This gloriously sunny Monday our ‘Little’ team – Stephi, Damon and I – went to visit the wonderful Cornish Orchards, the suppliers of our apple juice, elderflower pressé and Heritage cider. Taking us on a lovely drive to the picturesque Duloe, just outside Looe, it was great to put faces to the voices on the end of a phone at the Orchards!
We were met by the lovely Caitie, who takes care of keeping us up to date with new products, in the loop with any process developments and generally spreading the love from the team on their fantastic drinks. Andy, the man in the know, gave his time to take us around the site and was everything a great company owner should be; passionate, knowledgeable and a generous host.
Andy began 20 years ago, taking the site on and starting out as a dairy farmer, with the large airy buildings and fields alive with cattle and sheep. However, with the market set to change eleven years ago, he made a wise decision to change the business to make use of the indigenous apple trees and land at the Orchards. Beginning with a production of just 700 bottles of apple juice in the first year it has gone from strength to strength, expanding to create different lines of fresh juices and pressés in addition to eight different ciders by the bottle and four ciders for draught.
Andy’s passion for innovation and teamwork was striking; there was a great buzz around the Orchards from the constant development with new ideas welcomed from everyone. One particular success was their unique apple-transport system used during the autumn. We saw that after the apples are either harvested from their land, or arrive from small farms in Cornwall, their method involves pouring them into an oversized water bath to clean them and uses the water to transport them to the pulping stage in the adjoining building. This ‘green’ approach eliminates the need for fork lift trucks and also protects them from bruising, therefore preserving the quality of the apples. The processes that follow are labour intensive, with the team closely monitoring each part for quality and safety – no small task! The team take care of it all with a natural ease; I suspect in harvest time it is all hands on deck as they take care of everything from the pickings and arrival to pressing and making or fermenting for cider, testing, labelling and marketing.
The team at the Orchards have a fantastic philosophy, as while taking advantage of the great growing conditions here in Cornwall, they also follow great eco-friendly mantra to minimise their carbon footprint and work sustainably. As well as the usual recycling and support for local growers, they stay green through using low amounts of packaging and reusing cartons for their business clients, installing sensor lighting saving power and lowering the amounts of machinery used through their apple ‘river’ transport system. In this day where every form of non-biodegradable packaging and limitless electricity are so readily available, I think it is still impressive for a business to be consciously lowering and eliminating the use of these every day.
Overall through our visit, the sheer passion of all of the team was what really shone through – there is real dedication and attention to detail. Andy and Caitie led us in tasting the entire range and it was fascinating to pick up the subtle differences, learn about the processes involved and how they affect the end result. The Heritage Cider that we offer in Restaurant Nathan Outlaw had great depth in flavour over the more refreshing Farmhouse Cider; as a result of being matured over the winter months and was therefore utterly delicious. A new favourite we tried was the Wassail Cider – a brew of cider and apple juices with warming flavours from the hand-blended spices and orange – dangerous in the best possible way! A definite possibility for later in the year when sat by the roaring fire.
For us at the Restaurant it is always important to maintain a great relationship with our suppliers. This jaunt was a great way to learn more from the Orchards, understand their philosophy and generally unite in our love for a fresh and brilliant Cornish product.