The Balinese coastline villages have a centuries-old tradition of salt making, producing a pure premium salt with sweet notes. The Kusamba village in the Klungkung region of South Bali is one of the few villages that have continued with this historic tradition.

Kusamba village

The process begins with the evaporation of seawater in the beds of black volcanic sands to create pure distilled brine. The brine is then left to crystallise inside vessels made from coconut tree logs. The crystal salts that emerge on the surface of the brine are hand-raked and drained to remove the excess brine. Each logs requires up to 5 days to complete the crystallization process before harvesting.

The crystallization phase

The unique feature of the salt lies on the mineral-rich seawater and the delicate techniques that are specific only for the salt-masters in the region. No similar techniques are applied anywhere else in Indonesia. About 10-12 tons of Kusamba sea salt is produced per month during the dry season. In the last twenty years, these handcrafted traditional pure sea salts have become unable to compete with corporate-mass scale salt production that costs only a fraction of Kusamba sea salt.

Salt in the traditional basket for collection

In addition to this, a government campaign promoting iodine-fortified salts, considered a healthier alternative, has further harmed the production of Kusamba sea salt. Finally, the growth and attraction of the more lucrative tourism industry has resulted in a loss of younger generations in the village to leave behind their tradition in search of employment in the tourist sector.

For these reasons, the Kusamba salt making tradition is on the verge of extinction as only a few villages are able to continue this heritage. Altogether, less than 50 families are still active in the production of Kusamba sea salt.

Credits: Story

Photos — Archivio Slow Food

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