With World Vegan Day approaching, Ami Tadaa tells us what it’s like to make a passion for ethical living into a career.
Aside from benefiting from the odd Mars ice cream while still in the womb, Ami Tadaa has always embraced a plant-based diet and associated lifestyle (you won’t find her in a pair of leather boots or sporting a fox-fur boa any time soon).
When she left university with a business degree two years ago, the 25-year-old, who grew up in Newcastle, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Delhi, Cornwall, Brighton and Goa, decided that her veganism held the key to her career.
She launched Tyne Chease, which makes handmade 100% plant-based cheases – not ‘cheeses’, mind – earlier this year, and has quickly picked up quite the following from the vegan community of the UK and beyond. Fellow vegan Sara Pascoe proclaimed her a “goddess genius”.
On World Vegan Day (1 November), Ami will be mostly making chease, so we thought we’d better get in early with a few questions.
Do you remember the first time you realised you were a vegan?
As a lifelong vegan, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment I knew I was one. One moment I do keep coming back to is being five years old at school and knowing that I couldn’t eat the biscuits that all my other classmates were eating. Having said that, I never felt like I was missing out or wanted to try anything non-vegan… my packed lunch was always envied!
What are the standout memories of your veganism from your childhood?
Being brought up abroad, in Ethiopia and India, I distinctly remember coming back to the UK on holiday and stocking up on all the vegan ice cream we could get our hands on! We would also get packages sent from family with tons of vegan treats inside. Apparently they were quite the talk of the post office.
“I used to always wonder what the texture of a meringue was like, as I could never find a vegan alternative. But I recently discovered a vegan recipe for a meringue using the leftover water from a can of chickpeas which is amazing!”
What’s the most frequent question you’re asked when people find out you’re a vegan?
As a vegan I do get asked the same questions time and time again and it usually starts with something like: “But where do you get your protein?” One of the more amusing questions I think is when I get asked if I would eat meat if I was stranded on a desert island, and also, “How do you have such nice teeth?”
Have you ever questioned living by a plant-based diet?
Being brought up a vegan I have never questioned living a vegan lifestyle. My parents never forced me to eat a plant-based diet, but instead gave me the knowledge so I could make up my own mind.
What are the most common misconceptions about vegans?
People again always go back to the protein issue. People think vegans are probably very weak and feeble, are severely protein deficient, and are also people who try and shove veganism down everyone’s throats. If people ask me about being a vegan, I’ll tell them what they want to know, but I wouldn’t launch myself and my lifestyle onto anyone.
People also often think of vegans’ diets as consisting of carrots and apples – which couldn’t be further from the truth – and I speak from experience.
If you could eat any starter, main course and dessert, what would they be?
I would start with vegan duck pancakes (I’m not deluded from protein deficiency – they exist). Then I’d have a vegan chicken and mushroom pie with mash and red wine gravy followed by chocolate fudge cake and ice cream… or a Tyne Chease chease board of course!
When did you decide that your veganism could hold the key to your career?
Not only am I a vegan, but I am, and always have been, a lover of food (making and eating). I have therefore always known my passion lay in the art of vegan food. But it was not until I had graduated from university that I started actively pursuing my career as a vegan chease maker.
I am so very passionate about what I do, which not only makes me happy but also gives me a massive sense of purpose – especially when I receive such amazing feedback at vegan festivals and online about my products.
I have had many people tell me that they would be vegan if it wasn’t for cheese, and that my chease is the best they have ever tasted. Knowing that I may be able to help someone transition to a vegan diet is the reason I do what I do. (As well as having something smashing to have on a cracker, obviously.)
Are there any disadvantages?
Being so passionate about what I do can also have its downfalls. I get so personally invested in my business that I take everything to heart.
Is there anything you’d love to eat, but haven’t found a vegan alternative?
I used to always wonder what the texture of a meringue was like, as I could never find a vegan alternative. But I recently discovered a vegan recipe for a meringue using the leftover water from a can of chickpeas which is amazing!
Tell us a bit about Tyne Chease.
Tyne Chease supplies handmade, artisanal, cultured, 100% plant-based, organic (where possible), gluten-free, nut-based cheases from our base in the north-east of England. We are a small family-run business and supply to stockists in the UK as well as France and Germany.
It is something completely different from what is already in the vegan cheese market in the UK. The majority of vegan cheeses use starches and gums to create a cheesy texture and it is all about creating a melting cheese. But we use a traditional cheese-making process whereby our cheases are cultured, pressed and aged. Our cheases are made to be eaten as part of a chease board with wine, grapes and chutney.
So far, we have developed flavours including Classic Cashew, Garlic and Herb, Chilli Flakes, Ale and Mustard, Cranberry, Apricot, Smoky Paprika, Za’atar Roule, Sundried Tomato and Basil, Raw Macadamia and Raw Garlic.
I honestly did not expect the feedback from my products to be as good as it has been. Having said this, the primary challenge for me is how soon or fast to scale up.
I am currently a one-woman band making vegan cheases from my kitchen. Going from that to hopefully hiring members of staff and opening a vegan chease kitchen is going to be a massive step – but one I am very much looking forward to. Also, I hate all the paperwork.
What have been your triumphs so far?
The feedback from customers and wholesalers has been absolutely fantastic. We have only been open for five months and are already selling to stockists in the UK, France and Germany. We have also been nominated for a number of vegan awards and sell out at pretty much every vegan festival we attend.
What are your ambitions for the business?
I hope to scale the business up and start selling at a number of wholesalers not only across the UK but also throughout Europe too. We also hope to continue creating new flavours and types of cheases to make it easier for those people seeking healthier and more ethical cheese alternatives.4265 Views