Ancient grain teff is the star of crunchy, Michigan-made Teffola granola

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

The story of Michigan-made Teffola, a vegan and low-gluten variety of granola, is one of adaptability. 

The nutty, crunchy granola is preservative-free and made with oats, buckwheat, maple syrup, cinnamon, cranberries and nuts and seeds. 

Teffola is a granola that uses Michigan-grown teff, a protein-rich ancient grain from Ethiopia.

What makes Teffola granola different is that it also uses the ancient grain teff. This high-protein grass seed is primarily grown in Africa. If you are a gluten-free or low-gluten baker, or are familiar with Ethiopian cuisine, you've probably heard of teff or teff flour. It's the main ingredient in the fermented flatbread injera. 

The teff in Teffola, however, is grown in Michigan. Teffola founder Claire Smith's father has 2,300-acre farm — which has been in the family for seven generations — just south of Jackson where they've primarily grown corn and soybeans. She said around 2013 prices of those two crops started to fall. Shortly after, her dad learned about teff from a friend who travels often to Africa. 

"He said there's this Ethiopian grain called teff and it's super nutritious, gluten free and you might try growing it," she said. "So we planted 33 acres that year, and that's about the size of 25 football fields."

Smith thought they were going to "change the world with teff flour," but it didn't work out that way. While some of their teff is milled in another state and sold as flour, she said the traction for them to sell the product directly themselves wasn't there. Teff flour isn't frequently at the top of people's grocery lists, and those who are looking for it can get it from big-name flour companies.

Something clicked, though, when she tried it in granola.

"I was raised on homemade granola, I like homemade granola and just on a whim threw in some teff and it turned out really well," she said. "It's super flavorful. I tweaked the recipe a bunch, took it to my super-picky sister who's also very honest — which very scary, let me tell you — she ate a pound of it in two days."

Teffola granola using teff and buckwheat from the family farm is now sold in many specialty markets in Metro Detroit, including Westborn and Plum Markets, Western Market in Ferndale and soon Busch's Fresh Food Markets. 

Smith recommends eating it with your favorite yogurt and berries. Teffola has flavors of maple syrup, cinnamon and nuts, which pairs well with peaches, too. Add a drizzle of maple syrup for extra sweetness. 

Teffola granola served with pumpkin mousse.

Smith and Teffola have teamed up with the group Frugal on the Fly for a fundraiser at the end of the month. They're selling Teffola parfaits and locally roasted coffee to raise funds to help local women veterans. Frugal on the Fly wants to build shelter for Detroit's women veterans that is an inviting and a creative space for children to relax, play and learn. 

Called Bowls on the Fly, the fundraiser is Jan. 30. Purchase a bowl of granola in advance for $10 for curbside pickup, or pay for one and they'll pay it forward. Visit facebook.com/frugalonthefly or search Eventbrite.com from "Bowls on the Fly" for more information. 

Visit eatteffola.com to buy Teffola online. 

mbaetens@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @melodybaetens