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From Teff Energy Bites to Teffola's First Store

The fall of 2017 was filled with jerky starts and attempts. Do you ever feel that way? I had been hung up on this idea about energy bites made with teff, Medjool dates, cacao powder, chia seeds and coconut oil. So many trials in my mum’s old food processor. Countless trips to Kroger praying for cheaper dates. I knew I would do something with a packaged good. I was so set on having something sold on store shelves. Stubborn beyond belief that this would work.

The bites were so mediocre. It involved cooking teff in water like rice and then blending it with the rest of the ingredients. I agonized over how many grams of chia I should put in - 18 or 20? I naively thought that those small tweaks would suddenly birth an amazing product. During this time, I was looking for a shared commercial kitchen. I never even considered using my home kitchen as a starting point. My roommate had a dog at the time and cooking food for people was absolutely out of the question.

I stumbled across Proud Mitten Shared Kitchen which happened to be based in Plymouth just 8 minutes away from my house. They offered assistance with getting everything in order to become licensed. There was shared equipment like pans and bowls so I didn’t have to front a lot of expense. Everything was ready to go…except that recipe wasn’t perfect. I signed a 6 month contract with the kitchen with the blind optimism that everything would work out with the recipe.

I gave some to friends and family. Even though they loved me to the moon and back they couldn’t hide their reaction. It wasn’t good. I discovered that when the water from cooking teff + naturally occuring yeast on teff + sugar from dates = alcohol. The bites smelled and tasted like alcohol. It was a colossal failure.  

One day I was making granola and throwing everything in my pantry into a bowl and, because teff was constantly on my mind, I put the whole teff grain in there as well. The flavor was interesting and downright tasty. After some adjustments I took it to my sister and brother in law. They ate a pound of this teff granola in 2 days and started buying it.

I took a picture of the teff granola for my Instagram (the exact photo above!) and the owner of Proud Mitten called me within minutes of posting it. “You should do granola. People don’t know what those energy bites are but they know what granola is”. My sister had been calling it Teffola and just like that I had a recipe.

Days after my state health department inspection, I went to a holiday market in Plymouth where I sold 19 bags to strangers - one guy bought 3 bags. My table had thrifted jars filled with the ingredients in Teffola. I had bought an insane amount of yogurt. No business cards, no way to accept credit cards. Just sample cups and some really good Teffola.

In January of 2018, I walked into our local grocery store, Westborn Market, and summoned all the courage I could to talk to the owner’s son. I fumbled over my pitch, sunglasses fell off my head, business card buried in my backpack. But he said he wanted a case. I left there on cloud nine. I called everyone to share the news. It was a start and I was, and continue to be, so unbelievably proud of myself.