Entrepreneur Jethro Tennant tells the Dorset Sea Salt Story
The Dorset Sea Salt Company was started in 2017 by 25-year-old Jethro Tennant, who is now producing top quality hand-harvested salt from the mineral-rich Jurassic Coast.
Portland-based Jethro makes eight different varieties of sea salt, from the ‘natural’ product and apple oak-smoked flavour to the more adventurous lemon and thyme.
The salt has already caught the attention of the region’s top chefs and best restaurants, including Mark Hix’s Oyster & Fish House at Lyme Regis, La Fosse at Cranborne, Roth Bar and Grill in Bruton and The Crab House Cafe in Weymouth.
“For an island that is surrounded by the sea, there are very few salt producers, in fact you can count them on one hand,” says Mark Hix, who uses Jethro’s salt at his Oyster & Fish House at Lyme Regis.
“Jethro has set up a fantastic small production sea salt business on old salt pans on Portland, it’s great that somebody is producing salt in Dorset.”
Jethro had no plans to become a salt maker and it all started as a happy accident when he stumbled across an article about the man-made salt pans on the East Weares that supposedly date back to the Roman period.
“It seemed a shame that an industry that was so culturally relevant to Dorset had died out so I came up with the idea of starting a business that would revive the industry on the Jurassic shores.”
What started out as a hobby became a business thanks to the help of the Prince’s Trust, a charity that helps young people get into work.
Jethro says: “When I first started this, I was trudging down to the sea at Portland Bill and filling up 25-litre containers, putting 20 of them in the back of my old car and carting the water back to a family beach hut where I would begin to filter and boil it down.
“It was a laborious process, and still is, but absolutely 100% worth it in order to produce what I think is the best British sea salt on the market.
“It took me about 18 months to save money for the business, create a business plan, and fine-tune the production method to produce the very best flake salt possible.”
Since he started the business, Jethro has changed his seawater source from Portland Bill and now uses a pipeline that collects water directly from Chesil Beach.
Jethro collects the sea water and filters it extensively. He boils it down to increase the concentration and salinity levels.
He finishes the salty brine in evaporation trays for another 48 hours. The salt is then rinsed, drained and dried. The whole process takes about four days.
The quality of the water used for sea salt depends heavily on the area as well as the weather.
“Bad weather can lower the salinity levels in the sea water, meaning that we get less of a yield from each harvest. The vibrant sea life ecosystem around Portland is an indication that our waters are super healthy, clean and mineral rich.
“It took us a while to find the freshest and cleanest sea water around by carrying out numerous scientific tests. We regularly test our batches of sea salt for food safety.
“We also pass our seawater through a super fine filter, alongside sand and charcoal, to ensure that our raw product is super clean.”
Because of the unique geology of the Jurassic coast, and by using slightly differing production methods than other producers, Dorset sea salt has a distinct taste.
“We preserve all of the minerals and trace elements that are found in the waters along the Jurassic coast. Dorset sea salt has an extremely briny, punchy and fresh flavour. When it comes to using it in cooking, we recommend using up to 30% less compared to other sea salts. The texture is soft flake, that you can nip and crumble onto your foods.
“We don’t add anything to the salt. To preserve all the goodness from the Jurassic coast, our sea salt is completely unrefined, with no unnatural additions whatsoever. It really is a taste of Dorset.”
Reaction to the salt has been encouraging, with more and more chefs in Dorset showing an interest in using it for their restaurants.
“The response has been great and it seems like the idea of a Dorset sea salt has been long overdue.
“Lots of top chefs around Dorset love the product. We are very lucky that Dorset and the surrounding areas have chefs with a real enthusiasm for quality and locally sourced foods.”
The full range of Dorset Sea Salt products can be bought directly from Jethro via his online shop.