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.
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.
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.