Anglesey is renowned not just for its unparalleled beauty and stunning coastlines, but is also home to one of the finest sea salt producers in Wales. The glistening waters of the Menai Strait produce pure, natural sea salt, for which producers Halen Môn have recently been awarded The Queen’s Award for Sustainability.
Right on the edge of the island of Anglesey in Brynsiencyn, with breath-taking views of the Snowdonia National Park over on the Welsh mainland, Halen Môn’s saltcote is designed to be as efficient and environmentally friendly as possible. It beautifully blends into its natural surroundings, cladded in local larch wood and surrounded by wildflower meadows that encourage ground-nesting birds like curlews, lapwing, and other seabirds like oystercatchers, turnstones and avocets. Finished in 2015, the saltcote is engineered in such a sustainable way that it can be dismantled section-by-section if it ever needs to increase or reduce in size.
Before venturing into the world of sea salt harvesting – having both graduated from the nearby Bangor University – Alison and David founded the Anglesey Sea Zoo in the 1990s. It was only when they were finding it difficult to maintain staff during the winter period for the sea zoo, did Alison and David think to start harvesting sea salt to keep them afloat over the whole year.
From humble beginnings at home with a saucepan full of seawater left on the Aga, Halen Môn now supplies around 22 different countries, and has won a plethora of awards both for their products and sustainability.
‘We love working with like-minded producers, who care deeply about food, provenance and quality. Pipers Farm and Halen Môn share these very important values.’ – Halen Môn
How is Halen Môn Sea Salt made?
The process of harvesting Halen Môn Sea Salt starts each day at high tide, when the harvesters pump 20,000 kilograms of fresh seawater into large tanks beside the saltcote. There, the seawater is boiled and micro-filtered to remove even the most microscopic foreign bodies. The filtered seawater is left to concentrate into a brine solution. When it is time to do so, the brine solution is channeled into the saltcote’s ‘harvesting room’, and filled into a series of shallow metal tanks.
The salt harvesters then get to work slowly heating each tank of brine solution to start the evaporation process. Eventually, each tank of brine solution will be reduced, and a thick layer of salt crystals will form at the bottom. These salt crystals are then removed or ‘harvested’ and filled into fine mesh boxes to drain overnight.
The next day, the salt crystals go through a unique ‘rinsing stage’, where the crystals are washed in a light brine solution. This rinsing stage loses up to 40-50% of the salt’s matter, most of which is chalk, minerals, and very fine sea salt. The benefit of rinsing the salt at this stage is that it leaves you with those familiar shallow pyramids of pure flakes. This stage is rarely performed in sea salt production and is one of the reasons why Halen Môn produces some of the finest sea salt flakes – or as they describe as their ‘pure white sea salt'.
Once the sea salt flakes are fully dried, they are filled into large tubs ready to be allocated into its various jobs – small packets, large packets, mini tubs, large tubs, flavoured salts, or for their range of sauces like Black Garlic and Bloody Mary Ketchups.
The whole process takes a couple of days, and changes with every tide. It’s everything, from the challenging chemical equations and adjusting to the microclimate, to balancing the brine concentration and knowing which minerals to include in the final product. Each stage epitomizes Halen Môn’s dedication, efficiency, and quality.
Knowing exactly what goes into the making of Halen Môn Sea Salt, producing such a wonderfully clean and environmentally friendly product, you can understand why it’s incredibly popular with top restaurant chefs across the world. The team are completely transparent in their production, even offering visitors to their saltcote guided tours to see first-hand how it goes from seawater to their pure white flakes.
The saltcote at Halen Môn also includes a charming shop that sells products sourced by Jess Lea-Wilson, designer and Alison and David’s daughter. They also have TIDE on site, their café producing food and drink using local ingredients, from Welsh seafood to fruit and veg grown by the Lea-Wilsons.