A brewing business

At Mohawk College, Tea Sommelier Katie Cyr has learned what she needs to know about the beverage and running a business

Katie Cyr has turned a love for tea handed down from her grandmother into a full-time business thanks to two programs at Mohawk College.

Microblending loose-leaf tea in small batches started out as something she enjoyed doing for herself and family and friends. She set out to learn more when a friend told her about a Tea Sommelier certificate program through Mohawk’s Continuing Education.

Then Cyr earned certification as a Tea Sommelier after passing a challenging exam through the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada. “My journey through Mohawk has been incredible. Studying in Continuing Education offered the flexibility to work and learn a new skill at the same time.”

Cyr launched Monarch Tea Co. about eight years ago, and started out offering tea workshops in libraries, community centres and private homes. It was a sideline in addition to a full-time job in retail. A year ago, she decided to make tea her full-time occupation.

What has really taken off for Monarch Tea is corporate events for employees of large organizations, including Facebook, Google and Warner Bros. USA, and RBC. Cyr hosted an event for the Mohawk Alumni Association and even conducted a tea workshop through the Canadian military for veterans with post-traumatic stress.

During the pandemic, companies have sent gift tea sets to employees at home and then hired Cyr to do guided brewing and tasting events over Zoom.

Last year, Cyr took Foundations for Small Business through City School, which has grown her confidence, she says.

She was the winner of Mohawk’s SURGE Pitch Competition in 2021, which came with a year of mentorship of a business coach through the Centre for Entrepreneurship, along with cash and in-kind prizes.

Monarch Tea also won a FirstOntario 1Award for small business in 2021.

“I think there has been a cultural shift around entrepreneurship so it really makes sense for Mohawk to integrate these skills into the education it provides.”