Inari Tea and Harvest Roots Ferments

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Inari Tea and Harvest Roots Ferments

Harvest Roots Ferments is proud to announce our partnership with Inari Tea to provide us, directly from growers, the highest quality possible tea, from farmers and families whose names we know. 

 "Four Seasons"  Oolong. Photo: Pete Halupka

"Four Seasons"  Oolong. Photo: Pete Halupka

One day we said, "Kombucha is made with tea, right? Why don't we source tea as similarly to our other ingredients as possible? " And then, Aaron Stair from Inari serendipitously called us.  

Lindsay Whiteaker of Harvest Roots sees Inari as the bridge between two worlds. This bridge, of sourcing tea at the highest level, can be a secondary focus when trying to keep up with the production and demand of kombucha in the U.S. market while competing with multi-national corporations prices. Tea of varying qualities is readily available, without deep relationships, or relationships at all. This isn't inherently negative, as it signals a greater absorption and interest in tea overall.

We aspire to balance financial realities of both company and customer, with the higher goals of sourcing and ethics. Therefore we ask, "Why isn't our kombucha sourcing the best quality tea, at the best prices for the farmers possible?" With our values of being "Founded in the Soil, Rooted in Community" we are elated to be taking this step towards having intimate, first name basis relationships with farmers of, literally, a foreign product.

 Film Still of field of Tongmuguan Smoked Bohea

Film Still of field of Tongmuguan Smoked Bohea

 

Though it is foreign, this is where Inari comes in. Inari is connecting growers, who have been growing tea for up to five generations with our first generation fermentation business in the Southeast region of the U.S.

Aaron Stair, of Inari, relates the growth of tea in the U.S. to that of craft coffee. Harvest Roots sees Inari on the forefront of educating consumers on not only what good tea tastes like, but why. It is in the soil, as their work with famed soil scientist Elaine Ingham illustrates. It's in the environment, the terroir. But, the work that Inari is doing to explore how not only to connect growers in the Asian marketplace with other markets, but also to build more tea farms across viable climates in the Southeastern U.S. as well as France, is what really captivates us. 

"After nearly two years of meetings and meals, I'm proud to be working with Harvest Roots Ferments on all the projects we have invested so much time into. I hope for nothing more but for Inari Tea to aid in the continuing joyful experiences of Harvest Roots customers," Stair writes. 

 Harvest Roots first Inari Tea sensory experiments. Photo: Pete Halupka

Harvest Roots first Inari Tea sensory experiments. Photo: Pete Halupka

This at once addresses the global marketplace, the validity of supporting farmers far from where we live because they are masters at their craft. But it also addresses the consumer interest, as well as sustainability aspect of building markets and growing crops closer to our homes, to minimize our carbon footprint, and create delicious foods.

"In the end, Harvest Root's kombucha arrives to us in a very utilitarian form, the shape of a fermented food, with a narrative that Inari feels is literally felt inside ourselves," Stair says.

 Unfurled and dried "Four Seasons" oolong. Photo: Pete Halupka

Unfurled and dried "Four Seasons" oolong. Photo: Pete Halupka

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Ferment Your Love

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Inspiration 

A large part of the meaning of our work at Harvest Roots is to understand the greater purpose and history of fermentation traditions and techniques. Frequently, we seek to understand this through our work with fermented vegetables, brines, and kombucha, but we constantly seek out other kinds of fermentation like beer, cheese, chocolate, coffee, tea, sourdough, yogurt and so on.

We learned quickly when starting our business five years ago that all types of fermentation inform all other fermentations. By this I mean that when we eat a raw, cow's milk cheese, we can understand as much about cheese fermentation as we do one of our kombucha. Though the bacteria and yeasts associated with either of those products have less overlaps than more, understanding the general principles of fermentation, and how flavor is developed through time, temperature, texture, cultures, consistency, etc is a way to greatly expand ones knowledge and inspirations surrounding their own fermentation practice or business.

I carried this principle literally across two fields of fermentation just a month or two ago. As a homebrewer of wild yeast alcohols, I wanted to employ our cultures from our Sauerkraut at Harvest Roots with my homebrew practice.

I took home a jar of our brine, that had settled in the fridge. Flocculation had allowed the brine to separate clearly from the “dregs” where the yeast and bacteria resided. I took those dregs, and added them to a “wort” to allow them to proliferate and multiply.

I did not know what that culture would smell like or taste like. Would it flocculate? What is its attenuation, or, how well does it ferment sugar? To my excitement, the culture was beautiful and exhibited those iconic Lacto aromas of vanilla. It was a clean fermentation, with no off flavors, and also fermented rapidly with great attenuation and clarity.

After “stepping up” this culture and allowing the cell count to reach a population that would healthily ferment one gallon of mead, I was able to ferment a Raspberry – Chamomile Mead with the yeasts and bacteria of our wild yeast sauerkraut. This technique of gathering souring bacteria could be done with yogurt as well as sourdough cultures.

I feel that this is such a beautiful (and simple) articulation of the cross disciplinary values of a broad knowledge of fermentation. An understanding of any type of fermentation informs all the other fermentation techniques. It may not be a significant technique or culture, like the sauerkraut fermenting alcohol, but it might simply be understanding a recurring ester from certain bacteria. It may be understanding what temperature does, and how bacteria likes warmth, but yeast can articulate beautifully at cooler temperatures. We are ultimately thankful for our friends who teach us so much about fermentation, by continuing a high level of craft across the Deep South. We are thankful to those in this fermented giveaway, but also those who are not a part of it, and are thankful for the perpetual inspiration across the myriad fermentation companies we've indulged in.

Who Are They?

Though the giveaway is about increasing our social media following, the original purpose was to be able to showcase a greater idea of what fermentation is, and how frequently it touches each person's life. Westerners do eat a lot of fermented foods, and we rarely think about it. On top of this, we wanted to showcase our amazing cohorts and friends who ferment various mediums from Taiwan to rural Tennessee to Birmingham. Below is a brief introduction to each company involved in this giveaway. I'll save the biography for their own websites, and will give a introduction from our point of view instead.

Velo Coffee – Chattanooga, TN

Velo Coffee entered our lives at The Farmers Daughter, paired with accessible, delicious local food. It had been some time since we felt the intentionality and craft found in Velo coffee. Their attention to detail, sourcing (and visiting the farms) and their path in starting and running a successful business have been consistently inspiring for Harvest Roots. We are very attentive to their commitment to education in Chattanooga and abound. Their ritualistic cuppings (coffee tastings) as well as good spirited, barista competitions are creating a culture beyond just themselves. We feel a deep connection with their roots, and the ethics behind their business, and are proud to call them friends.

Domestique Coffee – Birmingham, AL

We've known the Pocus' for many, many years through cycling. Their fledging coffee company has already shook up what is pretty much an open market of ethics driven, artisan coffee in Birmingham. Their growth has been exponential with zero sacrifices to quality. Their cohesive branding, grassroots growth and excitement about building a company with high values provide the foundation for what we think is a recipe for success. Though they began roasting in a big way after we stopped drinking coffee, their quality speaks for itself and we crave their Espresso from Cyclecafe whenever we can get it. We really look forward to having two coffees in this giveaway, for comparison of terroir as well as roasting techniques.

Match Chocolate – Birmingham, AL

Out of the gate, with stable branding, cohesive social media presence, with the bedrock of hyper aware sourcing, and high level techniques of production, Kala Northrup's brand new chocolate company is clearly on its way to success. Concentrated on the terroir of varying regions of cacoa, without the ego, Kala eloquently articulates a sense of place alongside who grew the bean. But, this alone does not make good chocolate; Kala makes good chocolate. We also want to add that we have an unprecedented support for female run and owned businesses across the world, but especially in our neck of the woods.

Sequatchie Cove Creamery – Sequatchie Cove, TN

When we think of the craftsperson, the artisan, with a truly unwavering commitment to their practice, Padgett and Nathan Arnold pop up in our heads. They are doing what few, if any, will try in the South. Raw, pastured, estate grazed cows milk cheese is no small task for any part of the world. But in rural Tennessee, just under an hour west from Chattanooga, the Arnold's and their dedicated crew of makers as well as Randall Thomlinson, who raises, grazes, and milks the cattle, are successfully created some of the most celebrated raw cheese in the country.

Inari Tea

Aaron, of Inari Tea, opened the door for us about how vast and intricate the world of tea can be. It's deep history, traditions, and practices are things that American's barely, if at all, understand. He is on a mission to reinvigorate tea, like has happened to craft coffee. With intimate, first name basis connections with growers in places like Taiwan and Japan, Aaron's passion for tea allows him to be the most quality pathway for these growers tea into this country.

 

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900 Gallons of Kraut - Fall 2016

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900 Gallons of Kraut - Fall 2016

It's actually been a year since we first started to have to process very large quantities of vegetables two times a year - once in Spring and once in Fall - to capture the seasonal produce available in our area. We put away our main ferments (Old timer, Curtido, Kimchi) twice a year so only now do we have a chance to change up our recipe, sourcing, textures, temperatures from the product we are STILL selling from June 2016. So now that we are in Fall 2016, we are really excited to have a better grounding, some more knowledge under our belts, and better equipment and storage like temperature control, better fridge, and different textures of Robot Coupe blades to make a better product. We also just have a different handle on ingredients, their profiles depending on time of year, or who to source the best produce from. It's all really exciting!

 The Farm at Windy Hill just a mile from our kitchen is growing us multiple tons of carrots, beets and cabbage.

The Farm at Windy Hill just a mile from our kitchen is growing us multiple tons of carrots, beets and cabbage.

We always make our core three fermented vegetables but we also make small batch ferments throughout the year based on seasonal abundance to explore different fermentation techniques,, to remain in contact with how much we enjoy fermenting vegetables in the midst of constant marketing and deliveries and to keep our customers engaged with new flavors.

We are purchasing vegetables from growers in Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia this Winter. We'll be putting away 12,000-14,000lbs of produce over the next month to two months that we will sell through May 15th, 2017. That will bring our 2016 totals of local vegetables sourcing to nearly 25,000lbs. We will be storing nearly 900 gallons of veggies from 14,000lbs of vegetables.

 Cleaning blade, replacing blades for industrial food processor to make sure all goes smoothly.

Cleaning blade, replacing blades for industrial food processor to make sure all goes smoothly.

 

This Fall 2016 Processing goals are: 

1. Do not get exhausted, exhaustion equals short cuts and short cuts equal only decent ferments at best.

2. Pay folks to come help get it DONE because duh.

3. More notes, more details, more temperature control, more notes, more notes. More notes. 

4. Make the best ferments we've ever made. This includes better texture via new Robot Coupe blades. It also includes better control of temperatures with installation of mini splits on temperature read outs in each kitchen. 

5. Don't run out of cooler space (always a problem) like we did in Spring 2016 and get the ferments in the fridge at the specified times we've designated for each Kraut (i.e. Old Timer is 5 weeks, Kimchi is 4 days) Luckily, we have a new, very large 27' Walk-in cooler for storage now. We also will keep our kitchen at 65 degrees for barrel aging. 

6. Lindsay has been hard at work setting up an effective compost system for the huge amount of vegetable scrap we have. Thus far, we get Mildreds Meadows to pick up our uncooked scraps to feed their pigs. Convert it to pork... 

It'll be fun. Ann Keener helps us so much. Joe does too and he's a local dude. We just want to keep getting better and better at this. Thanks for your support of Harvest Roots and we look forward to you eating this kraut. 

- Pete Halupka

 

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Harvest Roots Forages Their Kombucha

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Harvest Roots Forages Their Kombucha

 I was a 20-something west bound type. Weird to say it all is starting to blur together already. But it was a significant time, me in Oregon on my youthful voyage. I ended up on a farm named Myrtle Glen east of Coos Bay. It is an impressive, awe inspiring place that still sticks with me today. 

 American Persimmons Fall 2014, N. Alabama

American Persimmons Fall 2014, N. Alabama

I weeded chard, harvested kale too low on the stalk (like a cabbage), harvested strawberries - the whole sha-bang. But I vividly remember my relationship to plants that existed without my labor. I was ingesting Samual Thayer's Nature's Harvest. Sorrel tasted like warheads in the woods. Mullein looked like that plant mom had in her yard and "Cowboy toilet paper". Dandelion needed way less maintenance than swiss chard. I began to make entire salads for our big farm dinners entirely of foraged components. 

 Elderflower in my mother's yard. We've decided to stop fighting the birds for the berries and instead ferment the blossoms with rose for kombucha.

Elderflower in my mother's yard. We've decided to stop fighting the birds for the berries and instead ferment the blossoms with rose for kombucha.

I have this thing where I like to eat. The freer and wilder the better, hence my passion about foraging. It's like a big, little secret, a communique with few listeners (though I hate exclusivity and like free knowledge therefore...). In fact, just yesterday I was helping our older friends purchase an RV. The salesperson and I walked back to the store side by side shooting the shit. Yaupon holly graced either side of the door we were about to walk in to. I had heard he was a salesman in training so I said, "Hey bud, see this plant? Here is one you can strike up a conversation with..." But seriously, I don't like that people don't want those apples like I do. Demystify. 

 "Urban" apple our friend Lucy turned us onto that bore more apples than any apple I've seen growing south of Virginia. Incredible astringent, medium sugar, no tannins, great for vinegar. Pressed two gallons of cider. Amazing storage apple. They were harvested in September and are still viable in our compost pile. 

"Urban" apple our friend Lucy turned us onto that bore more apples than any apple I've seen growing south of Virginia. Incredible astringent, medium sugar, no tannins, great for vinegar. Pressed two gallons of cider. Amazing storage apple. They were harvested in September and are still viable in our compost pile. 

 Fenceline seedlings for Wild Apple Kombucha

Fenceline seedlings for Wild Apple Kombucha

 It's important that this plum has disease free fruit. Like, I haven't ever seen a healthy fruiting plum in the Deep South. Let me know if you have via email. We made Mountain Plum and Sage after harvesting 25-26lbs of this fruit off of two medium sized trees in Cloudland, Georgia. (Zone 6b/7a)

It's important that this plum has disease free fruit. Like, I haven't ever seen a healthy fruiting plum in the Deep South. Let me know if you have via email. We made Mountain Plum and Sage after harvesting 25-26lbs of this fruit off of two medium sized trees in Cloudland, Georgia. (Zone 6b/7a)

Speaking from a personal perspective (Pete), I feel like kombucha is a really great, rather simply maintained culture that is a great vehicle for experiments. We aren't super into delineating labor and tasks for some reason but Lindsay definitely taught me how to make kombucha and, full disclosure, she heads up the fermenting of our kombucha for the most part. I usually dream up the recipes and sourcing based on season though that is not 100% of the time. I forage for kombucha because it employs these principles of terroir and wildness into a beverage where that is rarely navigated. I like to forage kombucha because it can be challenging to our audience, because I don't want to make things like other people. 

Being an aquarius, I tend to want to add to a dialogue. If kombucha has a dialogue, my contribution is foraging eccentric, wild, abundant medicinal herbs and fruits. Not only do we make a ferment from these wild candidates, as fruit explorers we also hunt along the way, considering all plants and fruits and herbs for selection into our own orchard and/or garden. We will continue to collect wild genetics for propagation.

Sidenote: My ethereal, spiritual sentiment (Remember? I'm 20-something) is that that Diospyrus Virginiana tastes, looks and is so bountiful because of exactly where it germinated. Yes, that specimen could be further propagated. Yes, we do that. Yes, we will continue to do that (duh). But I'm speaking more of the magic of that wild apple seed in that particular location that chose to germinate. If I had a religion, it would be either bees or this genetic roll of the dice I'm speaking about. 

When I say this last part, I want you to think about a dialogue. This dialogue has me and Lindsay and our business and our customers - that's all who is there. It's a performance -  Why in the hell would we make boring kombucha?  

 

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