“The salinity of our tidal points set Orsay apart, as it has a higher yield than the average coastal area of Britain,” says Portnahaven-based Anna Hock, 27, founder of soon-to-be-launched Orsay Sea Salt. “When I discovered this, it pushed me to turn my daydream of producing a high quality artisan sea salt into reality”.
When planning the business, Anna and her fisherman husband, Ashley, 32, went out on their boat, the Clifford Noel, to test water at different points around the local coastline.
“Our various sampling spots could be only a quarter of a mile away from each other, but they had different palatable tones and flavourings, all depending on how the tides mix and the rock formations,” she says.
Their preferred patch was “the fast-flowing sound between the picturesque fishing village of Port Wemyss and the lighthouse island of Orsay”, hence their lighthouse logo.
According to Anna, the rocks get especially pounded by the waves at this spot, which makes the surrounding water mineral rich.
The sturdy but small Clifford Noel, ploughing towards “the optimal point in the tidal surge”, has certainly got her work cut out, as she’s buffeted by the swell.
We’re glad that her owners already have sea legs.
You may imagine that the flavour of sodium chloride is the same, whether you go for a bog-standard table number, usually mined from underground deposits, or a fancier sea salt.
However, the recent rise of other Scottish brands, such as the Isle of Skye Sea Salt Company, the East Neuk Salt Company and Blackthorn Sea Salt, might convince you otherwise.
In the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries, sea salt was a major export from Scotland, and the business is slowly reviving, centuries later.
This time round, its customer is the gourmand.
In Orsay Sea Salt’s case, they’ve already been approached by various chefs, as well as Campbeltown company Fetcha Chocolates, who want to use their product for their salted caramel.
“Our salt has a bright white and almost snowflake like appearance, “ says Anna, who has two children, Nathan, 3, and Natalie, 2. “There’s an instant sweetness when first tasted, this is followed by a creamy smooth finish. It is hugely versatile and can be used when baking or as a finishing salt. It goes very well with a Portnahaven lobster!”
Their product, which Anna also likes to describe as 'fresh, clean and clear like the Hebridean air”, will be produced in limited quantities and presented in recyclable and plastic-free packaging. The harvesting is also done in a manner that doesn’t disturb the environment.
“We respect the unique natural resources, and follow a simple, organic and fully sustainable production model with minimal intervention”, says Anna. “The water is pumped into a polytunnel in a field, and dried using the sun and wind through natural evaporation. This can take one to three weeks before the salt crystals are formed, depending on the weather. To allow us a successful launch this year we need a few weeks of sunshine!”
Another of the many reasons for us to wish for good weather this spring.
For updates, follow them on social media or see www.orsayseasalt.co.uk