Celebrating Local, Heritage Fruit
The Tenbury Applefest is a celebration of local, heritage fruit, primarily apples, but also pears, damsons, cherries, quince and, to me, that most vexing of fruit, medlars.
The Applefest is also a showcase for producers who turn this fruit, often organic, sometimes endangered, but always delicious, into desirable, drinkable and eatable goods that people seek out and pay money for.
So, about these producers… Well, on the show, we’ll hear brief conversations with the following four companies who were at the Tenbury Applefest in October 2015:
- Oldfield’s Orchard
- Tipsy Fruit Gins
- Ragged Stone Cider and Perry
These companies are alchemists and in this episode they describe how they make their products and what their products taste like. It’s pure listening gold.
Tenbury: ‘The Town in the Orchard’
Tenbury Wells is on the north-western extremity of the English county of Worcestershire, a county renowned for its orchards.
In fact, Tenbury Wells used to be known as ‘the town in the orchard’ thanks to the large number of apple, pear, quince, plum and damson orchards close to the town.
312, and Counting
Applefest 2015 showcased 312 varieties of apple. Impressive stuff.
A relatively young event, Applefest is going from strength to strength, which is a testament to the passion and vision of Carole Clayton (organiser) and David Patrick (chair).
Its success also shows that local people, and people further afield, are interested in fruit with provenance as well as quality products such as cider, perry, fruit juice and other edibles and drinkables derived from these fruits.
Carole Clayton, organiser of the Tenbury Applefest, opens this episode of The Artisan Food & Drink Business Show by giving a little background about this glorious festival of fruit.
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Get the Show Transcript
If audio isn’t your thing, you can download a transcript of the show here: Ep #021: Tenbury Applefest: Apples, Apples Everywhere.
You can also find the full transcript of the show at the end of this post.
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Other Cider and Perry Episodes that will Interest You
I was lucky to have the opportunity in 2015 to interview Tom Oliver, founder of Oliver’s Cider and Perry, for the show. Tom is quite simply a cider and perry superstar so feast your ears on the following two episodes with Tom:
Photos from Tenbury Applefest 2015
In the short video above, Dr. Chris Atkins reveals a secret for one of the best ways to drink perry.
Links Mentioned in the Show
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Transcript of the Show
Catherine: Hello, and welcome to episode 21 of The Artisan Food & Drink Business Show, the show where artisan producers tell their brand story and share the secrets of their success. I’m your host, Catherine Moran.
Today’s episode, a little shorter than usual, features four companies who were at the Tenbury Wells Applefest in October 2015, namely:
- Oldfield’s Orchard
- Tipsy Fruit Gins
- Ragged Stone Cider and Perry
Tenbury Wells is on the north-western extremity of the English county of Worcestershire, a county renowned for its orchards. In fact, Tenbury Wells, or, as the locals call it, Tenbury, used to be known as ‘the town in the orchard’ thanks to the large number of apple, pear, quince, plum and damson orchards close to the town.
Worcestershire has given its name to a rare variety of pear called the Worcester Black Pear and to a red-flushed apple variety known as the Worcester Permain. And Pershore, a town in Worcestershire, is famous for the Pershore Plum. Around here, it’s fruit, fruit and more fruit.
The Tenbury Wells Applefest is a relatively young event that has grown year on year to the point that it is now self-sustaining in terms of funding. The Applefest is a celebration of traditional varieties of apple in particular and this year, Applefest displayed 312 apple varieties. It also displays an impressive array of pears, quince and medlar. To see some photos of these fruits on display have a look at the show notes for this episode, which are at www.myartisanbusiness.com./
Let’s now get on with the show. The first person we’ll hear from is Carole Clayton. Carole, along with the Applefest Chair, David Patrick, is the organiser of the event. Carole gives an overview of what is on offer for the apple enthusiast at the Tenbury Applefest, including advice on apple husbandry, the apple identification service and the cider makers’ forum. Here is Carole.
I’m delighted to be talking to Carole Clayton. Hello, Carole.
Carole Clayton: Hello, Catherine.
Catherine: What is your position here at the Tenbury Wells Applefest?
Carole Clayton: I’m organiser with David Patrick who’s chair of the Tenbury Applefest Association. Three years now, I’ve been involved with it. When Applefest first started, it was a very small event; started in the street and moved over to the Burgage, from where it’s grown and grown.
We’re now in a position where we’re sustainable, that was one of the remits from the council when grant funding ran out. We get into a position of breakeven.
Catherine: Wow, that’s wonderful. We’re standing out in the Burgage. It’s a lovely green area with gorgeous copper beech trees and I think we’ve got alders and oaks and lots of very mature trees here. It’s an absolutely beautiful setting. We’re surrounded by marquees and we’ve got the Kelsmore Dairy Ice Cream van over there, so lots of food and drink. The main focus really is apples, is that correct?
Carole Clayton: Yes, it’s apples and the by-products. We’ve got apple pie competitions, cider competitions, we’ve got cider producers, small producers through to the large producers like Oldfield Cider. Robinson’s Cider, obviously is a Tenbury product. They are one of the sponsors of the events along with Oldfield’s Cider.
Then we have the by-products of the apple but also crafty products as well for people to look and buy, so making it more of a traditional event with the children’s entertainment in the marquee. We’ve got the Herefordshire Owl Rescue. We’ve got a caricaturist, face painter, so something to keep the children happy. If the children are happy, the adults have got time to browse and enjoy themselves as well.
Catherine: Absolutely. Can you tell me a little bit about the apple identification service that’s happening inside in the marquee today and also the, well, eye watering display of apple and pears and probably quince and medlar and lots of other fruits that are on display today?
Carole Clayton: Yes, in the main marquee we’ve got Frank Matthews who supports us every year. Each year we have more and more varieties of apple. This year we’ve got 312 varieties. We decided last year to have the Marcher Apple Network along for the apple identification. That has proved very successful with visitors this year, had a phone call from a lady who’s coming up from Bath with apple …
Catherine: Wow, to get them identified?
Carole Clayton: Yes, she wanted to make sure the event was still going ahead because she was coming up for the day. That’s great news for us.
The Apple Network asks for three of each particular variety so they can identify them quicker. Then we’ve got the apple juice pressing, apple juice on sale in there as well, and there are a couple of cider producers in the same marquee for the apple enthusiast. It’s something to keep them busy and interested, obviously there’s information on apple husbandry, as well.
Catherine: What about the Cider Makers’ Forum, that’s a new thing this year, isn’t it?
Carole Clayton: Yes, we thought we’d trial it out. As I said before, Oldfield’s Cider are one of the sponsors. It was suggested that we try something different with the cider. We’ve got the home brewers’ competition this morning and at lunch time we’ve got a half hour forum where cider producers can talk to Dr. Chris from Ragged Stone and Martin Harris from Butford Organics, share their experiences, any worries or concerns they’ve got, ask for help and advice. We’ll trial it this year and if it’s successful we’ll develop it.
Catherine: Carole, thank you very much for talking to me.
We’ll hear next from Tish Dockerty and Jane Cullen who are co owners of Appleteme, a company that produces a range of apple and other juices made from locally sourced fruit.
Tish and Jane hand press the juice using a traditional rack and cloth press. It turns out that their most popular product is their apple and damson juice using what’s probably the oldest damson variety in the UK, a variety known as the Shropshire Prune. This particular damson is probably the damson brought into the UK by the Romans over 2000 years ago. It’s got an incredible heritage and an incredible provenance. If you ever have the opportunity to buy Appleteme’s pear juice, do. It’s absolutely sensational.
So you’re Tish Dockerty…
Tish Dockerty: Yes, I am.
Catherine: And your company is called…
Tish Dockerty: Appleteme.
Catherine: And what do you make?
Tish Dockerty: We make apple juice.
Catherine: With local apples, I presume?
Tish Dockerty: Yes, indeed.
Catherine: From the Teme Valley?
Tish Dockerty: Well, the river Teme, we say, because we’ve got our own orchard and we get apples from sort of along the river, well not along the river but in that direction. We go slightly north from Ludlow, to Leintwardine, things like that for apples and yeah, we’re given people’s unloved, unwanted apples, which we take in and make something lovely with.
Catherine: Yeah, absolutely wonderful and it’s a phenomenal crop this year, are you finding that?
Tish Dockerty: It is indeed, bumper year, it certainly is. We’ve got a good crop. We weren’t bad last year but actually this year is excellent, very good, yes.
Catherine: Let’s have a look at some of your products, they look absolutely gorgeous. What have we got here?
Tish Dockerty: Okay, so we have a number of these, what we call our specials, apple and elderberry. This is something which we started doing a couple of years ago now. Again, with an unwanted fruit, elderberries quite often get left on the trees. We know quite a few good spots around Ludlow where we pick the elderberries. We add it with the apple juice and it makes it delicious. They’re quite bitter. You need sweetness with them so the apple juice, if you choose the right sort of apple juice, then it matches quite nicely.
Catherine: You pick the elderberries yourself?
Tish Dockerty: Yes, we do.
Catherine: So literally going out foraging for them?
Tish Dockerty: Yeah.
Catherine: Wow, very good.
Tish Dockerty: Yes, what else have we got here? We’ve got apple and elderflower. We’ve done that right from the beginning. Again, very popular. There’s damson, apple and damson, which is with the Shropshire Prune damson. I think we sell probably more of this than anything else we do.
Catherine: Gosh, really? Is that because of the damson component, do you think?
Tish Dockerty: I think it is. People just love it. People love damson and they come to the stall and they kind of already like damson. It’s an easy sale. Again, it combines nicely with the apple. Obviously, we do small batches so it varies throughout the season how they turn out. This we made a few weeks ago, some earlies, Keswick Codlin, and Lord Lambourne, an amazing, beautiful pink colour, a very fresh colour. It’s got a nice sort of bite to it, quite a nice tang. I was selling it yesterday in Shrewsbury and people were sort of you know, those that like something with a bit… people aren’t into sugar at the moment so something like that goes down really well.
Catherine: Yeah, well hello.
Jane Cullen: Hello, Catherine.
Catherine: Your name is?
Jane Cullen: Jane Cullen.
Catherine: Jane, it’s very nice to see you. I’ve just been talking to your compatriot and business partner here, Tish. We’re talking all things damson and your damson drink.
Jane Cullen: Our damson drink is a very, very good seller. People love the depth of flavour and always, it’s just got that edge that people really respond to, hasn’t it Tish?
Catherine: It’s a nice antidote to the sort of blandness of mass produced, industrial drink, really isn’t it?
Jane Cullen: Yeah, that’s it isn’t it? What we try and do is balance it so we add it to the apple, it’s there but it doesn’t overpower. It’s always an apple juice but it’s kind of the elderberries there, whatever it is. People like it because they detect it and they recognise that flavour straight away. It’s not a synthetic flavour. It’s a flavour, which they associate with their childhood, sometimes. They drank their grandma’s elderberry wine or something. It’s lovely because people know straight away, sort of recognise it and feel quite comfortable with it. It’s very fulfilling experience when people drink our juice.
Catherine: Oh yeah, which is just perfect, isn’t it? It’s a great reason to drink it. You’ve got quite a few bottles there of… is this apple juice or pear juice?
Jane Cullen: Yes, we’ve got pear juice here, which is just pure pear. That’s the one thing we don’t blend with apple. We just feel it sort of stands in its own right, really. It seems quite comfortable on its own but somebody did want apple and pear yesterday. There will always be those that do and that’s got Black Worcester, which we have in our orchard.
Catherine: That’s an old variety.
Jane Cullen: It is, yeah, beautiful looking pears.
Tish Dockerty: This one’s a tree full of avocado pears.
Catherine: It does go quite dark …
Tish Dockerty: It does, yeah. Then there’s straight juice here as well so what we tend to do is, when we make the juice, we taste it and sort of make a note just what we think it’s medium or if it’s sweet or if it’s tangy. They’re our three main categories. Then obviously when we get to label it up we try it again just to double-check whether it still is actually sweet, medium or tangy. It usually is to be fair but it’s always best to check.
That’s how we sell it, that’s how we market it, usually start in the middle with the medium and if people find that’s a bit not quite sweet enough for them, we go towards the sweeter end, obviously the tangy is the other option.
Catherine: Wonderful, would you mind putting a bottle of the pear aside for me? That will be very lovely, thank you.
Tish Dockerty: Yeah, we haven’t got many left now, actually. This is last year’s pear. We’re just waiting for enough, we actually haven’t got a huge amount of pears this year even though we have got lots of apples. We will make another pear, pure pear.
Catherine: My pear harvest this year was a disaster, which was interesting. Someone was saying perhaps it was the frost catching the blossom, early frost?
Tish Dockerty: That’s usually what it is, yeah.
Jane Cullen: We’ve got far fewer pears this year than last year and that generally seems to be the case.
Catherine: Right, where do you sell your products then? Where can people get a hold of them?
Jane Cullen: Mainly at farmers’ markets to be fair. We do Ludlow twice a month. We do Shrewsbury once a month. We do sell into shops. We do a lot of small bottles for cafes and restaurants and places like that in Ludlow, which seems to be going very well. It’s a mix of places. People contact us direct and we can sell direct to people as well.
Catherine: Sounds wonderful and what is your website?
Jane Cullen: It’s www.appleteme.com.
Catherine: Absolutely fantastic.
Our next speaker is Alison Chadwick who’s the cider product manager at Hobson’s Brewery. Hobson’s Brewery teamed up with Oldfield’s Farm to make Oldfield’s Orchard cider. Only freshly picked and freshly pressed Worcestershire apples are used in Oldfield’s Orchard cider. Alison describes their Discovery Cider, which is a dry cider, presented in one of the most gorgeous bottles I’ve ever seen. Similarly, the label for this cider and the artwork on it, is one of the most beautiful, eye catching cider labels I’ve ever seen. To see a photo of it, check out the show notes. If ever a bottle and it’s label convincingly said to me, ‘Try me, no buy me’, this is surely it. Here’s Alison.
So you are Alison from Oldfield’s cider?
Alison Chadwick: Yes, that’s right, yeah.
Catherine: Alison, what is your position in the company?
Alison Chadwick: I’m the cider product manager at Hobson’s brewery.
Catherine: Oh my goodness, what a title to have. How wonderful is that?
Alison Chadwick: It’s not a bad job, is it?
Catherine: Fantastic and you won a fabulous award with one of your ciders this year?
Alison Chadwick: Yes, the medium sweet cider. It’s won a few awards, actually, but the one that we were most proud of was the three stars we got in the Great Taste Awards this year. Ten thousand people enter the Great Taste Awards and only 100 get three stars. We were absolutely thrilled to bits to get top prize for that.
Catherine: Congratulations, that’s a phenomenal achievement. At this point in talking to Alison I had a mishap with my audio recorder. The question I asked her was what the Oldfield’s Orchard Discovery Cider tastes like.
Alison Chadwick: It’s a dry drink but it’s very light, crisp, refreshing and we felt it was like a Prosecco. We actually imported those bottles from Italy but they are the only Italian thing about it.
Catherine: I’m definitely going to buy one of those. It’s getting very busy around your stand so just tell me what your website is and your Twitter handle.
Alison Chadwick: Yeah the website’s oldfieldsorchard.co.uk and Twitter is @oldfieldscider.
Catherine: Thank you so much for your time. We’ll now hear from Colin Hingston from Tipsy Fruit Gin, which supplies retail outlets throughout the UK. Colin is a fruit aficionado and he makes one of the best damson gins you’ll ever taste.
Colin Hingston: Hi, I’m Colin Hingston, Tipsy Fruit Gins.
Catherine: Good to see you, Colin, and what products have you got here today?
Colin Hingston: Fruit gins based on the old sloe gin recipe, just variations on a theme, good old, classic sloe, damson and one or two other specials.
Catherine: Are you sourcing all your fruit locally?
Colin Hingston: We grow our damsons and cherries ourselves. Raspberries and blackcurrants come from Herefordshire, sloes come from all over the UK.
Catherine: Absolutely wonderful. How are the crops this year of the various fruits?
Colin Hingston: Cherries were good. Damsons were a bit on the small side but with a lot of flavour, so next year’s damson gin should be really good.
Catherine: Could we have a very, very quick look at your range of products here today?
Colin Hingston: Yeah.
Catherine: Should we go out to the front of your stand?
Colin Hingston: Well, we’ve got the classic sloe gin, made from sloes from all over the country, literally we get people bringing a couple of kilos up from Devon up to Scottish WI’s who will send us sort of 20, 30 kilos down all together. We use about a ton a year. Then we’ve got blackcurrants, which come from Herefordshire — Snells, very much like a crème de cassis; can be used exactly the same way as a crème de cassis with a sparkling wine.
Then the classic Welsh Marches one, the damson gin, which unfortunately owing to EU legislation we’re not allowed to call damson gin, we just have to call it damson liqueur.
Catherine: Oh, right I didn’t know that.
Colin Hingston: Grr! We won’t go into details. Then we’ve got the cherry, which is what we grow the cherries for. It’s a Morello cherry, a sour cherry. It’s not standard, sweet and sickly. It’s got a bit of a spicy bite to it. Then, the raspberry. Once again, Herefordshire raspberries, lovely, light, fresh summer sort of flavour, beautiful with a sparkling wine. Then the Seville orange, which as yet, we can’t grow the Seville oranges in the UK.
Catherine: It’s not going to happen any time soon it is?
Colin Hingston: With global warming you never know but… and then the chili vodka, northern Indian chillis, naga chillis, exceedingly hot and spicy, absolutely revolting unless you’re a real chilli fanatic.
Catherine: I guess that’s probably quite a niche product, is it?
Colin Hingston: It’s amazing how much we sell of it. I really didn’t expect it when we started producing it but it’s got so many markets from the real chilli fanatics to the ‘how to get rid of unwanted guests at the end of an evening’ thing.
Catherine: So it was a good product to come up with?
Colin Hingston: Yeah.
Catherine: So where are your products available for purchase?
Colin Hingston: It depends how far afield you’re wanting to look. Basically, we supply retail outlets throughout the UK. Our furthest north would be Edinburgh, Glasgow, they’re both up there, bigger outlets up there, down to, well, everywhere apart from London, really. No outlets in London at the moment.
Catherine: Would you like to have outlets in London?
Colin Hingston: Yeah. Unfortunately London retailers are even more conservative with a small ‘c’ than their rural counterparts. They’re just not interested in anything that is not a big product, from what I can make out. We’ve tried and tried and tried and can’t get in there.
Catherine: Right, that’s interesting well maybe some buyers might be listening to this episode …
Colin Hingston: Please do talk to us, we’d love to find a good retail outlet in London.
Catherine: Right, and one final question, what is your website and are you on Twitter?
Colin Hingston: Twitter, I believe daughter is, I’m a bit neolithic in that respect but I don’t know what address that is. Website is tipsyfruitgins.co.uk.
Catherine: Absolutely wonderful Colin, thank you so much for your time.
Colin Hingston: Thanks.
Catherine: Our final speaker is Chris Atkins from Ragged Stone Cider and Perry. Based on the Bromsberrow Estate, a traditional 18th century agriculture estate, Ragged Stone Cider and Perry is made with apples and pears from the 15-acre traditional orchards of the estate.
Some of these trees date back to the 17th century. In other words, to the 1600’s. That’s absolutely amazing. In spring 2014, the estate planted 200 rare, critically rare and endangered varieties of Perry trees. Here’s Chris.
Dr Chris Atkins: My name is Chris Atkins and we’re here from Ragged Stone Cider and Perry.
Catherine: Very nice to meet you, Chris, and where are you based?
Dr Chris Atkins: We’re based in Gloucestershire, although we’ve got a Herefordshire postcode and some of the orchards are in Worcestershire. We’re up on the end of the Malvern Hills, the southern end of the Malvern Hills.
Catherine: Can you tell me a little bit about your range of ciders?
Dr Chris Atkins: We make a blended range of ciders. We don’t make any single variety ciders. We produce about five and a half thousand litres a year of the cider. We’ve got 15 acres of traditional orchards and what we’re doing at the moment is replanting and grafting up and trying to reintroduce the Perry pear. We’ve got some very, very important Perry pears, two-, three-hundred year-old trees on our holding.
Catherine: What varieties of Perry pear have you got?
Dr Chris Atkins: The main one that we get most out of is a variety called Chaseley Green, which most people know as Hartpury Green on our actual tree. One of the trees produces over a ton of fruit per tree. It’s that tree that’s been used for grafting and reintroducing the variety all over the country.
Catherine: That’s fabulous, I saw Martin from Butford Organics talk about his Coppy pear. I thought that was very exciting.
Dr Chris Atkins: Yeah, it’s not such a good year this year. We had a good year last year, some of the trees will switch to biennial cropping, so they’ll only have a good crop every second year and deplete themselves. This year we’ve got a small crop but nowhere near as big as last year, which was a very, very good year.
Catherine: Is there any particular reason why you’re not currently doing single variety ciders?
Dr Chris Atkins: What we’re trying to do is change people’s perception of what a cider is. Our cider is a very soft and rounded, blended cider. We won first prize at the Big Apple last year. We won a bronze award at the Bath and West Show with our Farmhouse Dry this year. We’re winning prizes by producing a very, very different type of cider.
Catherine: You’re clearly doing something right. I need to buy some of your cider, what would you recommend?
Dr Chris Atkins: Probably go for our blended cider.
Catherine: Okay, that sounds good to me. Well, bring it on!
Dr Chris Atkins: Thank you very much.
Catherine: Thank you very much for talking to me.
So thank you to Carole, organiser of Tenbury Applefest and to Tish and Jane from Appleteme, to Alison from Hobson’s Brewery and Oldfield’s Orchard Cider and to Colin from Tipsy Fruit Gins and to Chris from Ragged Stone Cider and Perry. Thank you very much for talking to me at Tenbury Applefest 2015.
All links mentioned in the show are available at the show’s website which is myartisanbusiness.com. You can also download a free transcript of the show there. To get updates on when I publish new episodes of the show, subscribe to my email list at is www.myartisanbusiness.com and I’ll let you know when new episodes are live.
You can find me on Twitter as @FoodDrinkShow so please do get in touch if you have any comments or questions. Until next time, I’m Catherine Moran, happy cooking, happy brewing, happy fermenting and thank you for listening.