Last week I was invited to Westons Cider Mill in Herefordshire to spend the day with Wyld Wood Organic Cider and celebrate Organic September. I’m a huge fan of cider and my uni friends had a soft spot for Westons (it’s 8% cider, what’s not to love?), so I was really excited to see how the stuff is actually made! Westons is the head of many different Cider brands but we were there to find out more about Wyld Wood Organic Cider, which is (unsurprisingly), made from organic apples.
What does organic mean?
If I asked you to tell me what “organic” means or why you it’s better for your body, I’m sure most of you reply with “it just… is?”. Now I’ll confess that I’m a food documentary addict so whilst the ins and outs of what “organic” really means is fascinating to me, you guys might not feel quite the same. Here are a couple of mind-boggling facts that you surprise you:
- Almost 2/3 of all antibiotics used in the EU are used on FARM ANIMALS (yep, farm animals and not humans), and these are passed down to us through the food chain
- If organic farming was common practice in the UK, we could offset at least 23% of agriculture’s current greenhouse emissions. Yes, eating organic food can help save our planet too!
I’ll throw in another fun fact for you: the “E” in “E numbers” actually stands for “Europe” as it’s a code for substances allowed in the European Union. Bet no one told you that when you voted for Brexit! Now we’ll have to call them “B numbers or something…
After this introduction to organic produce and Wyld Wood Cider, it was time for lunch (i.e. MORE CIDER but also food). The lunch spread prepared for us was absolutely amazing and it was like we were on a bloggers’ summer picnic with Westons. There was plenty of Cider to go around and I liked that it wasn’t fizzy or bubbly as many other Cider’s are. It’s a really refreshing summer drink, perfect for washing down a big meal.
Cider Mill Tour
When we had filled our bellies (mine a little toooo much – I had to undo the top button of my skirt!), it was time for a tour of the Cider Mill! You really don’t know what it takes to handle a large scale business operation for a major brand until you go right to the source and see the process at every step of the way. I feel really privilged to have been able to see how Westons make their various different ciders from picking the apples from the orchard to the long fermnetation process in barrels that are 20 feet tall!
Here on the right we have the original stone mill used to make apple pulp. Westons Cider actually has a long and very interesting history dating back to the 19th century and it has remained a family business since then! There are lot of old structures and even the original Henry Westons house on site for you to see. Would you believe they still have the original barrels used for fermentation? That means they’re centuries old! They can also hold a whopping 5,500 gallons of liquid and there are lots and lots of these – one can only imagine how much cider they must produce annually!
Apple Orchard Tour
After a tour of the production process, the original Henry Weston’s great grandson (also named Henry Weston!) arrived on a tractor to give us a tour of the apple orchards. Although incredibly bumpy, the tractor ride gave us a whistle stop tour of the area and we got to see some sweeping views of the great British countryside.
At this point I thought I’d mention I am actually allergic to apples. Only raw ones mind, so apple crumble is still on the cards. Touching apples is ok but ingesting them raw is a big nono, though, we were told that cider apples taste disgusting anyway! Even worse than baking apples supposedly…
So you can appreciate just HOW big Westons orchards are (and there are several), take a look at this breathtaking picture. Their mill really is in the heart of the country side and some of the apples are even grown by locals! The orchards stretch on for miles and miles with rows and rows of juicy red apples lined along them.
Now I’m sure you’re wondering how they actually pick the apples. In my mind I had this romantic image of farmers picking them carefully one by one, but obviously that’s completely impractical. Today they use this large tree shaking machine to get all the apples onto the ground before a sweeping machine (much like road cleaners) come along and gather up all the fallen apples.
So that’s where our tour ended and it was time to catch our trains back to London! It’s always interesting to see exactly where your favourite brands come from and how their produce is made so I’d highly recommend taking a tour of Westons Cider Mill if you’re ever out in Herefordshire! It’s important to be more educated about our food and what goes into it and I’d urge everyone to take a closer look at what exactly “organic” means and how you can make sure that you’re buying sustainable and ethically sourced produce from your supermarket. Check out the Soil Association’s website for more info on how you can help make a difference.
Many thanks to Wyld Wood Organic Cider for inviting me to Westons Cider Mill for the day!