Your guide to cider culture in Cornwall – Press fast, sip slow.
Perhaps the greatest thing about drinking Cornish Cider is that you know it hasn’t travelled far, there’s a plethora of well-established presses and orchards not to mention new kids on the block too, growing, picking, squashing and fermenting apples all over Cornwall.
‘Ooh arr’ and ‘I’m a cider drinker’ are usually the first two words to pour out of a northerner’s (North of the Tamar Bridge) mouth when you mention Cornwall and you know what fair play; the harmless stereotype doesn’t offend us and why would it! Cornwall and its produce, whether it’s the pasty, Rhodda’s double cream or exquisite seafood, has put the county on the map not just nationwide but globally – that’s surely something to be proud of so come forth with your ‘Ooh arr’s’ we deserve them.
Like most seemingly British things Cider is a product of immigration and invasion, thanks Romans, they struggled to grow grapes so apples were their next bet and here we are thousands of years later still supping the stuff. Fast forward (a bit) to the 14th century and Cider was one of the cheapest and most widely available drinks mainly due to the poor (read dirty) water, water just wasn’t safe to drink and the low alcohol content of Cider killed any bacteria; we must admit it’s a good excuse. It was considered a drink of the people, in the 18th-century farmhands would be paid in Cider, ⅕ of their wage which, even if this practice still existed today, would cut out the middleman and save us all a trip to the shops. Cider has gone under major repositioning, what once was a drink confined to the countryside in plastic gallon bottles, dry in taste, strong in alcohol content and for many people vomit inducing has been transformed. Now Cider revels in mainstream and is popular around the world, sold in bottles, cans, from taps, over ice in many different fruity flavour combinations well and truly shaking off any dodgy connotations of the street and underage drinkers.
Let’s take a look at some of the Cornish Cider Companies producing the best cider in the south-west.
St Ives Cider
Independent company St.Ives Cider produce a range of award-winning, artisanal ciders with their mobile apple press which keeps food miles and waste to a minimum. Most of their juices are bottled onsite immediately after picking and pressing, you can’t get fresher than that. The mobile press has other benefits too, they travel around to a collection of orchards and in the process have stumbled across some rare varieties of apple which end up in their limited edition products. Their flagship products are the Clodgy Cloudy, a traditional still sweet cider and Smeatons, twice filtered and carbonated giving it a light fizz. You can buy their Cider in many local shops and restaurants so keep your eye out or head to the Royal Cornwall Show in June where you can taste their refreshing drinks at the new cider bar, The Dreckly Inn.
Healey’s Cyder, family run, has been in operation since 1982 initially starting out as an off-licence until the owners bought a run-down farm with an orchard, it wasn’t until 1990 that they produced their flagship Cornish Gold Cider and later Scrumpy which put them firmly on the map. Their farm shop and visitor centre is somewhat of a pilgrimage for many tourists and well worth a trip to see the traditional process and of course taste the award-winning products. Their most iconic brand in the range is no doubt Rattler which has gained a cult-like status in Cornwall and a host of awards. Rattler comes in a variety of fruity flavours besides your standard apple but watch out for that feisty, crisp ‘bite’ of an aftertaste. Entrance to the farm is free where you can try cider, juice, wine, brandy on a guided tour where you even get to do a bit of climbing, so pace yourself.
In the spring of 1992, Andy Atkinson moved his herd of dairy cattle to Westnorth Farm on the Duchy of Cornwall estate, later, inspired by Cornwall Council’s push to save, rejuvenate and establish traditional apple orchards Andy planted three orchards. Soon enough he had raised one of the most impressive collections of Cornish apple species in the county creating a fabulous environment for local wildlife in the process. The first batch of cider made was sold in true entrepreneurial spirit at a farmers market to a great success, soon enough he made the move to full-time cider production which has grown ever since. Now a team of 30 work hard to create premium, award-winning drinks with zero artificial colours, sweeteners or flavourings making for a true taste of Cornwall. Bottled on site there are no tours currently available, we figure they are too busy making the stuff but you can stop by to taste and buy a wide range of ciders and sparkling soft drinks. Be sure to taste the Blush cider with a hint of natural raspberry, to the traditionalists reading this, it really is delicious.
Haywood Cider Farm
Haywood Farm, located in Allen Valley near the picturesque village of St.Maybn, has a recorded history of Cider production dating back centuries made using a large granite press – farms exactly like this paid their farmhands and labourers with the drink. Now Tom Bray along with a group of friends make Cider, noise and chaos. It’s easy to wrap your head around their drink selection with a sweet, a dry and a medium blend in the mix plus a mulled cider for the winter months what’s maybe a little more difficult but much more exciting is the Haywood Downhill event! A charity event involving ramshackle wheeled carts which then ride down a winding track lined by hay bales, very Red Bull, very dangerous, super fun to watch. You can keep track of these exploits via their facebook page or pop by on your trip for a tour and a taste. They host live music every Sunday, The Sunday Cider Socials, starting at 3 pm, kids go free, try the apple and elderflower cider.
Obviously on the Orchard, a stones throw from the press with the sun beating down on you is probably the best place to drink a Cider but let’s say for some reason you’re on a trip where other people in your party aren’t partial to plodding up and down apple trees all day then maybe you can swing them with a nice restaurant instead. Whilst not exactly traditional Cornish fayre the Stable Pizzeria uses local ingredients and has plenty of options for vegetarians and vegans – you can find them on Fistral Beach and in Falmouth. Oh, and they have over 80 ciders to try, from rough and ready scrumpy ciders to high-end, hedgerow cider brandies. We’d recommend, controversially, Skinners’ (a brewery!) Apple, Mango and Lime cider, not that you’d recall after dabbling in one of their Cider taster platters. Taxi!