Stories: Celebrating the Tea Launch – April 21

This past week, April 21 (National Tea Day in the UK), The Cape Breton Tea Company celebrated their official launch at the Hillsborough/Glendyre Hall. It was a true celebration of tea as owner, Michelle Greenwell, offered a full schedule of tea tasting and pairings, as well as storytelling. The music for the evening was produced from the Parsley plant, with a special synthesizer that uses the energy of the plant, all this to share the power of herbs and how the energy of the plant can support a room. This was a huge hit!

Originally opened in 2015, Michelle and then partner, Natascha Polomski, opened Tea with Intention and developed 14 tea blends. In November of 2022, the Cape Breton Tea Company was born, with the idea to bring some great black tea combinations to our Cape Breton traditions, as well as herbal blends that represent the tastes and smells found on the island. There are 7 blends currently offered: King George named for the musical traditions of the island is an organic orange pekoe; Queen Mary is an organic earl grey with a smooth finish; Merry Moments is a black tea with apple cinnamon and cloves that livens up the black tea; Just Chill’n is a black tea with cranberry which is great hot or cold; Marvelous Miss Maple is a delicious black tea with the sweet tones of our maple syrup; Summer Breeze is an herbal drink of blue raspberry and citrus tones which was served cold for the tea launch and is good hot or cold; Island Passion is an herbal tea served hot or cold, that represents all the herbs you would find in your garden like lemon balm, lavender, raspberry and blackberry leaves, rose petals and hibiscus, chamomile and more; and Island Orchard which is our signature herbal blend with apple, vanilla, orange rooibos, cinnamon and cloves – known as “apple pie” in an herbal tea it is excellent hot or cold as well.

The evening began with a favorite tradition called the Haymaker’s Switchel which was served to the workers in the fields to replace their electrolytes back in the day. We have created the same blend with many of our tea blends as a base. On Friday night it was Awesome Switchel, which included our Awesome Tea Blend, as well as molasses, honey, maple syrup, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, blueberries, ginger and rhubarb, (the full recipe is in our stories on the website). This was a hit and a variation made with Merry Moments can be seen in the picture with our spoon fiddler – a great specialty drink on a hot day. This was followed by Summer Breeze which was served as an alternative to lemonade. With the citrus hints, as a cold beverage it smells and tastes like lemonade without any sugar added.

Over the last few months, the Cape Breton Tea Company has been a part of the cheese pairings in the Cheese Club at Brook Village Grocery. An alternative to alcoholic pairings, tea is a great way to dress up a dinner. The Queen Mary tasting was paired with our traditional oatcakes. Ruth Guest, representing the Chestico Museum where the tea will be in the gift shop this summer, told stories about Obediah Smith from Port Hood Island, who worked for the Morse’s Tea Company in Halifax, and whose estate continues to support hospitals like the IWK and Inverness, and schools like Bayview in Port Hood to this day. Old Amsterdam cheese was a perfect pairing with Merry Moments, a tea blend created by Michelle, her mom, Yvonne, and her sister, Charlene, to highlight Mary Janet MacDonald’s contributions to people around the world with her Tunes and Wooden Spoons program on Facebook and her cookbooks full of great traditional recipes. Stepdance shoes represent Mary Janet’s contributions to stepdance and square sets over the years too. Mary Janet shared stories of tea being drunk from the saucer and tea leaves being read.

The evening continued with Island Passion paired with our Skye Glen Creamery homemade cheese. The softness of the cheese brings out the tones of the herbs in a very subtle way. This is a great combination for an afternoon tea choice. Peggy Burke, of the Store Studio in Creignish, spoke about her father’s store and the way tea was originally sold and used in the early 1900s. She even shared a story about what happened for loose-leaf tea drinkers when the tea was “upgraded” to being bagged. Peggy shared copies of the shop register from the 1910s when tea was $.25 a pound.

The final special for the evening was a blend Michelle made with her sister, Charlene, to honor their parent’s 60th Wedding Anniversary. This blend, called Celebrating Dreams, included grape leaves, rose petals, rose hips, sunflower and calendula petals from Michelle’s garden along with honeybush and rooibos to round out a very special soft herbal blend. This treat was served by Doug and Yvonne Waines, Michelle’s parents who were on hand for the special launch. Not available on the market, (yet), this was an exclusive opportunity to see what specialty blends can be created to celebrate special occasions. Michelle has supported weddings, bridal showers, and companies with their own signature blends, something she is excited about doing.

Michelle shared information about herbs and how herbs support our nutritional needs, as well as the essences or messages within the herbs. Offering workshops on herbs for many years, Michelle looks forward to advancing these workshops this summer with their connection to the tea blends. Michelle and Natascha published a tea book in 2018, Tea with Intention, that explores the power of herbs through the Five Element Wheel from Chinese Medicine. This book is an interesting read for those people who want to understand how the systems in the body respond to the herbs that we choose for our tea and for cooking.

If you thought tea was just to serve with a meal, the Cape Breton Tea Company is turning that idea on its head. Tea can be chosen to accompany different parts of a meal, and when paired correctly, can bring out the flavour of the meal, and of course great conversation with family and friends around the table. You can order the tea online from and can pick up your order or have it shipped, and it will soon be on the Cape Breton Shop site as well. It is also at Brook Village Grocery currently, and will be at the Store Studio and the Chestico Museum this summer. More locations will be added in the coming weeks. You can follow the stories on Facebook: and Instagram, as well as on the website stories. Check out the partners with the tea on the links page.

Thank you to everyone who came to celebrate, who has bought tea and supported its creation, and to the hall for a great venue to celebrate from.
Thank you for the photos shared by others. Below from left to right: Preparing the tea, support from my parents to get the packages ready, sharing stories with Mary Janet MacDonald, Peggy Burke telling stories from the Store Studio, the guests in the hall, Michelle listening to Mary Janet’s stories.

Originally posted: APRIL 28, 2023

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