More than just a cup of tea

You might’ve heard of Unitea, where you can sign up to sip, chat and connect – but what is the tea time experience like?



YouAlberta is written by students for students.

Jeremy (he/him) is in his final year of a MA in Communications and Technology (MACT) at the U of A. When he's not writing a paper or reading a book, you can find him on some of Edmonton's river valley trails, or trying to get sendy on his skis.

Maybe you’ve seen a poster or the info displayed on a screen around campus: Unitea, an opportunity to sip, chat and connect. But what’s it like to participate in a one-to-one experience with Unitea? I decided to check it out and wanted to share the experience with you, from signing up to the event itself.

So what is Unitea?

It’s an opportunity to have a conversation with a caring and supportive trained volunteer host for up to an hour in a supportive and judgment-free environment. You both get a beverage and sit down for a chat. There are plenty of reasons to sign up: you can talk through a particular issue or conundrum in your life, maybe you want to practice talking to someone in an easygoing casual setting or you just want to connect with someone new in the U of A community. Unitea offers a caring and confidential space for these conversations to happen and for a community to be built.

Azra with mug

Azra, my Unitea host, with my new Unitea mug!

Registering for a session

Unitea offers both individual and collective tea times, where you can go alone or sign up to participate in a group. For me, I chose an individual time so that I could fit it into my schedule and opted for an in-person experience (you can also choose a virtual/online option). Registration is all done through an easy-to-use online portal, and it only took a few minutes to figure things out. There are a few options to go through - you can pick a particular host or be matched with one; I opted to pick a time and be matched with someone. I received an email about a day later confirming my time and letting me know that my host would be Azra.

The event itself

We met at the infolink desk in SUB (the location for all North Campus in-person Unitea individual tea times); Azra was waiting at the time I picked, wearing a Unitea lanyard, so it was easy to spot her (you can also see the photos of all hosts on the host directory online). We did a quick introduction, and as it was my first time at Unitea, Azra presented me with a Unitea travel mug as a free gift! You’ll receive one, too, at your first session to enjoy and bring to future sessions. 

The nearby Daily Grind has partnered with Unitea to provide a complimentary drink for both the host and participant, so we walked over, got some drinks, then headed to a couple of comfy chairs near the fireplace for our conversation.

Azra let me know that everything we spoke about is confidential and won’t be shared with anyone (unless they need to connect with resources if there’s a risk of someone harming themselves or others), but with her consent, I’m able to share a lot of it with you. Unitea hosts are very knowledgeable about the different supports and resources available on campus, so it’s likely that they can offer better-than-average tips on getting the help you may be looking for. 

I didn’t go in with a plan of what to talk about, but here’s a brief rundown of our conversation in case you’re curious or want inspiration for your Unitea tea time:

  • The challenges I experience in keeping some perfectionist tendencies under control
  • The books we’re currently reading (or have recently completed): Azra enjoys memoirs, having finished Know My Name, and I just finished Extremely Online
  • We’re both graduate students, so we talked about how we chose our programs: what inspired and compelled each of us and pushed us to make such a major decision.
  • Podcasts we like: Azra regularly listens to Armchair Expert, and I binge on How Long Gone a few times per month.

It might look scattered, but that just means that there are many options, and I really have to commend Azra for being such a great and supportive listener throughout the whole experience. I felt like I could have brought up so many things (except we only had an hour).

Finishing up

The tea time experience lasted about an hour (which is generally about the time limit for most good conversations, in my opinion), and we both had to get on our way. I thanked Azra for being such a good listener and excellent host for my first Unitea experience, and then we said our goodbyes. I can’t wait to sign up again!

Learn more and register for your own Unitea session.