by Ben Jarrell • photographs by Peter Taylor
“You choose that slower process of growing,” says Verdant Bread co-founder Jaymin McAffrey. Still, the small bakery on Monroe Road has amassed quite a following since he and Tanner Fink launched the business in 2017. “Thankfully, with each step, we’ve been able to grow very organically.”
The bakery employs cold fermentation, a process by which yeast dough is allowed to slowly proof at slightly above refrigerator temperature. At 50 degrees Fahrenheit, natural yeast quietly consumes complex starches and, in turn, not only provides carbon dioxide that allows the dough to rise but also flavor compounds that make each bread unique. Under these chilled conditions, it’s a calculated rise.
Verdant Bread’s deliberate process and organic grains yield tasty loaves with unique flavor.
This is not a business model built for speed — even compared with other small bakeries — and it’s downright languorous when compared with larger commercial ones that help stock supermarket shelves. But what I first misunderstood as a metaphor was more a microcosm of the bakery’s growth as local artisans.
“It’s funny. It kind of mirrors exactly what we’re doing with this very slow process with bread — not buying a bunch of equipment to automate everything,” McAffrey says.
With a focus on using millers local to North Carolina like Lindley Mills and Carolina Ground, Verdant’s success begins with organic grains, from rye to ancient varieties like einkorn wheat, and a slow proofing process with a wild yeast starter, affectionately named “Gloria.” It ends with a hot, quick bake. The fresh-milled grains give flavor, texture and nutrition. Wild yeast and lactic acid provide rise, tenderness and additional flavor. Heat from the oven kills the yeast, sets the dough and forms the crust of their various breads. From dough to table, the whole process takes up to two days.
When I first heard of Verdant a few years back, they were baking bread for Not Just Coffee out of a kitchen off Monroe Road where Sweet Spot Studio now sits. Blown away by the hearty sourdough below smashed avocado, I was rightfully confused — Charlotte did not have bread this good. NJC owners Miracle and James Yoder told me of the two former Kindred bartenders baking bread out of a commissary across town. Still in its infancy, other clients included Mama Ricotta’s and Hex Coffee, which first carried Verdant’s bread when the bakery was a name without a home. Slowly, intentionally, that name built a following that continued to expand after they began selling their bread at Matthews Community Farmers Market in 2019.
On a dreary late winter day, McAffrey and Fink invite me inside their bakery — the current bakeshop is just across the parking lot from their original location behind Common Market Oakwold — to check out their production and to meet the team. Fink stands over a table of dough balls, pulling and twisting each one into the familiar shape of a bagel. Behind him, his team members buzz, steadily filling orders for their 15 wholesale accounts. The Loyalist Market in Matthews would soon become the 16th.
“Tanner and I are in this space and it’s fairly small; but we’re able to crank out a really large amount of bread over here. It’s been really fun,” McAffrey says. He explains why it was so important for them to start slow and get a foot in the door at the market. “We like to do wholesale, but that’s not our bigger vision. We really love focusing on the community of farmers, the tradesmen — that’s what’s valuable to us.”
Fink finishes his thought:
“Getting bread on a table. Getting bread to people.” SP
WHERE TO BUY: Verdant Bread is sold at the Matthews Community Farmers Market and Uptown Farmers Market on Saturdays; at The Pickled Peach in Davidson on Wednesdays; and at the bakery at 4410 Monroe Rd. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Monthly subscriptions (one loaf per week) are $25. Pre-order at verdantbread.co.