Pluck Tea: Seeped in the County
by Cynthia Peters
Four years ago a woman by the name of Jennifer Commins, a certified tea sommelier, decided it was time to open up a tea company that stood for more than just great tasting tea. Her dream was to build a Canadian tea company that celebrated the natural ingredients of our lands, especially those grown in Ontario. And hence, Pluck Tea was born.
Today, the company is growing exponentially as more customers taste and appreciate the difference of Pluck tea and what it stands for in the world of tea manufacturers. Located in Leaside in Toronto, the company is compact with three full time employees. The core of their business is in the food service industry, with retailers and office beverage distributors a strong second in their client wheel. While business relations are mainly conducted from their offices in Toronto, product development is rural.
Close to her heart and inspiration is her rural retreat in Prince Edward County where she resides with her family on weekends and holidays. Here Jennifer has solitude and freedom for creating new custom blends and ideas. And she says it’s easy with fresh ingredients, like lavender right on her doorstep
Pluck Tea’s first County collaboration was with Prince Edward County Lavender Farm. Jennifer was introduced to owners Rolande and Derek and worked with them to create Pluck’s popular Prince Edward Lavender green tea. Recently, hotel chain, Andaz, a division of Hyatt also loved the lavender so much, they commissioned Pluck to create a proprietary custom blend combining the lavender with Pluck’s Earl Grey tea.
This year, the crops under contract with the Lavender farm will expand to include peppermint and lemon verbena. Jennifer was recently in Morocco and was inspired to create a green tea blend to rival Moroccan mint tea. Pluck’s newest branded blend will launch this fall utilizing this peppermint crop, appropriately coined, The Canadian Mint. The lemon verbena will find its way into their Control Alt Delete caffeine free herbal tea and a new private label lemon camomile blend for Aroma Expresso Bars across Canada. Prince Edward County Lavender farm is Pluck Tea’s number one farm in volume of produce procured. Number two is a farm in Niagara that produces fruit and acts as a dehydrator hub for Pluck’s dry fruits including apples, cranberries (from Muskoka), and grape skins.
County collaborations run deep with a number of food service, retailers and producers. Hinterland Winery & County Road Beer company are creating a line of non-alcoholic sodas for their customers that will be infused with handmade tea syrups. Dido with Jamie Kennedy’s Summer Dinner series with a sparkling iced tea option created using the herbs from his farm. The Drake Devonshire, The Hubb at Angelines and Agrarian café and Marketplace all utilize Pluck teas on their own or in th
e case of The Hubb, tea infused cocktails, like their Pluck Ginger Sour, a takeoff of the Pisco Sour. Local retailers are also on board like the Pink Lunch Pail and Norman Hardy winery. In Belleville, Pluck tea can be found at Indigo and in all its stores across Canada.
Pluck teas are not just for drinking. Noted local sausage maker, Angelo Bean has been busy infusing the tea in his new breakfast sausages, County Breakfast Links. The seeped Earl Grey Crème tea, along with Norman Hardy Riesling and Nyman Farms dark maple syrup create a deep flavour back note to the tasty local pork. Angelo’s sausages are available in a number of outlets across the region, including Pasta Tavola in Belleville and the Pastry House in Picton. For a complete list, visit his website.
While local ingredients are key to the philosophy of Pluck’s blends, the foundation, tea leaves, still have to be sourced from outside of Canada. P
luck employees the services of a tea broker that aligns its values with theirs. The Ethical Tea Partnership is a company that goes beyond the principles of fair trade with their key message being, “We're creating a fairer, better, more sustainable tea industry - for tea workers, farmers, and the environment” Based in the United Kingdom, they are one of the world’s preeminent ethical brokers.
“Not in Canada you say”, has not stopped Jennifer Commins. She is on a mission to source and ultimately plant tea on her acreage in the County that can withstand our weather. She had hoped to get this project going this summer but with the current drought and complications with importing, it slowed down the process and so the project continues to live on paper at the moment.
On the action front, Pluck Tea is growing strong with new blends, both branded and private label, being developed weekly. Jennifer enjoys the creative collaboration process she entertains with each client. As a blender and purveyor of natural teas, Pluck does provide a special cup of tea on many levels, with the added bonus of taking a bit of the County on the road to many teapots across the country.