James Islander rolls out Mitla Tortilleria

Hanna Raskin

Grace Newland, a confirmed flour tortilla fan, was so struck by a corn tortilla in Chiapas that she asked its maker whether she could buy her wooden press. The vendor refused, but Newland was determined to replicate the tortilla back on James Island. “I couldn’t get the taste of my mind,” she says.

Since last year leaving her job at Touchpoint Communications, Newland has taken on a flurry of DIY projects. “I started making my own cleaning supplies,” she admits. So even though she’d never before baked professionally, she was certain she could produce a facsimile tortilla good enough to sell. She ordered all of the equipment she needed to make commercial tortillas in her kitchen, taking advantage of the state’s cottage food law, which allows artisans to make certain baked goods at home.

Newland last month started selling tortillas at farmers markets in Bluffton and Port Royal. Her Mitla Tortilleria line includes whole wheat tortillas, plain flour tortillas and vegetable-flavored flour tortillas, along with a version of the nixtamal corn tortillas that first inspired Newland’s endeavor.

“People are really receptive and liking it,” she says. “I love tortillas, but if you look at the normal ingredient list, it’ll freak you out.”

Rather than lean on the lard and shortening that figure into most flour tortillas, Newland restricted herself to extra-virgin olive oil. She sourced corn from Geechee Boy Mill, and purchased kale and beets from South Carolina farms.

Eventually, Newland hopes to experiment with garbanzo bean flour and ancient grains, all of which will be easier to handle once her grinder arrives. For now, though, she’s hand-grinding the corn with the help of her husband, Cliff Newland of Rio Bertonlini. The two-day process begins with boiling the kernels, and ends with her setting small mounds of dough on an electronic press. They’re parbaked, bagged and sold for five bucks a dozen.

“The first ones were a little ugly,” says Newland, who initially sought her husband’s advice when devising recipes. “He makes dough all day. But it’s completely different.”

Because the corn tortillas are so time consuming, Newland doesn’t foresee adding another market to her schedule this season. But she can imagine wholesaling to Charleston area restaurants.

“Not just Mexican restaurants, but places that have healthy wraps,” she says. “I’m having a lot of parents say, ‘my kids love these.’”

For more information about Mitla Tortilleria, visit mitlatortilleria.com.