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Byron Shire
March 21, 2023

When all falls into place

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Sarah Bourke, founder of Byron Bay Tempeh.

Story & photo Kate O’Neill

Sometimes in life everything just naturally falls into place, and that’s exactly what happened to Sarah Bourke in 2011.

She was working on the Everest fruit and veggie stall at the New Brighton Farmers Market, wondering how she could start her own stall, when she came up with the idea of making tempeh.

‘I was looking for a way to start something at the market, and looking around, I realised there were no vegetarian protein options,’ she said. ‘From there, it all just flowed really easily.’

She asked friend Mari, of renowned Lismore vegetarian restaurant 20,000 Cows, to teach her how to make tempeh, applied to get a stall at the market, and within weeks had started Byron Bay Tempeh.

‘From the moment I had the idea, to starting [the business], I think it was maybe a twelve week process all up,’ she said. ‘It was meant to be.’

Since launching at New Brighton, Sarah and partner Luc have also joined Mullumbimby Farmers Markets, where they have a stall every Friday.

Unlike traditional Indonesian tempeh, which is made with soybeans, Sarah makes her tempeh with other legumes. There are three varieties: chickpea, split pea and brown rice, and fava bean and wakame (a type of seaweed).

‘We’re not anti-soy, we just wanted something different,’ Sarah said. ‘Vegetarian protein sources are traditionally soy-based and it can be hard to find non-soy.’

To make the tempeh, the chickpeas, split peas and fava beans are inoculated with a culture (that Sarah grows and harvests herself) and then fermented – a process that gives tempeh its distinct flavour, and its health benefits.

‘Being fermented, it’s a really good probiotic,’ Sarah said. ‘The fermenting process makes it pre-digested, so you can absorb the nutrients really easily.’

All ingredients, except the fava beans, are organic and Australian grown.

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