The history of Blaa

Waterford is famous for its’ Blaa, a soft white bread roll, that has a long connection to the city and county. It’s said by the locals that there isn’t a Blaa to be found in Waterford after midday. This affectionate anecdote reflects the fact this every day favourite in Waterford is the quintessential morning product, filled with crispy bacon, sausages and whatever other goodies you fancy in your Blaa! But how did the Waterford Blaa become so famous and well loved? Let us tell you a story.

The tradition of the Waterford Blaa dates back to the late 17th Century and the arrival of a group of Huguenots to the city. At that time, Waterford was a powerful trading city for wares such as leather, wheat, flour, butter, and other agricultural produce from the area, which were shipped to England and the Continent. One of the enterprising Huguenots set up a bakery in Waterford city in 1702. Here they baked bread to feed their own families and children. It’s thought the round bread rolls, now familiar as Blaas, were first made from leftover pieces of bread dough. A ‘waste not, want not’ answer to using every scrap of the bread mix. Modern Waterford bakers now believe the name ‘Blaa’ was corrupted from Huguenot words ‘Blaad’ – an old French word for flour, or ‘Blanc,’ – a French word meaning white, which refers to the unique white floury appearance of these rolls.

Another leap in the history of the Waterford Blaa came when Brother Ignatius Rice, founder of the Christian Brothers, set up his own bakery and tailor’s shop at his newly opened school in Mount Sion, Waterford City, in 1802. From here, as the Blaa became popular with the poor of the city, other bakers began to make them. It soon reached a point where 18,000 Blaas were made in the city daily.

Currently, the people of Waterford eat between ten and twelve thousand Blaas a day. In 2013, the Waterford Blaa Bakers Association succeeded in getting PGI designation for the Waterford Blaa. PGI *** stands for Protected Geographical Indication, which essentially means that only Blaas made by specialist bakers in Waterford city and county can be called Blaas. This guarantees an authentic heritage product, based on the traditional methods and the unique skills of the bakers. Waterford Blaas are now supplied by traditional family bakers operating since the 1800’s. The same time honoured recipe has been handed down from generation to generation.