Anyone who has lived in St. Catharines or its surrounding boroughs will know well the charming establishment that is Mahtay Café and Lounge. Opened in 2011 by Chris Low, the café has been serving not only your typical teas, coffees and lattes, but also plant-based creations including fermented products that are made by Low himself.
The name is an ode to yerba mate, a South American tea. The way the cafe spells the word could be perceived as off, but it is meant to show how it is phonetically pronounced. Low explains that yerba mate is a tea that is often sipped communally, between friends and family.
“We loved the tea, the concept of community, and taking time out of the day to enjoy the company of friends and family,” he says.
If they had gone forward with the actual spelling of the word, Low adds that simply using the word "Mate" to name the cafe likely would have led to much confusion in pronunciation and otherwise.
“It turned into a bit of a joke,” he explains. “People could say it any way they wanted as long as they came in the door. Customers would bet each other on how to pronounce 'Mahtay'.”
Other names were considered that were mostly coffee-centric, but using the unique South American tea as inspiration turned out to be a most individualistic fit.
Mahtay Café is open for in-person dining Tuesdays to Sundays from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.