I have always thought of tea like a hug in a cup! It’s always there, it never falters, and to be honest, I can’t think of many things that a cup of tea can’t fix.
After discovering Monarch Tea Co., an independent tea company based in Hamilton, we were excited to sit down with Katie Cyr, the gal who started it all. Katie founded the company in 2013 and has been crafting beautiful tea blends ever since. With 26 varieties to choose from, I guarantee that you’ll find your perfect blend (and if you’re spoiled for choice, take a sip of our two favourites: Toffee Bean Rooibos and Pomegranate Hibiscus).
What inspired you to turn your love of tea into a career?
I grew up drinking Tetley tea with my grandmother whenever she would come to visit. It was always a treat bringing out the special teacups and sitting down to enjoy such an ‘adult’ activity at a young age. It was from that ritual that I learned the elegance of teatime, as well as a respect for teacups, teapots and all things tea-related!
As I grew older and my tea collection grew larger, my love of tea expanded and I really was able to see that this was a passion worth pursuing into something larger. A few years ago I sat down (with a pot of tea!), devised a business plan, and worked out how to roll this out into something more concrete. And that’s how Monarch Tea was born! At the same time, I enrolled myself in the Tea Sommelier program through the Tea Board of Canada, so I was able to give myself a multi-layered understanding of tea. Now I’m able to blind-taste different teas and identify region and processing methods!
Do you gravitate toward any particular region, in terms of your taste for tea?
If I had to choose, I really love and respect the devotion that goes into Oolong production, especially Taiwanese Oolong. I also am a huge fan of Indian black teas.
Really my taste is all over depending on the day and on what blends I’m working on…there’s just too many magnificent regions and kinds of tea to pick one favourite!
I have heard it said that drinking herbal tea is better for you than water. Is this true? What are some of the health benefits of drinking tea?
There are so many fantastic health benefits of drinking tea! Every classification of tea comes with its own host of amazing benefits, about which I could speak forever, but here is a general overview:
Tea helps with supporting the heart, activating circulation and aids in the elimination of toxins. Tea can reduce fatigue, slow the aging process, balance body temperature and strengthen the immune system! Tea also helps increase concentration and help digestion. One of my favourite health aspects about tea is that an amino acid called Theanine, is present in tea, which contributes to tea’s calming effect. Theanine promotes feelings of alertness while also giving us that calm and contented feeling we experience after a cup!
What are the processes by which you create and brand your tea? Where do you source your ingredients, for example, or name the various blends? Naming teas would have to be up there with most fun jobs – like naming ice-cream flavours!
I source the tea and herbs for Monarch from several different Canadian wholesalers. From there, I work on creating blends using different herbs and teas that inspire me. I do micro-blending when I’m experimenting, then taste the tea myself and sometimes have family or friends weigh their opinion on if they enjoy the blend or not. Sometimes a chai blend just might need an extra kick of something!
From there, I try to invent a fun name that encapsulates the feeling that tea gives me. Sometimes I settle on a simple name that easily summarizes what the customer can expect to drink (for example, Organic Pomegranate Lemon black tea). Other times, I give the blend a completely fun name that I feel works well (Stay Young, Go Dancing, which is a black tea with ginger and peach, and an ode to my favourite band, Death Cab for Cutie.)
Any new blends in the works? (Or is that top-secret information?)
I’m currently working on finalizing the Monarch Tea blends for the summer. These have to be not only tasty and refreshing, but work well and still give full depth and flavour when they are made into iced tea! Needless to say, the experimental phase has been really fun!
So, I have to ask…what’s your favourite cup of tea?
I’m going to sound like a tea nerd, but I really have different types for different moods! If it’s mid-day and I’m craving something savoury, I really like Genmaicha, which is a Japanese green tea. It’s commonly known as “popcorn tea” because there are tiny popped rice kernels in it. It actually does taste like popcorn!
When I wake up I love a great big mug of Cream Earl Grey, or an Indian Assam black tea (which has that rich, orange pekoe taste, similar to the Tetley tea of my youth).
But…maybe there’s just one thing better than a cup of tea. A cup of tea accompanied by a sweet treat! Monarch Tea Company will be teaming up with Made for you by Madeleine Bakery, located on King William in Hamilton, to host tea tastings and workshops regularly. For details, head on over to monarchteaco.com. And if you're wondering where to buy Katie's tea, you can shop online or at one of these lovely local retailers!