All Change Here for Tempeh Meades
Ben Meade is the founder and tempeh maker at Tempeh Meades, a Bristol-based tempeh producer specialising in authentic and innovative versions of this delicious, fermented food.
I started making tempeh whilst living in Kenya, using a small bag of starter culture and wrapping all my batches in local banana leaves. Despite the climate being very similar to Indonesia’s (the birth place of tempeh), success was mixed. We had time to make one last stop on our travels before heading back to a much colder UK, so we decided to go to Indonesia. While my wife, Kirstie, enjoyed the yoga in Bali, I decided to roll up my sleeves and learn to make tempeh in West Java.
And learn I did! One of the most important things I discovered was just how important temperature control is when making tempeh, and how that temperature needs to be adjusted throughout the fermentation process. Another key learning was that tempeh is actually made through not one, but two distinct fermentations. Both fermentations are vital, not just in creating the most delicious product, but also in making soya beans digestible, and making all the amazing nutrients available to us. The thing that surprised me most during my time in West Java was just how frequently tempeh was consumed. It’s made and sold every day at outdoor markets, and eaten in snacks, breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s considered a staple – not surprising, given that it’s really high in protein and fibre, as well as iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium.
Not long after, we moved to Bristol and I immediately set out trying to build a tempeh-making business. The name came easily: always a fan of a silly pun, Tempeh Meades (yes, the ‘e’ intentional!) was too good to resist. The operational side took more thinking about! I set about building a commercial kitchen, but I soon realised that my optimistic start date would be delayed by my amateur DIY skills. We were ready to roll just in time for everyone’s Christmas break, and not long after the pandemic hit – a challenging start to say the least.
Despite this, we soon found interest in our products from restaurants, cafés and indie shops in and around Bristol. The lockdown pushed us into doing home deliveries, which has allowed us to build a loyal base of authentic tempeh fans! We are really excited about our plans for this year, too. On the packaging front, we will be switching to 100% recycled plastic, with a view to eliminating plastic entirely by 2022. We are going to be sourcing our organic, GMO-free soya beans from Italy, and we’ll also be releasing new varieties of tempeh made using 100% UK-grown pulses, grains and seeds.
Another thing we’re really excited about is the idea of “circular production”. We’ve been partnering with local growers, supplying the hulls from our soya beans (a tempeh waste product) for them to use in their compost to grow their own beans, which we have then turned into tempeh. As we grow, we are hoping to continue and expand this system.
We’re really thrilled to see our products on the shelves at Better Food and be able to reach a whole new audience, some of whom will be new to tempeh and some who will already be fans. As one of only a handful of tempeh makers who produce (rather than import) the product, we can’t wait to see this niche foodstuff going mainstream next year!