The phrase from orchard to glass has never been so timely as the West Country enters its annual apple harvest.
As they do every year, Thatchers Cider is celebrating the growers and cider makers that create the British tradition that is cider, from pip to pint.
Thatchers, based in Sandford, is a West Country cider maker, a family company through and through. Thatchers still crafts all its ciders at Myrtle Farm – the very same farm where founder, William Thatcher, first started making cider back in 1904. William and his son Stan, were indeed the original craft cider makers, honing the skills that have now been passed down through four generations, with the fifth generation of the Thatcher family beginning to make their mark too.
For fourth generation Martin Thatcher, remaining a family firm is central to the very being of the company and allows them to focus firmly on investing for quality. “The business has passed down from my Great Grandfather, to my Grandfather, my Father to myself. And now my two children, Eleanor and Peter, are learning the ropes. Being a family company has so many advantages, and has without a doubt helped us get to where we are today. We’re able to focus on doing the things we believe in.
“Many people are pleasantly surprised when they realise we really are still making cider in the very same place my Great Grandfather did at the turn of the 20th century. And that we’re still a family owned, independent and British business. This is the reality we are so very proud of.”
From its work through the Thatchers Foundation, to its Young Talent Apprenticeship Programme, Thatchers is a committed contributor to the Somerset community. From its partnership with Somerset County Cricket Club, to Somerset Day and the Eat:Festivals family, Thatchers is a well-known face in the county.
As are its orchards, and those of its apple growers. Throughout September, October and into November, apples are a familiar sight being delivered from throughout the West Country to the mill at Myrtle Farm for the annual harvest.
“It’s such an important time of year to shine a spotlight on the dedication to quality and hard work that that all our apple growers proudly demonstrate, day in, day out through the hard work and pride they put into growing the very best quality apples,” says Martin. “And this passion for quality allows our cider makers in turn to craft the very best tasting ciders here at Myrtle Farm.
“We have apple growers throughout the West Country, some of whom have worked with us for many years, others are much newer, but they all have one thing in common, and that’s taking great care of their apples and meeting our expectations of quality. Their commitment plays a huge part in Thatchers’ journey of creating innovative, high quality ciders for today’s rapidly changing consumer tastes and demands.”
Thatchers has 500 acres of its own orchards in Somerset. Here they grow traditional West Country varieties such as Somerset Redstreak, and more modern varieties like Gilly and Three Counties. For many years Thatchers has been researching and trialling new methods of orcharding with traditional and modern apple varieties. As the cider market evolves, and tastes change, new styles of cider become popular, and as a cider maker it’s important for Thatchers to look ahead and plant the varieties of apple that create contemporary style ciders. Apple trees take up to 7 years after planting to crop effectively, so it’s clear to see why they take the long-term approach.
The individual varieties of apple used allows Thatchers cider makers to create beautiful ciders that are bursting with flavour – smooth and golden Thatchers Gold with juicy apple flavours, naturally hazy Thatchers Haze that brims with fruitiness, sweet and vibrant Thatchers Rosé made from rosy-red eating apples. New to the family are zesty Cloudy Lemon, crisp and sweet with a zing from the juice of real lemons, and its alcohol-free Thatchers Zero.
You can enjoy the fruits of the Thatchers orchards by visiting its Cider Shop at Myrtle Farm in Sandford where a warm welcome awaits you. You’ll find all its famous ciders, limited editions, gifts and other product from the local area.
You could combine your trip with a visit to The Railway Inn next door, Thatchers’ picturesque pub in the heart of Sandford. Or if you’re keen to find out more about life behind the scenes, tours of Myrtle Farm are once again available for booking at www.thatcherscider.co.uk