Photo by Zeally Bay
Zeally Bay Sourdough
By Tehya Nicholas
There’s something intoxicating about the earthy aroma of freshly baked loaves of sourdough. It harks back to a slower, simpler time, when people prepared their food with love and patience, and reaped the rewards in terms of their health. Those benefits have been a driving force for the surf-crazy, organic-loving couple John and Jan Farnan - the duo behind Zeally Bay Sourdough.
Nestled near the rugged coastline of Torquay, Zeally Bay Sourdough has been serving customers certified organic sourdough bread since 2007, gaining a reputation as one of the region's finest producers. But to understand the full story behind this much-loved bakery, one has to go back to 1976, well before sourdough was a household term.
John and Jan had arrived at the Surf Coast, via Combi van no less, with nothing but a desire to surf big waves and eat wholesome food. Their love of organics, vegetarianism and macrobiotics led them to open Wholefoods Kitchen, a natural foods cafe in Geelong. It was a staple on the food scene from 1981 to 2001, with John baking fresh sourdough bread each day on a small scale. A process, he says, that entranced him from the very beginning.
“It is a living connection to the past, an ancient food incorporating long fermentation that had been usurped and replaced by quick highly yeasted industrialised, white supermarket breads. Sourdough bread had substance, and a distinctive wonderful earthy aroma,” he explains.
They say success is when preparation meets opportunity, so when a series of fortunate events meant the couple could scale to a fully comprehensive bakehouse in Torquay, Jan and John were ready. They became Victoria’s first certified organic bakery, opening their doors to the public in 2007 while still maintaining their simple ethos: real bread, made by hand.
“Making sourdough is a tactile and sensory process. Weighing and shaping is peaceful and systematic. Doughs are rounded and rested, shaped and placed snugly between the folds of linen Couche cloths to prove,” John says.
The love both John and Jan put into their baking is impossible to miss. They still use the natural leaven they perfected thirty-five years ago, whose maturity is reflected in the enduring quality, refined flavour and integrity of every loaf. But that attention to detail and passion doesn’t just stop at bread. Zeally Bay Sourdough also crafts organic granola - a healthy snack John and Jan say has inspired them since the 70s.
“We always went for a healthy type of granola. Our bakery granola echoes those aspirations. We use quality fresh organic ingredients, sweetened judiciously with brown rice syrup. The oats, coconut, almonds, ginger, spices, and orange rind and oats are baked in trays and produce a heady aroma redolent of Christmas pudding which envelopes the whole bakery.”
In our fast-paced and convenience-oriented world, it’s a rare and precious thing to uncover a producer making food as they did forty years ago. John and Jan are not only offering a taste of authenticity, but they are leaving a legacy for the next generation of bakers and bread-eaters. Co-Lab is very proud to be partnering with these legends.