Seasoning of success

TASMAN Sea Salt combines the East Coast’s most iconic resource with Tasmanian produce to create a gourmet seasoning fit for any kitchen. Perched on an outcrop just north of Little Swanport and overlooking the brilliant blue of the Tasman Sea is the Tasman Sea Salt facility. Two sheds sit alongside a tower and a swathe of solar panels where inside fascinating and ancient work is taking place.

Chris Manson and Alice Laing have operated the business for eight years after a quite sudden uptake in interest. Having met in the UK some 15 years ago, it was on a visit back to Chris’s home state that sprang their salt-harvesting passions. Noticing UK-harvested salt atop the table at a family dinner, they raised the question why salt was shipped across the globe when it could easily be harvested from home.

The idea quickly picked up momentum and by 2013 they had moved to Tasmania where they’ve established their product as a stable in gourmet kitchens. “Pretty soon we were driving up the East Coast and doorknocking farmers to see who might be interested in letting us lease some of their shoreline,” Chris said.

Their process of green-energy efficient extraction of salt from the Tasman Sea is perhaps what makes their business so unique. Water is first drawn and filtered directly from the ocean before it makes its way to the evaporation tower at the site. “We haven’t got the temperature or reliability in the weather to naturally evaporate the water in Tasmania,” he said. “Boiling water is also super energy draining and goes against what we’re trying to achieve here so we’ve innovated our technique.”

The towers work by agitating and rotating the seawater through its layers. This turns the water into droplets and thus increases its surface area. Across thousands of cycles the constant air draft through the tower evaporates freshwater and increases the salt concentration in the remaining water. The water enters the system at a concentration of 3 per cent salt and leaves as a 25 per cent brine. From there the brine makes its way to crystallisation pads where water is extracted further until the familiar white crystals remain. “We are the only ones in the world doing it this way as far as we’re aware,” Chris said. This produces around 40-tonnes of salt per year.

Tasman Sea Salt has recently started giving an insight in to its operation by beginning a sommelier-style tours of the facility. Alice grew up in Scotland with a passion for food that has influenced her career to this stage. That passion has come to a crescendo where she now hosts tasting of Tasmanian produce paired with variations of their salts. “Salt is this mineral we don’t think about that has had so much impact on us,” Alice said. “It has the most profound influence of flavour on the palette and diversifies the taste of food to such a huge extent. “We also like to recognise the historical importance of salt in the preservation of foods which allowed us to travel further and explore more. “It’s something that gets overlooked but it is so fascinating.”

The final product line for Tasman Sea Salt keeps the Tasmanian sentiment close at hand ds which allowed us to travel further and explore more. “It’s something that gets overlooked but it is so fascinating.” The final product line for Tasman Sea Salt keeps the Tasmanian sentiment close at hand.

A salt smoked over Tasmanian oak and blackwood for eight hours pairs with meat and fish. Wakame seaweed grown in waters around Bruny Island provides a boost in the ocean-flavour for foods. They’ve even incorporated the Tasmanian Pepper Berry into the mix, their all-rounder salt.

The Tasman Sea Salt brand is continuing to grow nationwide with appearances on MasterChef and Food Lab. The popularity of the brand isn’t lost on the couple, though they don’t shy away from the importance of their source. “We’re pretty thankful that 99 per cent of the hard work and marketing is done in the ocean.”