While the beans are important, the quality of the water is important as well, and Wei said that he had made some unexpected discoveries. “We came here because we believed that the water would be more pure,” Wei said. “We made the additional discovery that the water here is slightly alkaline; it has a pH of 7.8 to 8.2, and this is a great help in the production of bean-based products, since the protein in the beans dissolves more efficiently in this high pH water.”
Wei has also incorporated some of his biotech expertise into developing Mimanten’s production process. Most tofu production in Taiwan follows on from the Japanese method, which favors the cooking of the soymilk with the bean pulp. Wei said that he found filtering before cooking produced slightly different results, due to the better heat conduction of the filtered liquid. “Cooking the unfiltered soy can lead to uneven heating, and often, to ensure that the soy is cooked through, it is overcooked,” Wei said. By cooking the soy milk after it is filtered, he says that Mimaten achieves a more even heating, that leads to a superior texture.
Wei said that he had made various decisions about the production process, but added that he still lacks experience handling the “moods” of the beans. “Things can vary from day to day, and it is a constantly exciting challenge to find out why there are subtle differences in the product,” Wei said.
Wei spoke at length about using environmental factors to maintain the best quality beans. Low temperature storage, high quality stainless steel equipment, even heating and other factors are all ways of keeping harmful microorganisms to a minimum without the use of chemicals.
The environment is an important part of Wei’s thinking, and this goes well beyond how climatic conditions can affect his soybeans.
Wei said he had wanted to relocate to a rural environment while he was still young enough to do something and when he still could engage with the community around him.
He had invested considerable effort in reducing the impact of his wastewater, which he says is so nutrient rich that it is bad for the environment. Fortunately, the premises that he occupies were once a soy sauce factory, and has underground storage — originally intended for the safekeeping of the terracotta jars used in fermenting — but which is now used for the bioprocessing of the wastewater, so that it is stripped of most ecologically harmful elements before being pumped back into the environment.
With his knowledge of biotech and his commitment to using a natural method of production, Wei is trying to combine a lifestyle choice with a serious commitment to what that choice entails. Good quality tofu and soy milk is a by-product of these choices, and as Wei sees it, is the beginning of a re-energizing of rural Taiwan by young professionals with ideals, capital, and a commitment to rediscovering Nature’s bounty. Information about Mimanten can be found at www.mimanten.com.