Located in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia is a country known for both its rich, cultural heritage and ancient civilisation. As a nation made up of over 80 ethnic groups, a diverse range of languages, customs and traditions co-exist. However, one common cultural practice that is shared throughout Ethiopia is it’s cuisine and the way people eat.
The basis of a typical Ethiopian meal is a variety of stews, collectively known as wat, that are served on top of injera, large fermented sourdough flat-breads made out of teff flour. Teff is an indigenous Ethiopian grain whose history dates back to around 4000 BC. It is a fine-textured grain that until relatively recently was virtually unknown outside Ethiopia and Ethiopian diaspora communities.
At last year’s Allergy and Free from Show in London Olympia, I discovered a company called Tobia Teff who supply teff and products made out of teff in the UK. Tobia Teff is the brainchild of Ethiopian-born restaurateur, Sophie Sirak-Kebede and her husband who started the company in 2007. The couple’s initial motivation for sourcing teff was to aid the production of authentic injera in their restaurant, Tobia.
As Sophie explored the logistics and viability of importing teff, she discovered that this tiny staple grain from her homeland was gaining global recognition and respect for its nutritional value and health benefits. Aside from being high in iron, calcium, protein and folic acid, teff is also gluten-free and sugar-free.
Fast forwarding to 2014, Tobia Teff are thriving and expanding their range of products as more people are learning about teff. However, the area where they have really come into their own is the gluten-free market, as their products have been approved by the NHS and can be requested on prescription.
I visited Tobia Teff’s Northwest London workshop and spoke to Sophie about her company’s story to date, as well as about teff itself and the secret of making perfect injera. You can hear the interview by clicking on the play button below.