Meet the Maker: Jennifer Commins of Pluck Tea

Posted by Jen McNeely, April 14, 2016

Before she started Pluck Tea, Jennifer Commins did a lot of different things. "My first company was a designer dog company. We made designer dog beds," says the entrepreneur turned tea sommelier. This is just one of the many interesting bits of Jennifer's professional and familial history that I discovered during our candid chat in the Drake Lounge, enjoyed over the most heavenly cup of lavender-infused London Fog Earl Grey tea to ever grace my lips. (Find it on the menu.) She's a fascinating woman who makes a mean cuppa, and doesn't shy away from the cold hard truth: "There are a lot of people making really, really bad tea." It is this pitiful reality that led her to start Pluck Tea.

Interview with Jennifer Commins of Pluck Teas now served at The Drake

Jennifer's love for tea began as a small child, when she used to run wild in the garden...with scissors. "I was very fortunate to grow up with a grandmother who taught me at a young age to go outside with scissors and run to the tea garden," says Jennifer, between spurts of laughter. "The tea garden had chamomile, peppermint, lemonbalm, lemon verbena, and echinacea - the things that are really delicious when you boil them up and add honey or maple syrup."

The process of cutting leaves and making tea with her Grandma became a warm ritual, accompanied with lively tales. "We would make concoctions and she'd tell me stories about the family, like fun fact: we burned down the city in 1904. These stories came out of her pot of tea."

When the tech boom crashed, Jennifer left the dog e-commerce world to help grow business at Klaus by Niemkamper. Her years spent with Toronto's design tycoon were followed by heading up national sales for Dauphin, a job that had her wining and dining potential clients on the regular. "I spent a lot of time eating great dinners with people - architects, designers. Part of my job was taking them out to dinner. And the tea was terrible...TERRIBLE. I thought to myself, how can this be?" says Jennifer. "It's the last thing to pass the customers' lips before they pay the bill, decide on a tip, and decide if they're coming back again."

Loose leaf teas by Pluck Teas, now served at all Drake Properties

After her tea sommelier training, Jennifer got her hands dirty (literally), sourcing premium tea leaves around the world and invigorating them with natural ingredients. The lavender in the London Fog I was sipping comes from Prince Edward County. Grape skins are extracted from Niagara vineyards, and this summer, Jennifer will attempt to grow tea vines in Ontario soil.

Her goal is to delight restaurant customers with a tea service that is "thoughtful and reflects the integrity of the menu." Jennifer is proud that her packaging is done in Toronto, which is one of the reasons why she's able to make custom small batch tea blends based on customer wants. (Have you tried Pluck's Drake After-Dinner tea?)

Running in the garden with scissors can take you further than you ever imagined. Take a cue from Jennifer: be wild, be free. Now excuse me while I exit the blog to brew a piping hot pot of Pluck's Feminist Tea; this rich and complex flavour awaits you at Drake General Store.

Posted in: Food + Drink

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