RVA My Way: Jon Mirador

The city helps the interdisciplinary studies major satisfy his thirst for knowledge — and tea — while the James River provides an escape.

Jon Mirador holding a teacup and steeper. A wall full of tea accessories sits behind him.
Jon Mirador became interested in the science behind brewing tea during his freshman year at VCU and frequently visits local tea shops. (Kevin Morley, University Marketing)

About RVA My Way: This story is part of a series where VCU students share how they’ve made Richmond their own and how it’s helped shape them in return.

When something piques Jon Mirador’s interest, he goes all in. The junior at Virginia Commonwealth University was originally a mechanical engineering major but once he started taking some classes at VCU’s da Vinci Center, the university’s home for advancing innovation and entrepreneurship through cross-disciplinary collaboration, he was hooked. Now he is majoring in interdisciplinary studies with a focus on user experience and user interface design, as well as working toward not one but all three undergraduate certificates the da Vinci Center offers: product innovation, venture creation and human-centered design.

Jon Mirador walking down a sidewalk in Richmond.
Mirador easily gets around the city on foot, by bike and — before the pandemic — by riding the city's Pulse bus, which is free for VCU students. (Kevin Morley, University Marketing)

Mirador is a first-generation college student from Norfolk, Virginia, and he loves VCU for its opportunities. “The possibilities are endless,” he said. Mirador is living proof: In his 2.5 years at VCU, he’s put his passion for photography to use during a yearlong stint as photo editor for The Commonwealth Times (winning awards at the regional, state and national levels); participated in several of VCU’s living-learning programs; been a Clinton Global Initiative University Commitment-Maker; worked at a fellow student’s startup company; and mentored other students through the YouFirst program, which supports first-generation students and which Mirador credits for helping him successfully navigate his early days at VCU.

Mirador loves nature, and particularly wanted to live near water, so VCU’s proximity to the James River was attractive, but the urban vibe was also “100 percent a factor.”

The campus’ downtown location has also helped fuel a new hobby for Mirador: becoming a tea aficionado. Mirador has always liked tea, but one day during his freshman year he decided he wanted to know everything about it and how it’s made.

Jon Mirador is a first-generation college student at VCU with a wide array of interests and a tendency to go all in once something piques his interest. Luckily, VCU's location in downtown Richmond, Virginia, is a perfect match for helping him explore those interests, whether it's learning the science behind brewing tea or communing with nature along the James River. Video by Max Schlickenmeyer.

Before COVID-19 hit, a coffee and tea shop about a five-minute walk from campus became his happy place, and before long Mirador was brewing and experimenting with all kinds of tea in his dorm room and learning the science behind it. The pandemic has changed the way he experiences the city, but it hasn’t stopped him from exploring. “I’ve been all over the place, primarily biking,” Mirador said. And he can still pick up tea curbside at his favorite local shops.

A person standing next to a fresh spring.
When Mirador and his friends visit Wayside Springs, they bring bottles to fill with natural spring water. (Jon Mirador)

VCU News asked Mirador to share some of his newfound expertise on tea as well as his thoughts on what makes Richmond special.

What he loves about Richmond: “The kindness of everyone. If I go into a shop and I’m like, ‘Hey, can I ask you questions about x, y and z,’ they’re always open to giving you a response. Everyone’s really open to both feedback as well as questions. And there’s always something to do. Richmond is just a beautiful community.”

Most magical spot in the city: “Wayside Springs [in Forest Hill]. It’s like a well. You could go and fill up entire buckets from the natural spring water. You have to go down stone steps, and it’s in the middle of a neighborhood but it’s adjacent to the river. It’s an ethereal experience going down there for some reason. Because it’s so secluded. You go down probably 3-4 meters and then the trees are surrounding you but it’s inside of a neighborhood.” 

What tea we should all try: “Milk oolong. You don’t need to add milk at all; it’s just the tea leaves themselves. It tastes amazing and the feel is really good. It doesn’t have a harsh aftertaste even if you oversteep it.”

How to up your tea game: “Step away from tea bags and try to do loose leaf teas. And make sure the temperature isn’t always boiling. I prefer going a little below the mark for steeping teas so I don’t end up messing it up.”

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