll , you can replace them with sultanas, raisins or currants if liked. If you intend placing rings or coins in the mixture, make sure nothing is plastic and give them a good wash beforehand. Warp each trinket tightly in a small piece of baking parchment before placing into the bread mixture.

Tea Pickers and Tea PlantationThe weather was not on our side this trip and we almost had to abandon the journey to Nuwara Eliya, as storms and torrential rain had caused landslides in the area. At the last moment we decided to brave the long journey up very winding roads and spent a total of eleven hours in a mini bus… but it was totally worth that cup of tea and amazing scenery and of course a few photos.

Irish Tea Bread | Barmbrack with a Coin

Barmbrack | Irish Tea Bread

300ml strong breakfast tea (made with loose tea leaves), cooled
110g raisins
150g sultanas
50g currants
50g dates (after removing the stone), chop into small pieces
1 egg, lightly beaten
175g soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon of mixed spices
pinch of ground cloves
2 teaspoons of baking powder
225g plain or all-purpose flour

honey, for brushing over the top of the baked barmbrack

You will need coins or rings (or both), wrapped tightly in baking parchment (optional)You will need a 13cm x 20cm loaf tin, sides and base lined with non-stick baking parchment.

How to make:
Place the dried fruit into a mixing bowl and pour over the tea. Leave the fruit to soak and plump up in the tea overnight, or for at least six hours.
When ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/160 Fan/Gas 4.
Add the egg and brown sugar into the fruit and tea mixture, mix together. Sieve in the mixed spices, ground cloves, baking powder and flour. Stir all the ingredients together until combined.
Scrape the contents of the bowl into the prepared loaf tin and smooth over the top. If using, push the prepared trinkets down into the mixture until covered.
Bake the brambrack for 1 and a 1/2 hours or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. When baked and still hot, brush over the top with a little honey to give a nice sheen. Allow to cool on a wire rack. Cut into slices and serve with butter. Keeps well for a couple of days, wrapped in baking parchment and cling film and stored in a cool place.

20 thoughts on “Barmbrack | Irish Tea Bread

    1. Thank you Glenda 🙂 It was so special seeing the tea plantations and worth the long journey and I am sure like you, those memories will stay. We visited a tea factory but due to a holiday we did not get to see tea production in its full swing.


    1. Irish tea brack is delicious! I use this recipe all the time with whatever dried fruit is in store cupboard. I use self-raising flour in place of plain or all purpose flour & baking powder. I even use it at Christmas, using half strong & half Irish whiskey or brandy! For those on diets I use sweetener in place of brown sugar(Diabetics too)! My family will eat this with the obligatory real Irish butter!


  1. That looks really yummy!! Just the ticket for the cooler days in Bahrain with a nice cuppa!!


  2. Your Sri Lanka trip pictures look amazing. In fact i love the photos in this post.just gorgeous. Do write more about your visit to Sri Lanka. The loaf looks scrumptious


  3. Hi Moya Greetings from Australia. I have a recipe that is very similar and I got it off an English website
    the name is different though, they called it a Bara Brith and it is a fruit kind of cake baked for an hour with dried fruit etc, very similar to your recipe and it is delicious spread with butter. I will be giving your recipe a try. Really enjoying your website and I am going to make the Date & Walnut Cake in a Nut Roll Tin, that is the reason I visited your site in the first place. I only have to find a couple of roll tins now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Julie, thank you for visiting 🙂 The Bara Brith (just googled it) sounds very similar and equally delicious. Had not heard this recipe name before, so thank you for letting me know. Hope you enjoy the recipe for the date and walnut loaf and let me know if you try the recipe. Hopefully you can find a nut roll tin, I have a biscuit tin that is similar which has worked too.


      1. Hi Moya, Bara Brith is a Welsh fruit bread just like the Irish tea loaf. It is very traditional just like Welsh griddle cakes. I am Irish and my husband is Welsh although we are now in Oz. Thank you for this lovely recipe I can’t wait to bake it.


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