Charleston, South Carolina-based Oliver Pluff & Company’s mission is to connect customers to American heritage through historic beverages. Their English Wassail spice blends lend themselves perfectly to cider and wine, their orange clove and lemon ginger hot toddy kits provide the ideal winter warmers, and their hand-packed teas come direct from growers as some of the freshest you’ll ever taste.
Perhaps the first think you’ll notice about Oliver Pluff & Co is their luxurious packaging. Founder Kyle Brown shares, “I wanted the packaging to feel almost like an invitation to a special event or experience. We buy pallets of beautiful paper, and then hand cut labels by order.” It shows.
If the papers are what you notice first, perhaps next you’ll consider the name, which sounds decidedly English. Fabled, even. Can’t you picture this colonial Oliver Pluff guy? “The name is invented and trademarked,” Brown says. “On South Carolina’s coast, there is this lowcountry mud called pluff. We have a 9-foot tidal swing, which leaves behind a lot of coastal mud. People slather themselves with it. We wanted a name that felt very casual, and local. That was the inspiration."
Rooted in Tea, Steeped in History
It was Brown’s awakening regarding tea that led to his founding the company.
"I graduated from college and spent 6 years as a relief worker in refugee camps in Africa and Latin America. The British Empire has long shadows; tea is served everywhere. Tea plantations can take an hour to traverse by small planes."
"Over time, I learned that what we’re drinking at home in the United States was tea of a cheaper quality."
"My grandparents are from Louisiana; we grew up on staples of strong chicory coffee and sweet iced tea. The iced tea was usually made with Tetley teabags and lots of sugar, and sometimes with frozen orange juice added. In my travels, I learned that tea doesn’t need as much sugar if it’s a higher quality leaf. I wanted to bring that idea to the American palate and the American tea drinker."
"I began the business as an iced tea company. We received an iced tea order from Colonial Williamsburg; then a phone call a few weeks after we shipped. They needed help with their colonial teas, and asked if we would be interested. I said yes, and took a crash course on colonial tea blends for a couple of weeks, and began filling the order. I packaged colonial green and black tea blends by myself for 10 days straight, and listened to the entire book of Moby Dick on tape. It was an exciting moment. I realized that we had found a new market, and I revised our business plan and became a student of tea history. Since then, we have marketed our teas to historic sites and museums around the country and we supply 300 sites with tea, spices and coffee."
"A year later I moved the business to Charleston, SC to take advantage of its colonial tea history. Charleston was one of four major ports for British tea trading during colonial times, and there is a lot of Early American history to draw from in the local archives and museums. It has been fun to dig up tea stories from the 1700s. Most everyone has heard of or knows about the Boston Tea Party, but many people don’t know the story of the Charleston tea party. It’s exciting to arouse interest. The history leads Oliver Pluff & Company in lots of great directions.”
"Our tea is supplied from the same plantations that supplied the British East India Company. We’re following the trail of history to supply authentic historical tea blends that the British imported. So, our tea gardens are located in China, India, and Sri Lanka. These gardens are high altitude, near the equator - optimal conditions for tea plantations. We strive to provide a fresh, premium product and when you pop the lid on our tins you’ll immediately notice how these teas and spices are so aromatic and fresh."
Wassail for Good Harvests
Most of us have experienced Christmas caroling, but what about Wassailing?
Wassail (Middle English wæs hæl: be you healthy) refers both to the salute (“Waes Hail!”) and to the drink of wassail—a hot mulled wine or cider.
“We needed some new products for the slow winter months. I researched English wassail spice blends. The British isles were part of the Roman Empire, and the Romans loved mulled wine. The people of the British isles kept the tradition of mulling their wine, and gradually transformed the recipe for apple cider, ale and mead. And one day in winter, they would gather in the middle of the apple orchards to share the bounty of the harvest with the trees, sopping their cider with pieces of toast, hanging the toast in the trees, while reciting lengthy poems and singing songs to bless the harvest and ward off evil spirts. This led to the English practice of wassailing, a precursor to modern Christmas caroling.
Groups would sing: “Old apple tree, old apple tree, we've come to wassail thee, To bear and to bow apples enow, Hats full, caps full, three bushel bags full, Barn floors full and a little heap under the stairs.”
Ready to invite your own good harvest? Your Wassail Kit for Cider comes with 3 Muslin Spice Bags filled with cinnamon sticks, cut ginger, and ground nutmeg. Wassail Kits for Wine include 3 Muslin Spice Bags filled with orange peel, cinnamon sticks, cut ginger, allspice, and cloves. Perhaps winter isn’t so chilly in your corner of the world? Use your kit to make red wine wassail over ice!
Warm Up with Hot Toddies
Did you know that the name “hot toddy” likely came from a British adaptation of a drink made from the sap of the Tadi palm in India? Spices, liquor, and honey combine to create this favorite winter warmer. The hot toddy can be sipped as a soothing tonic before bedtime, or as relief to cold, wet weather.
Oliver Pluff & Co’s Lemon Ginger Hot Toddy kit provides a delicious brew with the pleasing scent of citrus, perfectly balanced with the spiciness of ginger. Their Orange Clove Hot Toddy Kit includes cinnamon sticks, orange peel, roasted chicory, and cloves. Can’t choose? Save and try both with our Hot Toddy Gift Set. Easy to prepare, each tin contains enough spices to brew 3 gallons of toddies. Muslin brew bags make individual toddies a cinch . . . even after you’ve had a few.
"We’re in an old warehouse in Charleston with a few thousand pounds of tea and spices. It’s an experience to walk in the door and meet the aroma. We package all orders by hand, one product at a time, no machines. We think you’ll notice a difference in products that are built by hand, and we strive to provide the very freshest tea and spices."