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How one Spokane woman gave yogurt a personal touch

click to enlarge Karyna Hamilton, owner of Flora Yogurt Co. - SARAH WURTZ
  • Sarah Wurtz
  • Karyna Hamilton, owner of Flora Yogurt Co.

Tangy. Lemony. Bright. Sweet. These are the words that describe Flora yogurts, locally made by Karyna Hamilton. These aren't the gluey, faux-healthy and overly processed sugar bombs to which one might be accustomed.

Much like her yogurt, Hamilton herself is the real deal, and becoming a yogurt artisan was an organic process.

"I was a stay-at-home mom and I was trying to find my purpose and identity. I started making yogurt and other fresh cheeses and such. Good friends of mine asked me to make yogurt for them every month," says Hamilton.

Major life changes encouraged Hamilton to take her blossoming pastime one step further, and Flora yogurt was born.

"I was looking for financial independence. I got divorced and knew life had to change," says Hamilton.

Mika Maloney, owner of BATCH Bakeshop, encouraged Hamilton to turn her passion into profit. When Maloney offered Hamilton space to commercially produce her yogurt at BATCH, Hamilton jumped at the chance. A successful Kickstarter campaign funded the purchase of Hamilton's expensive pasteurizer.

In January, Hamilton began selling her Mediterranean, filmjölk (made with Swedish heirloom cultures) and viili (made with Finnish heirloom cultures) yogurts and buttermilk at BATCH. She insists her process is simple, but her affection for fermentation is contagious, and she is as much a teacher as she is an artisan.

"Making yogurt is so much simpler than you realize. You pasteurize milk and then bring it down to the temperature the culture requires. Some yogurt cultures don't require heat. They sit on the countertop and do their thing. You have to know what each culture needs. That's why you end up with these cultures that are so regionally specific," says Hamilton.

So how exactly do Flora yogurts represent our region?

"There's no way to recreate the heritage of the heirloom [culture]. You can honor where it came from, but there's no way to escape the temperature, the bacteria in the air. It's so fascinating to see history and evolution from the perspective of food," says Hamilton. ♦

Flora Yogurt Co. • 2023 W. Dean (at BATCH Bakeshop) • facebook.com/floraayogurtcompany

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