As a former engineer and design architect for boats, yachts and automotives, “Not a day goes by where I don’t pass one of my creations on a highway or in the waters somewhere,” says Tim Norwood of Sea Salt Florida. But while flying 35K feet up in the air, traveling back to Florida from a vineyard voyage vacationing the Pacific Northwest with wife Janice, a deeper calling came to him whilst ruminating from the window seat. Conceptualizing plans of future retirement, Norwood came to the realization that his childhood dreams of owning his own winery and creating a wine label of his own were realistically not going to pan out. “Sitting there in the noisy silence of altitude, overlooking the water below, I began to take inventory of our life in Florida,” he says. “It became very clear to me that we are there to stay for good, and it might be time to come up with another childhood dream for our working retirement years.” Put quite simply, Florida is just “not the wine capital of the world.” But being the designer and inventor type that he is, Norwood began making mental lists of all the assets and qualities that Florida does offer, something new and interesting that he could turn into a legacy. And just as the plane descended over the Gulf’s clearest waters, it hit Norwood like a ton of salt—not just any salt though—the finest wine quality sea salt in the world. Landing on the tarmac and on a new goal for retirement, the Norwoods began a two-and-a-half-year journey of trial and error, studying like a lawyer hell-bent on passing the BAR and figuring out how sea salt forms.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY WYATT KOSTYGAN.

Feeling determined and capable, Norwood proceeded to the kitchen to experiment with making his own version of organic, high-quality sea salt, affordable for the average consumer. Much like a mad scientist, his hands-on R&D led to countless small explosions at home as he experimented with different salt mix concoctions. But the surge of saline paid off when Florida Sea Salt took off like a sailfish at full-speed. “I created every step without ever looking to see how others produced sea salt,” Norwood beams of his notion to avoid the boiling method, which is known to affect the mineral-rich content and flavor. “I harvest 100% natural sea salt from our local islands—raw, wild and wet harvested from scratch—with an all-natural approach, very similar to those used in historic times.” This means the gourmet sea salts never touch the pump of a machine—never spun, rolled, boiled nor mined into existence—so that a very high mineral content stays intact (unlike table salt which is simply two minerals, or even pink Himalayan which is six minerals). “Because of the choreography of my harvesting method, we have a very low percentage of sodium chloride in Sea Salt Florida,” Norwood says, comparing it to the common table salts, which are almost always “between 98 and 100% sodium chloride.”

Upon perfecting the craft of natural harvesting, Norwood still finds himself battling the forces of nature ever so often, with red tide phenomena. With a set of very rigid product standards, Norwood stays far away from the waters during, or even after a red tide bloom, for quite some time. “I work with testing data published daily by our local Mote Laboratory scientists and I refuse to bend on my 10-day of clear numbers before ever venturing into the harvesting waters affected by a red tide event,” he says, making note of his proprietary filter systems, created to ensure no foreign particles are found in his salts. “I did extensive research and testing into the natural filtration of the waters to remove any and all risk of waterborne particulate from ever reaching my salt harvesting ponds.”

AS A FORMER ENGINEER AND DESIGN ARCHITECT FOR BOATS, YACHTS AND AUTOMOTIVES, “NOT A DAY GOES BY WHERE I DON’T PASS ONE OF MY CREATIONS ON A HIGHWAY OR IN THE WATERS SOMEWHERE,” SAYS TIM NORWOOD OF SEA

With the most recent red tide, Norwood strategically planned ahead for an inopportune obstacle like this—stowing away product and seawater collected during clear seasons past. “I had to take all precautions to ensure absolute purity and outcome.” And although red tide has admittedly hurt business in some respect, Norwood has enough ammunition up his sleeve to get Sea Salt Florida through such dry times—divulging a specialty sea salt harvested during last year’s Solar Eclipse, as well as the Blood Blue Moon—not yet on the market. Meanwhile, Sea Salt Florida remains dedicated to sourcing locally as much as possible, from local wood in its smoked sea salts, wines from local stores in its wine-infused sea salts, to limes, lemons, oranges, cucumbers, spices and shallots from local farmers. The gourmet business may be small batch, but its world class—with potent and powerful flavors such as Brunch Maple Smoked Coffee, Roasted Garlic, Lavender, Chocolate Mint Pinot Noir, Very Hot Pimiento Pepper, Lemon Zest, Bezel Cherry Wood, Portobello Mushroom Bourbon Barrel, Sparkling Wine and Key Lime. Norwood hand-harvests up and down Sarasota and Manatee County shores, and labels each one with their origins of Lido Key, Siesta Key, Longboat Key, Sarasota Bay, Casey Key, Venice Beach or Anna Maria Island—noting that each area has a slightly different taste based on mineral content. 

“We have a regular customer for every one of our 40 gourmet blends and flavor infusions,” he says. “There are so many applications for yum yum dishes that we have decided it is time to start putting together a customer interactive cookbook to share. Stay tuned for that soon.” Norwood’s sea salts are available at a variety of local grocers and shops from Anna Maria down to Venice, and are even provisioned by a handful of chefs in area restaurants. With aspirations to go nationwide, and additional products under his belt, including body scrubs and liquid sprays, the salt business continues to explode, much like Norwood’s first Breaking Bad-like experimentations. 

AS A FORMER ENGINEER AND DESIGN ARCHITECT FOR BOATS, YACHTS AND AUTOMOTIVES, “NOT A DAY GOES BY WHERE I DON’T PASS ONE OF MY CREATIONS ON A HIGHWAY OR IN THE WATERS SOMEWHERE,” SAYS TIM NORWOOD OF SEA