By HEATHER SHELTON | email@example.com | Times-Standard
July 5, 2020 at 5:02 a.m.
Every day when Bryon Duty heads out from his Samoa worksite to turn on or off the seawater pump on a dock nearby, he’s greeted with an “amazing view” of Humboldt Bay.
Duty, originally from Lake County, appreciates the bay not only for its beauty, but because it represents the very core of his business, Pacific Flake Sea Salt Harvestry, which makes high-quality flake sea salt directly from the waters of Humboldt Bay.
Pictured is a package of Pacific Flake’s flake sea salt. The sea salt is 100 percent locally made using the water of Humboldt Bay. (Courtesy of Bryon Duty)
“Humboldt Bay has a 96% water recycle every 24 hours from the two high and two low tides, and the Alaska current dumps right into our bay bringing in cold, fresh seawater. That cold water has a denser sodium content and is good for sea salt production,” Duty said in an email interview with the Times-Standard.
Duty founded Pacific Flake Sea Salt Harvestry in 2014. He was originally sourcing seawater from Bodega Bay before moving to Humboldt County in 2016 specifically to find a place to grow his business. The harvestry now operates out of Samoa, where Duty and a small crew make the flake sea salt 100% locally.
Pictured is Bryon Duty moving the flake sea salt from the crystalizing pans into the drying racks. (Courtesy of Bryon Duty)
“We use our seawater here in Humboldt Bay as our single raw ingredient for our sea salt,” said Duty, who originally got the idea for making “the finest and purest culinary sea salt possible” after his mom was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease that causes damage to the thyroid gland.
“Her doctor was advising her to get on an extremely clean diet to find out which foods were negatively affecting her,” Duty said. “In the end, it was nightshade plants — peppers/tomatoes — and sugar. … Her doctor (also) said to remove salt, because most salt have anti-caking agents (sodium aluminosilicate, an aluminum-based agent) for free-flowing sea salt, otherwise the humidity in the air will cause salt to clump up and solidify.”
In his search for salt without additives, Duty said he discovered that, while there were small-batch sea salt harvestries all over the world, there weren’t any in California.
“The next steps were obvious to me. I needed to try and make my own salt,” Duty said in a write-up on Pacific Flake’s website, www.pacificflake.com.
After trial and error, Duty began making high-quality salt from home and, in time, according to the website, turned Pacific Flake into California’s first fire-evaporated finishing flake sea salt harvestry.
“We use no additives. … “(It’s) very different from a traditional solar sea salt, mined rock salt or a highly refined industrial table salt,” Duty said in the Times-Standard email interview.
Pacific Flake is made from seawater collected in Humboldt Bay when the salinity levels are at their highest, he said.
“It starts with our pump out on the dock moving the seawater through a 1,200-foot pipeline to our holding tank, which we draw from,” Duty said. “The holding tank doubles as a settling tank — a first-stage filter from open seawater. Then, that feeds our boiling pans. The stainless steel pans will boil the seawater extensively, boiling off any bacteria that could be present from open seawater. This stage also causes the calcium to become particulate and separate from the sea water. The third thing that happens in this stage is the bulk of the water is evaporated off, leaving a clean, concentrated brine.
“From this stage,” he said, “we filter that brine over into our crystalizing pans. Once in this pan, we evaporate more by also heating this pan. The clear brine looks as clean as bottled water, and then slowly you can see the sea salt crystalizing in front of you — and it’s a pretty magic process watching it form.
“After the pan is full of sea salt, we rake it out, drain it, dry it, pack it,” Duty said.
He added: “The final product is up to par to be served at any Michelin Star restaurant in the Bay Area or any table at home that is looking for high-quality local ingredients.”
The entire process — seawater to final product — takes two weeks.
“By taking the time to make salt with this method, we get a light, flaky texture on our sea salt that is soft, savory and easy to sprinkle,” said Duty, noting that the process he uses doesn’t remove any of the 80-plus trace elements that come naturally in sea salt.
Pacific Flake Sea Salt Harvestry founder/craftsman Bryon Duty stands in front of a boiler at the company’s Samoa-based facility. (Courtesy of Bryon Duty)
Duty — who grew up in an entrepreneurial family — was in the metal scrap recycling business in Southern California before getting into the business of making sea salt.
“I owned a small scrap yard that I sold that funded Pacific Flake,” he said.
Last year, Duty’s business expanded its current production with more stainless steel pans and a new metal building, “making Pacific Flake the second largest flake salt producer in the U.S.,” he said.
“Our maximum capacity is 40 tons a year,” Duty said. “We only produce a flake sea salt and have no plans to add any more types to our production.”
Pacific Flake sea salt is available locally at the North Coast Co-op in Eureka and Arcata and at Eureka Natural Foods in Eureka and McKinleyville.
“We have some retail jars available at the veggie wagon on (the) Herrick Avenue exit off the 101 in south Eureka,” he said.
Duty added: “The majority of all our sea salt — 95%ish — goes to our distribution partner in San Francisco, then goes out to different spice companies in bulk and fine-dining restaurants in the Bay Area.” It’s also available online in smaller sizes at https://shopfoodocracy.com/collections/spices-seasonings/products/pacific-flake-sea-salt, he said.
For more information about Pacific Flake sea salt, go to www.pacificflake.com.
Heather Shelton | Reporter
Heather Shelton covers the lifestyle and entertainment beats for the Times-Standard. In her spare time, she rides horses and creates artwork. She can be reached at 707-441-0516 or firstname.lastname@example.org.