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.
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.
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.
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!