'From the very first time I went to Japan I fell in love with tea'
Megan MacKenzie has spent a good portion of her adult life living and working overseas.
And among the things she learned is that friendly people can be found anywhere, and secondly, she has a real fondness for tea.
“From the very first time I went to Japan I fell in love with tea,” said the 33-year-old entrepreneur while seated inside The Brew and Bubble tea shop, which she opened on Townsend Street in mid-October.
“Every convenience store over there has different tea drinks and it’s just everywhere as part of their culture. It’s green tea pancakes and treats and everything. And so, as the years went on, it didn’t matter what country I was in, I just fell more and more in love with tea.”
MacKenzie was also giving lessons at a school in South Korea after her undergraduate degree and later returned to the country to teach at a higher level.
Most recently, she taught at a university in Nonsan, a small city located a few hours outside of Seoul.
“It was amazing,” she said. “I took taekwondo while I was there and my master treated me like I was part of his family. It was just everybody I met over there, even the woman who owned the corner store nearest to where I lived, they were so friendly and would check up on me.”
MacKenzie, after six years living in South Korea, learned that her grandmother had started experiencing some health issues. She was facing a decision.
“Am I going to stay in Korea forever, or do I want to come back to Canada at some point?
“I decided, well, I miss Canada and I love Canada, so let’s come back and do something interesting here.”
Although she first thought of pursuing a career related to her master’s degree in environmental science, MacKenzie said the idea of a tea shop brewed in the back of her mind.
"Terrifying!” she said, when asked what it was like opening her own business.
“When I started out I thought, ‘Oh yeah, it will be a lot of work.’ I had no idea it was so much more complicated because you think a tea shop: OK, I’ll get a kettle and some teas and whatnot and be ready to go. It turned into a whole big thing, but it was also better for all the work I’ve put into it, I think, and I love how it’s turned out.”
The Brew and Bubble – Tea shop
Location: 76 Townsend St., Sydney
Products: Loose leaf tea, pour over coffee, bubble tea, cookies, cinnamon rolls and cupcakes.
Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturdays: 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Employees: Currently, just one (MacKenzie).
MacKenzie’s shop features comfortable seating areas and her own local blends of loose-leaf tea, along with what she describes as some of the best blends from the United States and Canada.
She also sells pour-over, hand-brewed coffee, along with some sweets and bagged tea blends.
Helping inspire the business name is bubble tea made with different iced tea flavours, flavours of milk, sugar and toppings known as pearls.
Pearls used can vary, with examples being tapioca balls, popping boba and fruit jellies.
MacKenzie has also started making her own tea blends such as Breton Blueberry and Cape Breton Breakfast Tea.
She is in the process of creating a third island-themed tea using maple sugar from the Highland Gold maple operation in Boisdale.
“Blueberry is such a Cape Breton flavour,” said MacKenzie. “It’s not nearly as popular anywhere else.
“I just kept mixing it until it tasted subtly like blueberry and reminded me of summer, that’s when I knew I had the right tea.”
MacKenzie said she knows that many Cape Bretoners consider tea to be a staple of their households.
“They definitely take their tea seriously,” she said. “I think people are excited for something new, so hopefully that something new makes them happy and they love it.”