Why I Love Tea: Jesse Wanagas


Last week my friend Jesse Wanagas invited me over for tea and a conversation. Jesse and I met in high school 13 years ago. Her ability to be intelligent but a goofball, sensitive but strong and a fan of all things nerdy immediately drew me in. We very quickly became close friends, spending most of the day at school together and almost every weekend at each others houses.

Jesse now works at Bell Media as a Communications Coordinator for The Comedy Network, Space and Bravo. We grew up, got jobs and no longer get to spend as much time together, but the time we do is guaranteed to be full of fun, laughs and very opinionated discussion on the newest movie or TV show we are obsessed with watching.


Rachel: Why do you love tea?

Jesse: I don’t drink coffee and I don’t like coffee, and tea is the natural alternative to that. It is a lot lighter and not as aggressive as coffee.

Rachel: When did you start drinking tea?

Jesse: I’m not sure, I have always drank tea, I probably got more into it because of you. You’re the first person who gave me a collection of tea and a pink teapot, I know how hard that was for you (for those who don’t know, I have a hatred of the color pink. Jesse loves pink but somehow we make our friendship work) then you started working at David’s Tea so I got all of the tea.

Rachel: What is your favorite tea?

Jesse: I have three go to teas; rooibos, peppermint and Blueberry Jam (black tea with blueberries from David’s Tea). Those are the three that I typically alternate between. When I started drinking tea I wanted to drink cool interesting teas like cookie dough, or red velvet cake, ones that were very flavorful. But as I got to know more teas my favourite ones ended up being much simpler flavors.


Rachel: What tea are you making for me?

Jesse: I am making a plain rooibos tea. I first bought it when you worked at David’s Tea because you told me it was very hydrating. I was with a friend who was buying a gift for someone and wanted something that would be good for hangovers, and I ended up buying some too. It turned out that I unknowingly already had a lot of rooibos tea that had lots of other flavors in them, but I like the straight rooibos. I find it light, it is a nice flavour but not overwhelming, it has a natural sweetness to it and is easy to drink plain or with a little bit of honey in it. And I am serving it in my Dr. Who mugs. My favorite is the Dalek mug, I get to say I’m going to exterminate whatever is in it.


It goes without saying that my visit with Jesse was wonderful. I do not usually drink rooibos or any caffeine free tea. It was great to find an appreciation for something I rarely steep for myself.

Why I Love Tea: Emily Vallevand


Last week my friend Emily Vallevand came over to talk tea. Emily and I first met working at David’s Tea. Emily started working for the company over 5 years ago in Regina. In 2013 she transferred to the Yorkdale mall location in Toronto, where I was working at the time. Even though I have since moved on to new things, Emily and I have stayed in touch getting together for dinners, drinks and of course tea. Emily loves working at David’s Tea, she has stayed on with the company, although she has had to cut back on shifts because of her career as a freelance interior decorator.


Rachel: Why do you love tea?

Emily: I’ve always thought that tea is what brings people together. When I was little it was the way that our family included us in the grownup aspect of things, after dinner they would say “who wants a tea?” and all the kids would be like “yea I want one!” because you would feel like one of the grown ups. And then I got older and it became a thing with friends to meet up and and have a tea and try this new place or new thing. I think there is so much variety to it that you can like, or appreciate everything and share what you enjoy with others. It brings everyone together, it’s just this warm fun thing you can have together.

Rachel: What is your favorite tea?

Emily: I don’t have a favorite tea, I like tea. I drink different teas for different occasions, different times of the day and for different reasons. If I was going about my daily tea drinking routine: I normally like to start my day with a black tea with a heavier, richer, bolder flavor. I sometimes in the morning enjoy putting a little bit of sugar and a little bit of milk in. In the afternoon I prefer to have a white tea a green tea or sometimes an oolong. White tea is my preference over green tea, but there are a few green teas that I like. In the evening I find I can’t really drink caffeine because it stimulates me too much and I’ll stay up all night. If I need a boost in the late afternoon I will drink a rooibos because it is very high in antioxidants and is very hydrating, I find that it can often give me enough of a boost without the caffeine. Then in the evening I will have a nice herbal tea or another rooibos.  


Rachel: Why do you prefer white tea over green?

Emily: I prefer the flavor palate of white tea. Green tea has that grassy or oceanic seaweed flavor that sometimes is just a little too much for me. White tea even if it has a little bit of that grassy flavor it is more towards the sweet pea or vegetal side which I prefer.

Rachel: How many cups of tea do you drink in a day?

Emily: I would say, in my normal routine a minimum of five. In the morning when I get to work I could have a cup or two first thing just checking my email. Then throughout the day I usually just keep pouring that kettle, I usually just drink all day.



Rachel: We are getting ready to enjoy a cup of tea now, what are you making us?
Emily: We are going to have Kenyan Tinderet from David’s Tea. Like I was saying my favorite thing is to start my day with something to eat and a nice cup of strong tea; this is one of my favorites. I drink pretty much exclusively David’s Tea but not because it’s the only tea out there or the best. Even though I am open other companies, I think David’s has a lot of great stuff, and since I work there and I am just always at David’s Tea so that’s where most of my collection is from. The thing I like about Kenyan Tinderet is that is very bold and black but it has a crisp honey note to it. I was thinking about what treats would pair well with it so I also bought pain au chocolat I think the butteriness and the honey flavor will go together really nicely.


The tea was bold and strong, the snacks were a delicious touch and accompanied the tea perfectly, and the company was just the best.


Why I Love Tea: Kyra McDonnell


Last week I got to sit down with tea nerd and friend Kyra McDonnell, and talk about where her love of tea comes from. Kyra and I met while we were both attending the tea sommelier program at George Brown College; the two of us as well as Kelly Beitz (another nerd  in the program) quickly became friends. The bond between the three of us grew over the following months in class, although I am sure that our constant chatting and giggling irritated those around us. Though the three of us no longer get to see each other on a weekly basis, whenever we get together the chatting and giggles pick up right where they left off.

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Saturday afternoon I arrived at Kyra’s apartment in Toronto’s Parkdale neighborhood, where she lives with her fiance Tim, for a chat and a nice cup of tea. I was greeted by Emmi their lovable cat, who promptly demanded food from me. Since I had nothing for him I instead spent some time playing with him before our interview started. Kelly and her husband joined us for our tea chat, so there was lots of fun and laughs in the room.

Rachel: Why do you love tea?

Kyra: I like tea because of my grandparents. It is what they used to give me as a child. They died when I was in high school. The way I kept their memory going was by drinking tea. I feel like if I drink it then they are not actually gone. It’s kind of sad now that I think about it.

Rachel: I don’t think that’s sad, that’s a nice way of remembering them, keeping their memory alive.

Kyra: I think that story is kind of depressing, it’s not like a happy story like ‘oh I like tea because it tastes great’ or something like that. To me tea is a comfort, it’s something that when you’re upset, depressed, you have a nice cup of tea to make yourself feel better, to make life a little bit easier. Not like coffee, coffee is just to keep you up.

Kyra always has a great sense of humor and this of course made a room full of tea drinkers laugh.


Kyra: I love tea not only because of my grandparents and what it meant to them, and the connection I have with them, but also my childhood was not always a happy one. I went through a lot with my parents: separation, 14 years in court, my dad having my mom arrested as a result of his PTSD and his alcoholism. I didn’t cope as you would expect a teenager to, by rebelling and trying to be mischievous and cause problems, I didn’t see it as necessary. What comforted me was drinking tea and then taking a nap. I just didn’t see the point of rebelling against the system because I saw what my parents had done; their rebellion against the system and each other. You’re never going to win and everyone suffers. That’s another reason why I like tea, not only because of the comforting aspect and my grandparents, but  it’s also something that grounds you.

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Rachel: What is your favourite tea, and will you make us a cup?

Kyra: Earl Grey Twinings, because that is what my grandparents used to give me as a child.

Rachel: How do you take your tea, do you like it just by itself?

Kyra: I can drink it by itself maybe with a little bit of lemon. I do prefer to have it with some milk, actually I have almond milk since I gave up milk. I think the flavor of it is so light it’s just enough that you don’t need to add anything to it if you don’t want to, but I grew up having builders tea, you have the milk and you have the sugar, so if i’m ever really upset that is my comfort.

Rachel: Is builder’s tea what your grandparents made you?

Kyra: Yea, where you put the milk a bunch of sugar and the tea.. Its really comforting, like this past week has been really stressful for me at work so every day I have been having a black tea with milk and sugar, and it’s like nectar to me. Like if you had nectar before from a flower, I feel like that’s what tea is, it nourishes your soul and being; t just makes you feel a lot better. I don’t always do it but if I am ever having a bad day, that is what I do.


Although I never myself put milk or sugar in my tea, I asked Kyra to make me a cup of her favorite tea the way that she likes to drink it. It was sweet, creamy and incredibly comforting. It was a beautiful afternoon surrounded by good friends, good stories and good tea.