A STORM is brewing over tea prices in Irish hotels after a Sunday Times survey found a simple cuppa costs €6.50 in some establishments.

The K Club, in Straffan, in Co Kildare, and the Merrion hotel in Dublin are charging €6.50 for tea per person, according to a survey of 10 leading establishments. The Westbury hotel in Dublin was the next most expensive, at €5.20.

The research was compiled after tourists went onto travel website TripAdvisor to complain about the price of tea in the Herbert Park hotel in Ballsbridge, Dublin. The posters said the cost “left a very sour taste in our mouths” after they were handed a hefty bill.

“A pot of hot water containing three teabags cost us €14.10, ie €4.70 per cup,” they said. “If it was a cafe on the Champs Elysées I would expect to perhaps pay this price, but not in the lobby of a hotel in the middle of Ballsbridge.”

Reaction to the review on other social media forums warned of a return to “Rip-Off Ireland”, the label slapped on the Irish service industry as a result of fast-increasing prices of food, drink and accommodation during the Celtic tiger years.

The Herbert Park’s tea is not the most expensive in Dublin, according to our survey, in which it came sixth. Tea costs €5 in Ashford Castle, in Cong in Co Mayo; €4.95 at the Intercontinental hotel in Dublin; €4.80 at the Powerscourt hotel, in Enniskerry in Co Wicklow; €4.50 at Hayfield Manor in Cork; and €4 in the Marker hotel in Dublin and the G hotel in Galway.

The high cost of tea is bad news for Ireland, which has a fondness for a cuppa. Data compiled by Euromonitor and the World Bank rates Ireland as the world’s second-biggest tea drinker, ahead of Britain and narrowly behind Turkey.

Last month, actress Saoirse Ronan sent a box of Barry’s Gold Blend to the 84 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association after it nominated her for a Golden Globe in the best actress category for her role in Brooklyn. “There is nothing that reminds me of home more than Barry’s Tea,” Ronan wrote. “So as a gesture of my sincere gratitude, I wanted to share a piece of my home with you.”

The Irish Hotels Federation (IHF), the national organisation of the hotel and guesthouse industry, defended the price of tea on the grounds that luxury hotels offered a comfortable setting and high-quality service even to those popping in for a cuppa.

“The Irish hotels sector is highly competitive and caters for a wide range of customers, ranging from budget travellers to those seeking a luxury five-star experience,” a spokesman said.

“When it comes to dining services, prices reflect a wide range of factors such as the high level of service provided, the quality of the dining experience, the setting and venue, and other costs associated with running a hotel.”

The K Club said customers who ordered tea received their beverage in “a silver teapot”, poured into “fine bone china” and accompanied by home-made hazelnut biscuits.

“Tea is generally served in the Chinese Drawing Room, which is hand-painted, depicting scenes of birds and floral designs and enjoys views onto the terraces, gardens and the river Liffey,” it said.

“The Yeats Room [beside the Chinese Drawing Room] is another place where people can enjoy tea, and its walls are adorned with original paintings by Jack B Yeats. It’s the largest private collection of Yeats’s paintings held in the country.”

The Merrion also defended its pricing. “In the Drawing Rooms there is a choice of more than 17 teas and all guests are welcome to try as many as they like, which is included in the price,” it said.

“Highest-quality leaf teas are used. Ronnefeldt is the brand name of the tea and it is considered the best in the world. Guests can sip tea in front of real log fires while enjoying the country’s largest private art collection. The loose-leaf teas are served in silver teapots and accompanied by delicious miniature pastries, made fresh daily by our pastry team.”

Ashford Castle said: “A serving of tea is €5, but this is for a pot, with multiple servings, not just a small cup.”