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.
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.