Mary MacGillivray brews up toe-tapping tunes and tea at Brìgh Music & Tea

At one point or another, we’ve all attended a coffee house and experienced the magic of sipping a hot beverage while relaxing to softly played acoustics. Switch out the coffee for a hand-selected loose leaf tea and the guitar for an Irish whistle, and you’d be experiencing an ideal afternoon for Mary MacGillivray and her husband Cian Ó Móráin. So ideal, in fact, that the duo opened a retail store called Brìgh Music & Tea in Charlottetown that celebrates just that: music & tea.

Opening on Saint Patrick’s Day in 2017 was no mere coincidence. Ó Móráin hails from County Kerry, Ireland, and MacGillivray herself was born and raised on Prince Edward Island but also has eight generations of gaelic roots in Cape Breton where much of her family still resides.

Cian Ó Móráin plays the harp during Brìgh Music & Tea’s first anniversary celebration//Photo credit: Richard Schroeter

The couple—growing up halfway around the world from one another—enjoyed similar experiences in their households. They were often surrounded by music coming from kitchen parties and family musical jams. Those long afternoons and evenings of singing and strumming were supported by the strongest cups of tea, or as MacGillivray puts it, “tea that’s so strong you can stand on it.” It was their relatable experiences growing up and mutual love of life-affirming music and tea that would eventually bring the two together on Prince Edward Island when Ó Móráin, a professional musician, was visiting on tour.

MacGillivray gained a love of tea from a young age by preparing the perfect cup of Red Rose for her mother. “It’s as weak as a kitten, throw another bag in it,” MacGillivray quotes her mother as saying. “I loved bringing her a cup of tea that she was happy with, and I learned how to make shortbread, too,” she said, explaining just how much joy those simple moments provided her. In the last year, however, MacGillivray has gone from the strongest orange pekoe to more nuanced varieties of teas. She offers me a quick lesson, explaining that there are three types of tea that all stem from the same plant: camellia sinensis. Tea is green, black, or white depending on how the leaves of camellia sinensis are oxidized. Anything else that isn’t derived from the plant is considered a tisane (think fruit or herbal teas). Although a lifelong consumer of all varieties of tea, for MacGillivray there is still more to explore and learn about.

A large selection of organic teas//Photo credit: Richard Schroeter

She’s currently studying to be a tea sommelier, learning about the flavour profile of teas and how they can be paired with food. “If you’re going to have smoked tofu, a fresh Japanese green tea would go nice with that,” she said. She hopes her studying will pay off by way of enhancing others’ lives through tea. “The ritual of tea is something that happens around the world, it’s a great thing to add to the rhythm of our lives,” she said.

With all the options MacGillivray has available in her own store, from green tea varietals to Scottish Pu’erhs, a type of fermented tea, she answers my question about what her favourite tea is in a way only a true east coaster could, “I’ll always go back to my roots and have a good cup of black tea, and I’ll fire a bit of milk in there, too.”

If you’re wondering how this all comes together under one roof, MacGillivray talks of her plans to offer workshops (make your own cold-buster tea, for example) where participants will learn about the spectrum of benefits that come from drinking tea while having the opportunity to create blends that are unique to their preferences. If you’re feeling peckish, Brìgh Music & Tea has you covered with tea-infused vegan chocolates courtesy of Nurturing Essence, as well as one-of-a-kind oatcakes that are more like an oatcake/shortbread hybrid from MacAulay’s Bakery. The couple is proud to be one of Charlottetown’s only locally owned music store and they offer a large selection of musical instruments to purchase, from fiddles to percussion instruments to kazoos. They have also teamed up with Adam Johnson, a local luthier, in order to offer in-house instrument repairs.

Cian Ó Móráin & Mary MacGillvray, co-owners of Brìgh Music & Tea//Photo credit: Cheryl Young/Salty

MacGillivray extends an open invite to drop by the Water St. store for a cup of tea and a jam, something I’m eager to do. Brìgh Music & Tea provides a welcoming space for musicians and tea lovers alike to experience Scottish, Irish, and contemporary music, along with the perfect cup of tea to match. You can buy local music, a wide range of musical instruments and accessories, and even try your hand at one of the traditional instruments the couple has available for impromptu performances. You never know what you might walk into when you visit Brìgh Music & Tea.

About Emilee Sorrey

Emilee Sorrey is a musician and marketer with a foods & nutrition foundation. She lives and works in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

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