Clatskanie residents who have ever bought Seely's Dark Chocolate Mint Patties may not have known they were purchasing a locally-made product. The item comes from Seely Farm in Clatskanie, which devotes 450 of its 650 acres to growing heirloom Black Mitcham Peppermint and Native Spearmint, which is then broken down to form tea leaf and essential oil. The site also includes a facility to make its chocolate products and other products.
The entire operation is facilitated by Clatskanie resident Mike Seely, and the sweet treats, coated in dark chocolate and filled with a creamy mint filling, are part of a new deal.
On Wednesday, Oct. 9, Burgerville, a local fast-food chain, announced the release of six new milkshakes, all made with hyper-local ingredients. The menu debuted on Oct. 10, and features Classic Chocolate, Sweet Cream, Oregon Strawberry, Portland Cold Brew, Hazelnut Chocolate and Seely's Mint Patty milkshake. The shake will be available at all 41 Burgerville stores year-round for the rest of the time that Burgerville is around, Seely said.
"I can't divulge how many of them they expect to sell, but I looked at the number and I went, 'Oh my gosh,'" Seely said.
The opportunity came about when Jamie Powell, vice president of product development at Burgerville, who had worked with Seely Mint during her former position in management at New Seasons reached out to Seely this past spring and asked him if he had any thoughts on some new flavors. Because Burgerville's mission is to go with local products and clean ingredients, they thought Seely's mint products would be a good contributor.
From that point, Seely shipped the company a bunch of samples and worked with Powell and her Burgerville team to develop the finished product.
"We threw out a couple of different ideas and they came back with, 'we really like a peppermint patty milkshake," Seely said. "They've been really easy to work with."
The milkshake will be made with Burgerville's ice cream, which is sourced from a high-end retailer, Seely's peppermint oil and crushed up Seely's mint patties. During the milkshake-crafting brainstorming process, Seely said Burgerville did not try to change the recipe of the mint patties.
The other milkshakes have ingredients coming from local retailers and farms like Holy Kakow, Alpenrose Dairy, Liepold Farms, Portland Roasting and Ground Up PDX
Seely said his farm employs old-fashioned tactics for growing mint. While 19 people are employed to take care of Seely's four products, including the patties and also mint tea, bark and melts, the farm itself is worked only by Seely himself along with his wife and son. (Seely has a daughter who also works on the farm but devotes herself to cattle raising.)
The primary ingredient in the shake is the mint patty itself, which is infused with Seely's peppermint oil.
Seely Mint has contracted with other companies in the past as well. They sold a mint milkshake at the Columbia County Fair and Rodeo about five years ago, partnering with the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association. According to Seely, the shake was a hit.
The mint patties are also sold at Bertucci's, Fred Meyer and New Seasons. At New Seasons, the mint patties are a top 40 product in all their stores across the US and Canada. The mint farm has also formed partnerships with other ice cream companies, including Tillamook, Alpenrose, Salt and Straw, and Ruby Jewel all of which use Seely's mint oil.
Seely said the main difference between his mint farm and other farms is that they harvest at a three to five percent bloom in order to get the optimum flavor out of the mint leaves. Not enough bloom, and the mint leaves would not be ripe for harvest, too much bloom and the mint oil would be bitter, according to Seely.
Other farms, according to Seely, sacrifice flavor in order to make a larger profit.
"Most mint farming now has gone in the direction of competing as a commodity crop instead of producing a premium oil," Seely said. "Most of the peppermint in the Willamette Valley and in many other areas is harvested twice a year now. They harvest in late June and then they harvest again about the middle of September and they don't harvest it when the plant is mature."
Seely said while the farm uses some technology to keep track of irrigation and other matters, they don't sacrifice quality for quantity.
"I can give you a sample of our peppermint oil and you'll see the difference," Seely said.