MADE SLOWLY, WITH CARE: CHECK OUT SOME OF THE WORLD’S NEWEST AND FINEST FOOD PRODUCTS AND THE RELATIONSHIPS THEY SHARE WITH NATURE
From farm to fork, bean to bar, and pasture to plate: the food and beverage artisans and their stories are back in the game, stamping their little prints on your grocery list. Collectively, they are fighting back against the homogenized impersonal forces of the all-powerful multinational food corporations, and restoring the variety, the cultural significance and the pleasure to the food we eat.
The enthusiasts behind these delicacies appear to be creating brand stories using a formula that is tried and tested and the least contrived of them all – the comforting face of mom ’n pop, or the adventurer who made an exotic discovery in some far-away land and has brought it home for the community to see and share.
In short, these new artisanal brands go back to the roots of their products and reveal the parts of the story that we are all so naturally curious about. The result is an honest brand story that can travel yet remain rooted and be built upon. Even if a product comes from halfway around the world, with the power of good packaging design, the internet and social media, a compelling tale can still be told, giving customers an intimate sense of the origin, process and makers. Don’t be fooled by their size, the small-scale movement packs a powerful punch.
Behind each brand, you’ll always uncover a deep-seated passion for the products these artisan makers spend day-in day-out creating. An intense intimacy with the entire process, all the nuance, science and artistry developed over time to edge towards perfection. And they wipe away that nagging sense of hollow disconnect when you purchase a factory produced item which sits anonymously underneath the strobe lights of yet another row on the supermarket shelves.
These kinds of products also tend to have the founders, the people who have the biggest stake in the integrity of the product, keeping a watchful eye over the whole process. The caveat: these vertical operations are not specialized and some efficiency is lost. The push-back from the slow living community and product gurus: whatever efficiency is lost is offset by a gain in humanity; an instilled sense of authenticity and purpose. (**Theoretical business buffs – don’t let the door hit your efficient asses on the way out.)
More often than not there is more than one creator, more than one creative process, and sometimes methods are simply borrowed from another culture. Sharing out the kudos can be tricky but it feels good, it feels right, and it’s valuable. Since after all, the more we know about the products’ life chain and the people behind it, the more character it has and the more trust we have in it being made responsibly, and with care.
Allow us to share with you the enchanting stories of some our favorite products and their makers.
VIETNAM: MAROU, CHOCOLATIERS
Mourou exists on the basis of three values: “Authenticity, fun and adventure.” They took the decision to stick with the purist French definition of chocolate which contains just two ingredients: cocoa and sugar. And in their typically unorthodox manner, they don’t buy the cacao beans via middlemen, instead hunting all over the countryside to buy direct from the source (cue many a flat tyre.) Furthermore, they don’t blend these beans to try and create a homogeneous chocolate flavor. They have chosen to highlight the idiosyncrasies of the beans from different regions and embrace the unique terroirs they have stumbled across.
Since the cocoa industry in Vietnam is so underdeveloped, they had a lucky strike in getting their brand off the ground. But their humour and spirit of adventure, coupled with their divinely designed packaging, have since gained them prestigious accolades in the chocolate industry.
ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOm: HOOK & SON, RAW ORGANIC MILK
Father and son team, Phil and Steve Hook, run their organic dairy Longleys Farm in Hailsham, East Sussex together. They’re taking on the big industries and food safety regulatory bodies by bringing raw milk back to our tables.
Raw milk has been the subject of a long-standing controversial debate, but many believe the absurd vendetta the Food Standards Agency hold against it is unjustified by the (non-existent) data. A single food scare in the 1980s led to a reactionary policy banning its production. But in reality, with modern hygiene standards, medicines and technology the risks of food poisoning and disease spreading are minimal.
The FSA is slowly and reluctantly loosening its grip on the raw milk ban, so Hook and Son applied for a license immediately they were released. The health benefits of raw milk far outweigh pasteurized, homogenized milk, being full of good bacteria, minerals and nutrients, and that’s not even to mention the superior taste. Although only based on anecdotal evidence, Steve says that his customers have reported that drinking raw milk has alleviated their skin conditions and allergies ranging from hay fever to dairy intolerance.
Hook and Son started off with two milk rounds, responding to local customer demand, and have since up-scaled their operation to service farmer’s markets in London and a nationwide delivery service which supplies 3,500 pints per week. To top it all off, a film has even been made about their story, The Moo Man, which has been adopted as the main film as part of the United Nations International Year of the family farm.
There’s no messing around with raw milk, since you can taste variations in what the cows have been eating through their milk. But small-scale producers like Hook and Son embrace the full accountability and traceability which selling direct to their consumers brings. What’s more, by cutting out the middleman, they can build a relationship of trust with customers and stop the bulk of the profits lining the profits of the large corporations. Hook and Son have been certified organic by the Soil Association since 200, which means that no chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers or routine antibiotics are used. Furthermore, they are committed to letting their cattle roam free range on fresh pastureland, giving them happy, stress-free long lives.
Their loyal customer bases attests to a brilliant product. Our supermarket commodification of milk is doing no-one any favors, and we hope that the FSA further relaxes its grip on raw milk legislation to allow sustainable, small-scale dairy farmers like these to thrive.
A great forerunner to the wave of artisan salt companies, Halen Môn Anglesey Sea Salt founders, Alison and David, started up their business as a side project to their aquarium, The Sea Zoo, the largest in Wales, in order to tide themselves over during the slower seasons. They were determined to live on Anglesey – a stunning island of supreme natural beauty which had captured their hearts. The abundance of seahorses in the shores around the Island of Anglesey gave them a clear indication that the waters there were very pure – since seahorses are notoriously fussy about choosing only the cleanest habitats. With the seahorse’s blessing, they have resurrected a craft which had existed in the area for centuries but was banned in the 19th century after salt makers were charged with adulterating their salt with Cheshire rock salt.
The Anglesey Sea Salt crystals are harvested, rinsed, dried and packed entirely by hand. To emphasize the human touch, they stamp each packet of salt with the initials of the maker, and curious customers can read a profile of each maker online. Their salt has gained many prestigious accolades; gracing the tables of Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant The Fat Duck and Ferran Adria’s El Bulli, and it has even been awarded Protected Designation of Origin status by the European Commission.
Recently, consumerism has been a dirty word amongst many. But here we see how consumerism has empowered these people to go out there and create – to borrow a culture to create more and share it, or delve into the history of our food to rediscover something authentic and pure.
As the nineteenth-century naturalist John Burroughs put it, “The great opportunity is where you are. Do not despise your own place and hour. Every place is under the stars, every place is the center of the world.”
Dachi Tea Co. has begun with Taiwan and her teas and natural products, but the world is vast and the opportunities are endless. The word is rich in cultural capital and we’re free to make an honest living out of sharing it.
Doing it right is what guides us to do it well.
Food and beverage is society’s greatest common denominator. Could consumers’ delight for an authentic story and desire to understand the process democratise the food and beverage industry? Or is the allure of low prices and instant gratification too strong for the mainstream market to overcome? Please let us know your thoughts.