Secret Orchard first made 25 litres back in 2012...
This desire to seek out the best cider apples has taken Joe, alongside his Secret Orchard Co-Founder and old school friend Todd Studley, to some beautiful orchards hidden away down farm tracks or behind high garden walls. Beginning at Nettlecombe Estate on Exmoor in 2012, where the duo made their first ciders using fruit from ancient walled orchards,
Joe and Todd now source apples from across both Somerset and Cornwall. Both counties have a wealth of old orchards – many of which had fallen out of use – where prime cider apples grow in abundance. Once the apples are harvested, ‘craft’ ciders are made in small batches rather than on an industrial scale. Secret Orchard is made from 100% pressed juice, using wild yeasts, making this a natural, artisan product which varies slightly from year to year. In fact, craft cider has most parallels with the natural wine movement, which extols the values of organic or biodynamic fruit grown in vineyards high in biodiversity, made in small parcels with minimal intervention.
For Secret Orchard, this non-interventionist approach results in a very modern signature style - crisp, refreshing ciders with the character of fruit to the fore. Each bottle of Secret Orchard comes with tantalising suggestions of what to drink it with, from roast pork and charcuterie, to sushi, mackerel and summer salads. From humble beginnings, Secret Orchard have established themselves as one of the leading new-wave cider-makers in the UK. They now have a cult following as far afield as Amsterdam, and theirs has been the flagship cider on the menu at Tom Kerridge’s recently launched Bar & Grill at The Corinthia Hotel in London’s Whitehall. Todd and Joe have also recently added to their on-trend credentials with the launch of a Cider Vinegar. This live, unfiltered vinegar contains the active enzyme called ‘the mother’ – a collection of concentrated natural proteins and beneficial bacteria. Some people drink a teaspoon of cider vinegar every day, swearing by the health benefits, whilst others simply add it to salad dressings and other dishes. Chefs including Tom Adams of Coombeshead Farm and Ben Quinn of Canteen (see recipe from Ben below) are converts to Secret Orchard Cider Vinegar, which is deep in flavour with an intense citrus-style freshness.