The sweet story behind Pluck Tea's new Honey Chai

Sometimes, all it takes to make local food magic is for the right people to meet. Creating foods with thoughtful purpose – foods you can feel good about buying and eating – is all about partnerships. It’s how communities are built, how identities are reaffirmed and how our local food system flourishes.

Those are the stories we’re most excited to hear. Stories like that of Jennifer Commins at Pluck Tea and her search for the perfect cuppa chai.

Since founding Pluck Tea in 2012, Jen Commins has brought tea out of your grandma’s kitchen and back onto the menu at top Toronto restaurants.

A proud supporter of local food, Jen is always looking for new and delicious things to integrate into her award winning teas. It’s one of many reasons we’re thrilled to have her join the conversation on innovation and sustainably on the 2019 Terroir stage.

JimmyPluck_FinalFeed_0012_Nov 9 – All Tea.jpg

When the team at Jimmy’s Coffee – a Toronto coffee institution – approached her to create five custom blends for their shops, she knew she wanted to integrate some local flare.

Back at the ‘Pluck Lab’ – where all Pluck Teas are hand-blended and packaged; the team created four signature blends aptly named Stewart Earl Grey, Henson Green Tea, Buffet Herbal Tea and Matcha, but knew they needed a chai.

Chai typically refers to a blend of black tea and aromatic spices like cinnamon and black pepper. Honey chai, a kicked up version that’s tossed in flavourful honey is a particularly delicious treat that Jen and the team had set their sites on creating.

The name “chai” is actually the Hindi word for “tea”, which was derived from “cha”, the Chinese word for “tea”.

It’s harder than it seems though. “You need to heat the honey to just the right temperature to not loose all the healthy benefits but still get it liquid enough to evenly coat all the spices” said Jen on our recent visit to the lab.

How did they do it? Patience, science and a cement mixer.

With the process perfected, Jen wanted to find a local honey supplier who mirrored her commitment to local, sustainable food. Enter Peter and Sarah Chorabik at Ontario Honey Creations.

JimmyPluck_FinalFeed_0003_Oct 29 – Partnership Annc 1.jpg

Ontario Honey Creations harvests honey sourced from bees re-homed by Toronto Bee Rescue. It’s a family-run affair. Peter runs the bee rescue that relocates bees at risk of extermination found on private property. Once the colony passes their health check and are re-homed in new hives, the bees produce honey for their honey company Ontario Honey Creations where Sarah and their kids create honey products. They have hives all over the GTA full of buzzing, happy, re-homed bees.

JimmyPluck_FinalFeed_0004_Oct 29 – Partnership Annc 2.jpg

Jen blends their delicious honey with freshly ground whole spices and directly traded, premium black tea leaves. As an added bonus, because honey is a nature’s preservative, the freshly ground spices and tea leaves are kept fresh and flavourful for many months!

Try this unique tea at a Jimmy’s Coffee location near you or snag a bag online at

Responsible Service with Smart Serve

We are proud to partner with Smart Serve Ontario for Terroir 2018 to ensure safe and responsible service of all of our wines, beer and unique cocktails.


Smart Serve's primary goal is to be an advocate to help change the culture and behaviour of all who take part in the sale, service and consumption of beverage alcohol. They put this into action through education & training, communication and strategic partnerships.

Their efforts are to ensure that the message of responsible alcohol consumption is considered and understood by the broader public including university and college students. Smart Serve maintains their position in the hospitality sector by providing bursaries to hospitality students across Ontario.

Smart Serve also plays a vital role in making Ontario a safer community with their online and in-class certification program. Join the community here!

After the Symposium is The After Party


How could we possibly fit all of that Terroir fun into one day? Answer: We can’t! After the Symposium, we continued the good times at The Walrus Pub & Beer Hall right in the heart of downtown Toronto.

We can’t say enough about this venue and its owners, The Donnelly Group.

They’ve created a proper pub that has us salivating at their many craft beers on tap, classic & unique cocktails and tasty food with a modern twist. And if that’s not enough, they’ve created a modern, progressive space that is perfect for any occasion, complete with pool table, shuffle board and live music!


With Chef Rory McGouran at the helm, we were delighted by the array of snacks that we got to indulge in. Here's just a taste of the elevated pub bites we tried:

  • Chickpea Fried Squid with Tobiko Spicy Mayo & Candied Lemon Gremolata
  • Ontario Beef Tartar on Crostini
  • Mushroom Toast
  • Smoked Salmon Rillettes with Horseradish Fermented Cream, Pickled Shallot and Everything Bagel Crumble

Similar to their location on Ossington Avenue, The Walrus will soon be opening a Barber & Co alongside a ping pong bar & cafe beneath the pub in early June. So much room for activities!

If you didn’t get a chance to stop by for The After Party, we urge you to hit Bay Street for an after-work cocktail and snack!

Innovative Food Product Development at Canada's Smartest Kitchen

Ever wonder how such innovative food products are developed? Wonder no more!

Canada’s Smartest Kitchen (CSK) is a food product and brand development centre located at The Culinary Institute of Canada in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. They combine culinary creativity, food science, and marketing experience to bring innovative food product ideas to life - how cool is that?!

Peter Crooks 8.JPG

Peter Crooks, Executive Director of CSK, joined Terroir 2018 to moderate the ‘Farms of our Future’ panel that focused on innovation in ag tech alongside some very engaging panelists - Farmer Lee Jones from The Chef's Garden, Barb Stefanyshyn-Cote from Black Fox Farm & Distillery and Peter Burt from The Newfoundland Salt Company.

Working with food and beverage companies of all sizes, Peter and his team take product ideas from their initial concept all the way to market shelves and restaurant tables. Their proprietary SMART Advantage Process allows them to ensure success for clients who face the many challenges in today’s food sector.

Their in-house team of nationally recognized experts includes food scientists, marketers, and award-winning Red Seal chefs. They know food.

Who does Canada’s Smartest Kitchen work with?

  • Small Business & Startups – Smaller companies can take advantage of CSK’s state of the art facility, including a fully equipped R&D kitchen, boardroom, and food styling & photography studio. The SMART Advantage Process is proven to reduce risk and increase success in the food development process.
  • Established Businesses – Line extensions and new product ideas are cultivated by CSK, helping existing clients gain market share with a competitive edge.
  • International Partners – CSK works with innovative food partners from around the world, bringing product ideas to life.


Their comprehensive product and market assessments brings them to tasty places all around the world and also reveal the competitive landscape, trends, and consumer insights that are vital to a project’s success. CSK covers every step necessary to prepare and launch cutting-edge projects into an international market.

Learn more about each of their team members, their services, read client testimonials, and watch their unique SMART process for food product development in action at

Meet one of Ontario's Coolest Distilleries: Top Shelf Distillers

Top Shelf Distillers certainly don’t take themselves too seriously, or play by the rules. We love their connection to their roots, their commitment to sourcing local and pushing the envelope when it comes to innovation in craft spirits.

Hailing from small town Perth, Ontario, one of the first distilling towns in Canada, Top Shelf celebrates the legacy of the distilling trailblazers that came before them.

Photo credit: Jo Dickins

Photo credit: Jo Dickins

Top Shelf's commitment to using local ingredients to create high-quality product is how they became a Feast On Preferred Purveyor. Many of their spirits are grain to glass – using locally sourced rye, corn and malted barley for their whisky, moonshine and vodka. We can’t forget the delicious Ontario blueberries, cherries and maple syrup used to flavour their award-winning moonshine! 

Most recently, Top Shelf began the dynamic transition to organic grain in their spirits. By doing so, Top Shelf aims to work with farmers to increase the acreage dedicated to growing organic corn in Eastern Ontario to meet their demand but to also not interfere with other consumers of organic product.

Photo credit: Jo Dickins

Photo credit: Jo Dickins

The benefits of organic? Why, we thought you’d never ask. By using organic product, Top Shelf will be offering a higher quality product and doing their part to protect their local environment of Perth and Eastern Ontario. It’s only a matter a time before corn farmers begin to switch their crop to organic (which can be a lengthy process) and by taking a leadership role with these farmers, Top Shelf can prevent local farmers from being left behind the curve. Now, THAT is the power of local economics.

The Top Shelf team hopes to be fully certified organic in two to three years with their demand for organic corn to double and quadruple!

In addition to their delightful liquor, their creative team has come up with a full range of bitters to create that perfect cocktail! We got a chance to see a couple of them in action at Terroir 2018:

Top Shelf.png

Captain Otty
•1 ½ oz Top Shelf Gin
•1 oz Lemon Juice
• ½ oz Blueberry Moonshine Syrup
•3-5 dashes Top Shelf Lavender Bitters
•2 oz Soda

top shelf1.png

Scene On The Tay
•1 ½ oz Top Shelf Gin
•½ oz Elderflower Syrup
•1 oz Lemon
•3 Cucumber Slices
•3-5 Dashes Top Shelf Lemongrass Bitters
•2 oz Soda


If you’re like us and enjoy affordable, Ontario-sourced, handcrafted spirits, keep an eye out for Top Shelf Gin and Vodka in LCBO stores. It’s the bottle with the wacky, upside-down logo…

And if you’re in the area, check out the distillery in Perth, Ontario, just outside of Ottawa for a tour and a tasting!

Kicking off Terroir with Ocean Wise and Ripley’s Aquarium

We love to partner with our friends at Ocean Wise year after year to continue the sustainable seafood conversation. For Terroir 2018, they took this partnership to another level and collaborated with Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada to highlight their best-tasting commodity.

The evening before the Symposium, the annual VIP Reception was hosted at the renowned Ripley’s Aquarium in downtown Toronto. It was the first chance for speakers and sponsors to meet and mingle before the big day.

Photo credit: Jo Dickins

Photo credit: Jo Dickins

Ocean Wise seafood is a guarantee of an ocean-friendly seafood choice. With thousands of locations across Canada, the Ocean Wise seafood program makes it easy for consumers to make sustainable seafood choices that ensure the health of our oceans for generations to come. Additionally, to support Ocean Wise’s new global initiative to combat ocean plastics, Plastic Wise, this event was completely free of single-use plastics!

Among the fishies and jellies, our guests experienced a variety of Ocean Wise certified chefs bringing their A-game with sustainable seafood options.


An oyster bar featured Glacier Bay cultured oysters grown in off-bottom cages in the Northumberland Straight, New Brunswick (Seacore Seafood Inc.). Shucked, of course, by Shucker Mic aka Paddy Jr. of The Ceili Cottage.

Raised in Aylmer, Ontario, Planet Shrimp shrimp was poached in butter and served on local lettuces with pickled beets -- a dish created by Kristin Donovan of Hooked Inc.

The “Tony Cod Cobb” by Murray Mcdonald from The Ritz Carlton Photo credit: Jo Dickins

The “Tony Cod Cobb” by Murray Mcdonald from The Ritz Carlton
Photo credit: Jo Dickins

The dish's namesake, Tony Cobb from Fogo Island Fish, provided us with the wild Atlantic cod caught by hook and line near Fogo Island, Newfoundland.

Daniel Duketovsky from Gusto 54 served up saffron-poached wild Canadian black cod, sturgeon caviar, chicharone and cucumber. The black cod was caught by bottom longline in British Columbia while the Acadian sturgeon caviar was from shortnose sturgeon farmed in a land-based recirculating aquaculture system in New Brunswick, both generously provided by Seacore Seafood Inc.

Laura Maxwell from Le Select Bistro prepared a sockeye salmon tartare with buttermilk crème fraiche served on potato gaufrette. Organic Ocean provided us with the wild sockeye salmon that was caught by troll near the Skeena River in British Columbia.

Photo credit: Jo Dickins

Photo credit: Jo Dickins

And last, but certainly not least, Ocean Wise Executive Chef Ned Bell in partnership with Centennial College students served up torched albacore tuna with wild leek pesto and pickled wild leeks. The wild tuna was caught by Bruce Martinelli on the Tantrum No.1 troll fishing boat off the west coast (Skipper Otto).

What a difference it makes to know exactly where your seafood comes from and that it was harvested in an environmentally sustainable way.

Moreover, we heard from some incredible Ocean Wise ambassadors at Terroir 2018. Chef Ned Bell was joined by Sonia Strobel of Skipper Otto, Maxime Daigle of La Maison BeauSoleil and Hana Nelson of aFISHionado, to discuss the importance of environmental, economic and social sustainability in the seafood industry.

Our takeaways from the Reception and this session were simple, but powerful. It’s not as hard as you think to work directly with fishmongers and oyster farmers and small purchasing changes can make a monumental impact. And boy, can Ripley’s throw a party!


To learn more about protecting our oceans and living sustainably, visit