Cornish Sea Salt Company

September 29, 2015 by becca.lazar No Comments

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The story of Cornish Sea Salt starts on the windswept coastal paths of the Lizard Peninsula and the exposed remains of an Iron Age salt works. Tony Fraser, Cornish Sea Salts founder, was exploring the site when somewhere in the back of his mind a light bulb went off. So with little experience, but determination, a great idea and a little investment, The Cornish Sea Salt Company was born.

11 years after their first production and sales, Cornish Sea Salt is going from strength to strength. They’ve new products in the pipeline – not all of them food based – are selling in Waitrose, are exporting to 16 different countries and are looking to break into the American market next. We even spotted their eye catching logo on the shelves of a tiny deli near Beatrix Potter’s house in the Lake District.

We here at Cornish Holiday Cottages were lucky enough to be invited on a tour of Cornish Sea Salt’s factories last week and found ourselves fascinated by an industry that hasn’t been present in Cornwall since the mid 1800s.

Director Philip Tanswell was our guide for the day and is a wealth of knowledge on all things salt: from the beginnings of the company, the content and purity of the water, the engineering involved in salt’s extraction to the minerals in, and the taste of, their products. We’re not going to lie, some of the more technical aspects may have flown over our head, but we’re now considering ourselves bonafide experts on all things sodium chloride.

The salt works are a 20 minute drive from Helston, down some of the smallest country lanes on the Lizard, winding down to the coast. As we arrive, we pass an old MOD building which is where they used to test torpedo speeds during World War II and the now defunct Dean Quarry.

As we pull up to the plant, a mere 8 metres from the sea shore, Phil explains to us the unique qualities of the salt extracted at the site. With currents coming in off the Atlantic and the cleanliness of the water, the salt is naturally white: there’s no bleaching in the Cornish Sea Salt process. Water is pumped into the factory from a small pump nestled into the coastal rocks and from there is sent through a series of pumps and into the salt extraction units. This bit is hush hush and is the main difference between Cornish Sea Salt and their competitors.

From there we donned hairnets and boiler suits – plus a very flattering beard mask for myself – before we were ushered in to the evaporation room. Here there are trays of briny water evaporating away for salt extraction. There are several different types of salt extracted here: on the surface you get the light, fluffy gourmet flakes, which are perfect for sprinkling over your food; next you get the more cube-like crystals, soft and perfect for crumbling into recipes and as a table salt.

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One of the unique selling points is the natural and environmentally friendly nature of their product. The company has a very good idea of the mineral content of the waters they extract from and as it’s an unrefined product it’s all in the tub, along with the salt. This means that it retains over sixty naturally occurring trace elements such as potassium, calcium and magnesium.

One of the tanks had turned a milky colour. It’d been over-evaporated and when this happens the salt is useless or bittern. It happens occasionally. Phil tells us to dip our fingers in: the flavour is incredibly bitter and, to paraphrase, is akin to horse-urine. Not that any of us on the tour have any experience in that department. In comparison the rest of the tanks have a mild, smooth saltiness to them – much like the final product.

From here we were driven to their mixing and packaging plant.  A farm building that is close to bursting at the seams with activity. It’s a sign of a company that are good at what they do – and getting better. They have a passion for all things salty. They also have a community spirit and are looking to make connections with other local businesses, such as the Cornish Seaweed Company.

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Although they aren’t open to the general public, a coastal walk along the coast from Porthallow to Coverack will take you right by the factory, as well as the towering port walls of and abandoned quarry port.

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To sample some of Cornish Sea Salt wares and taste what all the fuss is about head to almost any local deli near our holiday cottages, Waitrose, or maybe even you own local deli.

 

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