A couple of weeks ago I received some tea blends from Plum Deluxe Tea Company in exchange for writing a review for them. Owner and founder Andy Hayes told me that he is a huge Star Trek fan and wanted a little geek perspective on his product. Since I’m a hound for a recipe challenge, I took the plunge on tasting some of the company’s blends and combined Andy’s love of Star Trek and Tea with a recipe for what I like to call Captain Picard’s Earl Grey Coq Au Vin.
Start reading below or jump to:
- The Tea Blends Reviewed with Food Pairings
- The Inspiration Behind Today’s Star Trek Themed Recipe
- The Recipe for Captain Picard’s Earl Grey Coq Au Vin
About Plum Deluxe and an Interview with Andy Hayes
Plum Deluxe‘s line of teas is non-GMO, vegan, and free of chemicals of sulfides. The company supports local and US farmers. And they also have an active philanthropy program supporting many community programs such as education, children, and the elderly. Andy started his company as a tribute to his mother, “who fought a brave six-year battle with breast cancer but never forgot to enjoy the little things in life.”
They also host a subscription “tea of the month” program, local meet-ups, and tea-inspired recipes. But so that you could truly understand Plum Deluxe’s mission, I thought I would let Andy tell you a little bit about his company, himself through the following interview:
Why did you start Plum Deluxe Tea Company?
I had a wonderful, fulfilling career in tech for many years, but after two corporate acquisitions (and two salary decreases), I found myself in a toxic work environment and suffered health consequences because of it. I decided that the risk of going out on my own was a far better prospect than letting an employer take away my health and happiness. I started my company right when WordPress and blogs, Facebook pages were just beginning to get started – so it seemed like the perfect time to start an online-based venture.
What is your background in tea and food?
I don’t! I feel that provides me with a unique perspective, though, because I don’t follow any rules on what types of products are/aren’t possible. My background in tea, specifically, relates to the fact I had lived in Europe much of my life and I felt there were tea offerings available there that we didn’t have here in the states. My products are inspired heavily by European cafe culture and giving our (mostly) American audience those cool, calm, collected vibes.
Where do you draw inspiration for your tea blends?
I mentioned one above, but I also see a lot of inspiration in the food world (what ice cream flavors are trending, fizzy water or soda flavors, etc., what herb and floral combinations are local chefs using). I also tend to start from a place of “what moment will I drink this tea in” and go from there. For example, if I want a tea for an afternoon tea party in the garden, I think, what kind of flavors are appropriate and what would pair well with everything else in the environment (people, food, feelings, etc.)
What is your favorite blend and why?
That’s like asking about a favorite child! Right now, I’m drinking a lot of our Evening in the Garden (elderflower, rose, lemon). It’s very calming and has almost a sparkling feeling. I also start each morning with a cup of our Abundance Green Tea (passionfruit, elderflower). It’s one of the best green teas I’ve ever had – the fruit is invigorating, and the grassiness of the sencha green tea has a balancing, grounding effect.
What do you like to cook most with your tea?
I’m a big fan of infused banana bread or similar “cake” breads. Adding the strongly-brewed tea liquid adds flavor and moisture.
You told me earlier you are Star Trek fan. Who is your favorite Captain and why?
Jean-Luc Picard, without a doubt! (Not just because of the “earl grey, hot” thing.) That’s the Star Trek I watched a lot growing up, so I’ve absorbed a lot of inspiration from the characters in that crew. And I felt that particular series is pretty unique in that it begins with Gene Roddenberry’s influence and he dies part way through, leaving the writers to meld their own inspirations on top of what he started. I’ve recently started to fall back in love with Captain Janeway, I haven’t seen all the Voyager episodes, but it’s current a regular rotation in my Netflix queue.
Tell me about your philanthropic mission with Plum Deluxe and what are your current projects?
We try to work on small, thought projects that help touch others in our local Portland, Oregon community, in the communities where our customers live, and in the communities where our ingredients are grown. Our company’s tagline is “creating moments that matter” and so we like to try to help create moments that matter for those who can’t/aren’t able to do so. This year for Valentine’s Day we, as a community, wrote letters to elderly people who are housebound and could use a bit of cheer. Last Christmas we also sponsored a school classroom for a hot chocolate day (complete with fake log campfire). Right now we’re working on a partnership with the Little Free Library, and in the autumn we’ll be doing a knitting project! Every little bit helps, I believe, when it comes to making the world a better place.
What do you have upcoming in the works that you’re most excited about?
We have several new tea blends launching this year that I’m excited about – including a “Happy Hour” blend that is going to be a smash summer hit. Our tea club also has some amazing teas lined up for the summer. I am also excited about some of the new gift basket options that will be available in the fall for folks looking for great gifts.
The Tea Blends Reviewed with Food Pairings
Reading Nook Black Tea
Chamomile is the great equalizer in this blend, sweetening the black tea and carrying the romantic florals. This tea has the kind of flavor that relaxes the mind so one can get swept away in a good book. What it reminded me of, though, was Belle from Beauty in the Beast -embodying the scent of roses and provincial lavender. This blend would be perfect for going on a page-turning adventure while drinking a calming brew from a chipped teacup.
You could most definitely use this tea to make up some gougères or cream puffs. You may even want to crush some up with a mortar and pestle before mixing some into a ham pâté.
I may even have another Belle inspired recipe for you try in the upcoming months…
Click here to buy: Reading Nook Blend
Scottish Breakfast Heritage Blend
This black tea blend of tastes of warm oat porridge mixed with cream and maple syrup on a rainy morning in the Lowlands. The comforting flavor makes me recall the breakfast my husband and I enjoyed at the Elephant House in Edinburgh. In case you were wondering, that is the cafe where J.K. Rowling would spend her time writing and gazing upon a castle that looks suspiciously like a certain school of witching and wizardry.
The tea would go perfectly with my Outlander themed Howtowdie whether in accompaniment or as a portion of the orange and herb veloute sauce that drenches it. It would also pair well both masala and savory versions of my Hogwarts Express Pumpkin Pasties.
Click here to buy: Scottish Breakfast Heritage Blend
Stargazer Mate Chai
I initially asked Andy to send this blend because A: I love chai, and B: the description originally reminded me of Commander Chakotay from Star Trek: Voyager. Mate tea, like Chakotay’s family, originates from pre-colonized South America. The drink is considered brew of friendship and social gathering, which along with the brew’s name seemed fitting to the Star Trek franchise.
When I tasted it, though, an entirely different Stargazer came to mind. The mate is smooth and smoky, smoldering a little too much for Starfleet. No, the opening notes of clove and cardamom begin this drinking ritual like the lighting of incense. The mate carries like smooth satin over the tongue to envelop it in a companion’s kiss of citrus spiced shortbread. This kiss, I imagine, belongs to Inara Serra from Firefly – sensual, elegant, with a discreet curiosity that inspires one to contemplate the starry sky.
Click here to buy: Stargazer Blend
Gratitude Earl Grey
Gratitude the first tea Andy suggested I try and I can see why. This blend of Earl Grey and strawberry is simple but marvelous. The fruit and bergamot blend VERY well. The latter calms down the sweetness of the former and swirls together in a bright and fresh perspective on a traditional favorite.
The name of the blend “Gratitude” is fitting – a solace from the weight of the worlds. I can picture myself drinking this blend while listening to Debussy piano arrangements in my ready room, writing Captain’s logs as I occasionally glance out the window to ponder upon the stars.
Click here to buy: Gratitude Blend
Earl Grey Coq Au Vin, Hot.
Family, Tradition, and the Final Frontier
Captain Picard and Earl Grey tea go together like bread and butter. That wasn’t my only reason for pairing this particular blend of tea with this character, though. I took most of my inspiration from Star Trek: Next Generation S04E02: Family in where Jean-Luc goes home to his family vineyard in La Barre, France while recovering from the atrocities of Borg assimilation.
Sibling rivalry is a long tradition to break, however. Through his visit, Jean-Luc suffers jealous accusations from his brother Robert in regards to abandoning his home and their parents’ winemaking legacy. As Picard’s friend, Louis, states: “You always reached for the future and your brother for the past.” The dichotomy of past and future is a common theme to the Star Trek franchise. And funnily enough, the franchise does note that even the traditions are very new.
How so? For example, the accents and tastes of the Picard family fit more our current day United Kingdom than of France. Star Trek canon states that the region will take on a strong British and Scottish cultural influence onto their own in regards to food, literature, etc. at this point in the future. This fact amuses me because it is the direct reverse of what the Auld Alliance with France did to Scottish culture back in the 1200-1500s. Tradition, in a sense, is only defined by current cultural memory.
Home and tradition are what helps root the Picard brothers back together. Through empathy and the gratitude for the family and family vineyard that binds them. I feel that Plum Deluxe’s Gratitude blend fits this story through its name and flavor. The updated Earl Grey looks to the future while also celebrating the past. In that, it inspires one to be thankful in both. As a side note, I would also like to mention that Sir. Patrick Stewart (Picard’s actor) is an avid activist for equality, human rights, and education. In some ways, I find him similar to Andy and PlumDeluxe. They both seek to create moments that matter for those less privileged and fortunate.
About Today’s Recipe: Captain Picard’s Earl Grey Coq Au Vin
With this episode and mind, I decided to create my dish based on Picard’s home of La Barre. The town, as stated, is located in the Jura province of the Franche-Comté region of Eastern France – formally of Burgundy, and bordering Switzerland. The area features a booming cheese industry, morel mushrooms, and a variety of wines including savagnin, vin juane, and chardonnay among their culinary exports.
Given that the other two are expensive and not readily found in the U.S., I opted for a Chardonnay from nearby: Albert Bichot Chardonnay Bourgogne Réserve de l’Orangerie. It was a delicious compromise. Featuring a light butteriness, it also contained a dry, crisp flavor with apple and citrus notes that are highly characteristic of savignin wines. I mixed this wine with Plum Deluxe’s Gratitude blend of tea and fresh cream. Then I used it to slowly simmer chicken leg quarters to perfection in an updated version of Coq Au Vin.
Morel mushrooms are also a little difficult to come by, so I opted for shiitake instead to add a different layer of umami. Also, I feel this substitution highlights the pioneering spirit of multi-cultural inclusiveness that Picard embraces in the Federation. For some extra color and Spring flavor, I tossed in some sweet green peas and garnished the dish with fresh strawberry pieces.
Feel free to pair this with a salad of arugula and fresh herbs like dill, mint, and basil. They provide a fragrant bouquet of scents and flavors reminiscent of Springtime in the Jura countryside. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, slice up a starfruit into a Starfleet-fruit to garnish.
So take a moment, pour a cup of tea, a glass of wine, or both. Then sit down to a chicken dinner that engages you in a taste of home, even when you are out on the final frontier.
Check out Plum Deluxe’s website to order some tea, join their tea of the month club, and see how you can help with their outreach program: Click Here.
Cooking with the Captain…
Captain Picard's Earl Grey Coq Au Vin
Equipment: Large skillet with tall sides and a lid, stovetop, kettle, tea strainer, large measuring cup.
- 4 chicken leg and thigh quarters
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 1/2 cup French Chardonnay
- 2 cups water
- 3 teaspoons Plum Deluxe’s Gratitude Blend Tea
- 3.5 oz shiitake or button mushrooms, trimmed and sliced 1/2″ thick
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1/3 cup frozen peas
- 4 large strawberries, sliced
- kosher salt
- fresh ground black pepper
- Scoop the tea into your tea strainer and place into a large measuring cup. Pour boiling water onto the strainer until it levels at the 2-cup line. Allow it to steep until the tea is dark and fragrant – about 8 minutes. Remove the strainer and let the remaining tea (about 1 1/2 cups) cool.
- Heat the skillet on the stovetop over a hot flame and add half of the butter. Pat the leg quarters dry with paper towels and season both sides liberally with kosher salt and black pepper. When the butter has melted add the chicken to the pan and brown 3 minutes on each side. Cover the pan with the lid and reduce the heat to low to cook another ten minutes.
- Combine the wine and tea together and stir. Pour half of it into the pan and let simmer while covered for five minutes. Remove the lid and stir in the mushrooms, chicken stock, another cup of tea/wine, and a cup of cream. Cook another five minutes.
- Remove the chicken to a separate plate and tent with foil to keep warm. Whisk the flour into the remaining tea solution. Pour it into the pan with the peas and what’s left of the cream. Stir and heat until the peas cook through and the sauce thickens. Stir in kosher salt to taste.
- Plate chicken with a ladleful of sauce, garnish with black pepper and strawberry pieces before serving with glasses of Chardonnay.
This recipe will yield a lot of sauce. Add another cup of chicken stock to the leftovers for soup. Or pour it directly over pasta with any remaining chicken. For some extra color, feel free to garnish with fresh dill.