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The Tastiest English Meat Deliveries of 2021

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The difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic have caused us to change many of the ways we do things, including our shopping habits. Throughout the lockdowns, our usual supermarkets have been enforcing social distancing rules, while home grocery deliveries have varied widely in their availability, which has led many of us to search for other options.

The good news is that there is a fantastic array of independent food and drink producers working in the UK to bring the best of English produce direct to our homes. Within this thriving new industry, one of the most successful sectors is in home meat deliveries. A combination of factors, including an increased awareness of the harm that the global meat industry is doing to the environment has led to a demand for more locally produced meat products, and English producers have been responding.

The new wave of meat producers have turned away from mass production and are focused on organic, sustainable forms of production. And for consumers this is excellent news as the meat that is produced using these methods is usually better tasting.

For instance, it is well known that free-range and organic chickens have a richer taste on the plate because the animals have had the chance to develop good muscles through enjoying a healthier lifestyle, which is based around natural feed and free from the routine use of antibiotics.

The same result is seen in the case of free-roaming, pasture-fed cows. Cows are genetically predisposed to forage rather than to feed from a trough, and free range beef is higher in Vitamin E than mass produced alternatives, offering more protection against toxins and neurological diseases.

Sheep benefit from the same type of organic, natural treatment, being able to roam free on hillsides, while free range pigs, which are raised without drugs such as antibiotics and wormers that are commonly found in intensive farming, produce a taste that is a completely different to the often bland meat products available in your usual local supermarket.  

Modern organic English meat producers, with their focus on sustainable methods of rearing, and environmentally friendly practices are increasingly finding ways to supply a huge variety of meats, both fresh and frozen, to suit every taste preference. To point your way to some of the best that home delivery meat producers have to offer, here are some of the best suppliers in 2021:

Field and Flower

Field and Flower, based in Somerset, is a free-range meat producer that operates a subscription service. The service provides a comprehensive range of meat products, which includes everything from pork sausages to teriyaki marinated beef skewers. Customers who want to enjoy the best of their products have to confirm their order at least four days prior to delivery and all cuts of meat are butchered to order. Sausages and burgers, meanwhile, are produced the day before they are delivered. It is also worth noting that excess meat is sent to a local charity feeding vulnerable people.

Knepp Wild Meat

Knepp Wild Range Meat is a meat producer in West Sussex and they offer a popular build-your-own meat box system. Their meat is drawn from the animals kept on the beautiful 3,500-acre Knepp estate, which has been effectively rewilded, providing a home to a careful selection of animals that were introduced onto the land before being largely left to their own devices.

There are no natural predators living on the Knepp land, and the venison, cattle and pigs are culled every year to produce an impressive array of free range meat, including everything from grassy steaks and fennel-scented sausages to beautifully marbled bacon. Their meat is full of flavour and nutritionally rich, and provides a distinctive take on the traditional meat producing process.

Fosse Meadows

The Fosse Meadows chicken pack provides a good source of high quality poultry, taken from their stock of chickens, which live for 81 days, compared to roughly 35 days for the average supermarket chicken. This gives the chickens the space and time to grow at a natural rate, without the use of antibiotics and they are also able to forage in pesticide-free meadows. The result is a chicken that provides a firm texture and deep flavour, suitable for everything from a roast dinner to a salad.

Eversfield Organic

Situated in Devon, Eversfield Organic provide a Family Meat Box that provides support for English farming and environmentally friendly practices, at an excellent price. This producer works with a network of local farmers and fishers to provide a variety of meats, vegetables and fish to households all over the country. Their beef and lamb is completely grass fed, while their chickens are processed on the farm where they are reared, which removes the need for additional travel time. All of their fresh fish is also caught with rod and line or through diving.

Primal Meats

Primal Meats are specialists in supporting customers who are observing diets based on traditional thinking, such as Paleo, Keto, Wildervore. They believe that their tasty nutrient-rich meat, which is made up of 100% grass-fed animals from farms that practice regenerative land management, helps contribute towards cooling the planet, restoring our damaged ecosystems and providing global sustainable nutrition security. According to Primal, many of their customers are former vegetarians and vegans who are looking for the next most ethical option. Their monthly surprise box can be tailored to your needs, diet and preferences.

Rosewood Farm

Based in Yorkshire, Rosewood Farm’s meat production has conservation at its heart. Launched in 1996, the farm is fully herbicide, pesticide and fertiliser free, and produces 100% grass-fed meat. Their meat packs a rich and full flavour and comes in a range of cuts of generous proportions. In addition, the farm commit to donating £1 of every box sold to a local conservation charity, while any surplus stock is donated to a local kitchen that serves the homeless.  

Great Berwick Organics

If you think you know your steak, this is one meat provider that you definitely need to check out. Their meat box includes steaks cut from the lesser-known muscles such as the tri-tip (bottom sirloin); denver (front shoulder) and hangar (upper belly) Each offers something subtly unique to the seasoned palate, but they all pack a rich flavour.

Great Berwick specialise in the rearing of English Longhorn Cattle. These majestic-looking animals benefit from a 100% grass-fed diet and live a stress-free existence in fields near the River Severn. Their slow growth results in the attractive marbling of the meat, which is full of flavour.

Ethical Butcher

Among the newer meat box schemes in England, this supplier was founded by a former vegetarian and a veteran of the English meat production industry. The Ethical Butcher has built up a network of farmers who employ regenerative agricultural techniques and who are able to demonstrate that they are running a carbon neutral or carbon negative farm. The Ethical Butcher lamb box is one of their most popular lines, and provides a variety of cuts of rich, flavour-packed lamb.

Cotswold Beef

Cotswold Beef have built up an impressive reputation for producing tasty, generously sized beef that is good enough to eat on its own. The global beef industry is often criticised for their perceived negative impact on the environment, but Cotswold Beef are setting an example for others to follow. They work with a slow-growing native breed of cattle, and employ biodiversity at every stage, while their dry ageing process results in some wonderfully tasting meat.

Pipers Farm

Pipers Farm has scooped a whole host of accolades for its great tasting meat, including success at the Great Taste Awards. Based in Devon, the 50-acre family farm has been one of the market leaders in sustainably produced meat for more than 30 years. They work with a range of other family farms in the surrounding areas to provide wholesome food that has been grown with a respect for nature.

This is achieved by rearing slow growing, native breeds who thrive in low input environments; such as Red Ruby cows that are ideal for digesting the tough Exmoor grass and convert it into protein with zero inputs, as well as Hubbard chickens, Saddleback pigs and Suffolk Tup lambs. Piper’s Farm summer meat box is the ideal introduction to the riches of their range.

A Different Kind of English Roast: The Pick of English Coffee Makers

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Few drinks have conquered English culture quite as effectively as coffee. The modern explosion of coffee drinking culture, which is itself an imitation of the previous 18th century heyday of coffee drinking, means that every town and city in England has a plentiful supply of coffee shops, while our supermarket shelves are full of all kinds of varieties and styles of coffee, produced from beans grown and processed in a wide array of locations.

Yet for most of the history of Britain, coffee was an unknown drink. After all, this humble bean was the product of a tropical plant that was grown in lands that were thousands of miles away. As with chocolate, tea, sugar and spices, coffee was known only to a handful of individuals who had the contacts or the opportunity to venture far overseas.

That began to change in the 17th century. This was the era when Europeans first began to discover the wonder of coffee in significant numbers. The early history of coffee in Europe, however, was a controversial one. At this time, all coffee was imported from Arabia, which led to problems, particularly in Italy, where some church figures said that Christians should not drink it. That sanction was lifted abruptly, when the Pope reputedly tried a cup, and gave it the thumbs up.

It took a while for this drink to spread in popularity, but eventually it reached England, where the coffee house soon became an increasingly common feature in every city, a base where the wealthy and ambitious could meet up, debate, argue, strike deals and even gamble. But the goodness of coffee could not be confined to the upper echelons. As coffee became more widely available, it was taken up with enthusiasm by the rest of the population, and the development of instant coffee, to which you need only add hot water, made it a convenient beverage that was accessible to all.

It may be the most popular form of coffee drunk in England, but the instant variety is but a pale imitation of the real thing. Unfortunately for our taste buds, for most of the twentieth century, English people had to manage with the mass-produced version served up by major food manufacturers.

That began to change in the 1990s, thanks to the arrival of major coffee shop brands such as Starbucks and Costa in England. English coffee drinkers became acquainted with the cappuccino, the macchiato, the latte and the art of the barista, refreshing our love affair with the coffee bean.

This has led to an increasing fascination with the coffee-making process. As well as getting our coffee from specialist outlets, English coffee drinkers have increasingly been turning to making their own brew. The availability of coffee machines that work with discs or pods has helped to accelerate that process, but the ultimate coffee experience can only be attained by preparing your own coffee from home, starting from the original bean.

As a result, there is a thriving home coffee making business that has offered a significant boost for a host of English coffee roasters, who have developed some fascinating and tasty coffee products. To help you begin to explore the fascinating world of English coffee, here are some of the most popular and exciting coffee roasters to check out this year.  

Neighbourhood Coffee Roasters

Based in Liverpool, Neighbourhood Coffee Roasters have become one of the top choices for artisanal specialty coffee among choosy English customers. Their beans are obtained from South America and Africa, and you can buy them in whole form or ground, according to your preference. The company has a presence in the areas from where they source their beans and take care to speak to those involved in the process, as well as taking steps to ensure all beans are ethically sourced.

They also take the time to roast their beans in small batches, which is regarded as the best way of ensuring that the quality of the sourced beans and their distinct flavours are preserved.

Perky Blenders

Perky Blenders is a family run east London company that runs two roasteries and a handful of coffee shops. It supplies its popular single origin coffees and blends to over locations and also offers a letterbox subscription service, which includes a Blend of the Month selection. All their coffee is traceable, sourced sustainably and where possible, produced by smallholders. In addition, the coffee bags are oxo-degradable, which means it will breakdown fully when placed in landfill sites.

Their signature forest blend brings together the power and creaminess of the best natural processed Brazilian beans and the tang and sweetness of washed Colombian beans produced by a smallholder collective, for a balanced blend that works well either as espresso or longer filter coffee.

Origin Coffee

One of the top coffee bean roasters in England, Origin Coffee take their beans from a wide variety of nations, including Nicaragua, Brazil, Colombia and El Salvador. They use professional roasting machine technology, operating in a carefully controlled atmosphere, and they take care to analyse the form, colour and smell of the beans they use. Each roast takes several days and continues until the desired flavour is acquired, at which point, their coffee is deemed good enough to sell.

North Star Coffee Roasters

Based in Leeds, North Star Coffee Roasters was established in 2013 and has become one of the country’s top coffee roasting operations. Their extensive organisation, which takes beans from around the world, also extends to a series of courses for baristas, teaching the skills of coffee making.

North Star tend to favour specialty grade Arabica coffee beans, but they apply considerable attention to detail when choosing their beans, with flavour profile, consistency and cleanliness all considered to be important considerations. Like most of the best coffee roasting operators, North Star travel to travel to the areas they are importing beans from. Their beans are bought while green and fresh and are roasted in small batches, so each variety retains its flavour and unique characteristics.   

Chimney Fire Coffee

The founder of Chimney Fire spent years working in the Ghanaian coffee industry and started his operation by roasting small batches of coffee in his garden shed. In the space of four years, Chimney Fire had expanded to a high quality roastery in the Surrey Hills serving a growing customer base.  

The company offers an array of excellent coffees, including an interesting discovery taster pack which allows you to experience the full range of their single origin coffees, complete with traceability and tasting information on each type. Two of their most successful products are the Guatemalan San Antonio washed coffee, which offers hints of cherry, brown sugar and fruit, and the Brazilian Fazenda Sertao, from a long-established coffee-growing family. Chimney Fire are also notable for their sustainability ethos. Everything from coffee chaff to grounds is recycled and the company also works closely with farmers, paying above Fairtrade prices and giving investment opportunities.

Caravan Coffee Roasters

Based in London, Caravan Coffee Roaster are well known in the world of artisan specialty coffee. They carefully select green coffee beans of the highest quality, focusing on environmental and sustainability principles. Their roasting process is slow and careful and designed to bring out of the inherent flavours in their beans, through the use of modern roasting technology. Their commitment to diversity and support for local farmers is exemplified in one of their most popular coffee brands produced from beans grown by a Colombian all-woman collective.  

Turtle Cup

Turtle Cup actually began as an attempt to repair some of the environmental damage caused by the proliferation of single-use coffee cups, through producing alternative reusable cups, and working with a charity to clean plastic from UK beaches.

They have since developed a flourishing coffee production business. All of their beans are Fair Trade and are roasted at the Tate Gallery coffee roastery before being packaged in fully compostable bags that even boast vegetable ink labels.

Turtle Cup currently produce two varieties, a strong espresso blend and more floral option called Wakey Wakey – based on an Ethiopian single origin bean from a farming cooperative. This latter brand offers delightful hints of apricot, jasmine, and bergamot, leading to a blend that is both heady and floral in flavour.

Clifton Coffee Roasters

Based in Bristol, Clifton Coffee Roasters have developed into one of the most successful artisanal speciality coffee bean producers. Their beans are gathered from El Salvador, Colombia, Panama, Brazil and Kenya, using sustainable growing and harvesting methods.

The company started life as a retailer of espresso machines, but it has since developed a thriving coffee roasting operation, and their in-house production roastery, along with their experience of the coffee trade means they are well placed to handle everything from sourcing to sale.

The Sweet Taste of English Honey

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Throughout human history, there are plenty of examples of mankind and the natural world working in harmony, but the production of honey is surely the most successful.

A regular bee colony can contain tens of thousands of insects, all of them working together to produce sweet honey, and if correctly tended, a thriving bee colony can develop some of the most sought after food products to delight the senses.

Honey has the advantage of not only being delicious, but packed with health benefits, and it is not hard to see why this treat has been popular across all civilisations.

These days, the honey making process has been updated and refined considerably, which means that whenever you go into any regular English supermarket you’ll find a huge variety of honey options, from mass-made honeys to the most sought-after artisanal and specialist brands.

The basis of honey production is the industry of the bees, who toil hard all year to make honey so they will be able to eat throughout the cold winter months. This means that when the right flowers are in bloom bees will often travel for many miles to find flowers packed with the precious nectar, which they extract using their tongues and store in special stomachs.

Once a bee is full up with the good stuff, it will head back to the hive and pass this nectar over to the worker bees to be transformed into honey through chewing. The honey is then packed into those familiar hexagonal honeycomb cells, before being sealed up with wax. Beekeepers are then able to harvest this honey, but proper beekeeping means ensuring they only take a surplus amount, so the bees will have enough to survive on. That precious honey is then bottled or jarred before sale.  

The beauty of this delightful food is that individual hives in different areas of England can produce wildly different flavours. As you find with wine, there is a wide number of variables and factors that can influence the final flavour, texture and colour of the honey. These include the species of plants and flowers that have been harvested, the techniques used by the beekeeper to process the honey, and the type of bee involved. All of these influences have an effect on the final product, and the result is that even honey harvested from the same flower species can taste completely different when taken from hives located in different parts of the country.  

Honey is popular all over the world, and other nations including Greece, Saudi Arabia and Italy have established thriving honey industries, but the English honey tradition is also a well established feature of our cuisine. In fact, honey bees may have arrived in Britain as long as 9000 years ago when these islands were joined with the rest of Europe. By the time the Romans arrived in Britain, the tradition of bee-keeping and honey production was already well underway.

Over the years, English honey production has had to deal with a variety of challenges, and the latest problem facing honey producers is the combination of environmental factors that are making it harder for beekeepers to maintain the right environment for English honey bees. So one way to show your support for English honey producers is to try some of the many delightful honey products available today. Here’s our guide to the best of English honey in 2021.

English Blossom Honey – Tiptree

Proud holders of a Royal Warrant, Tiptree are known for their delicious condiments and their range extends to honey, including this example of set honey, which may be one of the best available. It offers a smooth consistency, along with a creamy flavour, and it doesn’t leave a sticky residue on your tongue, which is the case with some set honeys. It has plenty of flavour depth and a subdued sweetness that isn’t too strong.

Black Bee Honey – British Spring Honey

Black Bee have the reputation of being one of the most popular and well known of the English honey making brands and their select British Spring Honey is a particularly popular product. Their first venture into soft set honey, this product is creamy and light, and is produced by bees that have been foraging in the spring flowers found in the Somerset region, and it makes for a perfect spreading honey. It is also worth noting that Black Bee produce a Summer and Autumn version of this honey, both of which have their own distinctive taste.

Keepr’s – Cotswold Honey

Another popular English honey maker, Keepr’s produce a variety of distinctive local honeys, including this brand, which is collected from apiaries in the Cotswolds area. It is a multi-floral honey that has been carefully crafted in order to capture the unique flavour of Cotswold flowers. It is particularly tasty when paired with toast at teatime or breakfast.  

Keepr’s – Oxford Honey

Another contender on our list from Keepr’s, and this one is produced by bees from apiaries in and around the famous city of Oxford. As with the Cotswold Honey, it has been lightly filtered, which helps to ensure that it retains all the natural honey goodness. This is a honey that you will find works well when spread over crumpets or toast, and also adds extra zest to a cup of peppermint tea.

Littleover Apiaries – Pure English Clear Honey

Littleover Apiaries are known for their popular raw honey products, all of which are cold extracted from local hives ensuring minimal interference with the bees. Their organic honey product is derived from a wide range of wildflowers, which have been uncontaminated with pesticides or chemicals, and their dedicated laboratory works hard to ensure that their honey is of a high quality. This brand is a liquid honey that offers an intense, warming flavour. Ideal for spreading on toast, it also functions well as a cooking ingredient or a general sweetener.

Paynes South Down Bee Farms – English Honey

Based in the South Downs, which stretch across Sussex, Kent and Surrey, Paynes are able to draw on the influence of a wide array of flora for bees to forage, while the South Down National Park provides a safe and natural environment. Paynes go to extra lengths to produce the best possible product, ensuring that hive locations are perfectly balanced to offer a high quality of nectar and honey.

Their traditional beekeeping methods avoid modern technology and ensure that there is minimal disruption to the hives, while their honey harvesting is carried out twice a year, in May and August. The result is a memorable local honey with a subtle, but beautiful taste.

Maters & Co – Pure Raw Orange Blossom Honey

This honey provides a delicate taste and an attractive amber colouring, for a real treat. The subtle hints of citrus in a spoonful of this honey provide a gentle tang without being overpowering, and the floral undertones add extra freshness. Maters & Co always draw their honey from sustainable hives, and never pasteurise the product, preserving natural vitamins, enzymes and nutrients.

Urban Bees – Regent’s Park Raw Honey

Although beekeeping is facing severe pressures, caused by habitat and pest challenges, one bright spot is the burgeoning urban community of beekeeping. Urban Bees is one of the best producers working in this niche. Their bees harvest flowers in the Regent’s Canal and Camley Street Natural Park areas of London, as well as the flowers growing in the railway sidings at Euston and St Pancras, and the variety of parks and residential gardens in the area. The result is this delightful and fragrant floral honey that has definitely gone down well with consumers all over England.

Bees and Co – Wild Countryside British Honey

Based in the Peterborough area, of England, Bees and Co have produced some lovely honey products, and their Wild Countryside British Honey is one of the most successful, landing a Great Taste Award in 2018. It is produced from honey harvested in the summer months when bees are able to gather pollen and nectar from the greatest possible array of sources, including hedgerows, wild flowers and lime trees, which helps to provide this runny honey with a pleasing citrus edge. It has a unique flavour and is versatile enough for use with breakfast cereals, tea or desserts.

Fortnum & Mason – Acacia Chunk Comb Honey Amphora

For the ultimate in English honey, Fortnum and Mason sell this expensive honey jar that features a chunk of pure honeycomb. The honey itself has a powerful flavour that is floral and slightly fruity though with a mild taste. This makes it the ideal partner for cheese, yoghurt or to spread on toast. Although it is one of the most expensive English honeys you will come across, it packs quite a punch so it will last longer than you might think.

Savour the Best of English Whisky

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Whisky may be more commonly associated with Scotland, Ireland and the US, but there is a modern thriving whisky scene in England that is set to grow over the next few years.

In fact, there is a long history of whisky making in England, but the art of making whisky faded after the early 1900s and remained out of fashion until the early 2000s when tax changes introduced by the government of the time gave encouragement to artisan whisky producers.

Gin and vodka also enjoyed a boost at that time, but whisky is a different and more complex spirit, not least because it takes so long to produce. In fact, to call your drink whisky, it has to be aged in a barrel for a minimum of three years before it is sold.  

The references to whisky production in England go back to the 1800s, when both malt and grain whisky was produced in various parts of the country. But in 1905, the last English distillery closed and the business of whisky became dominated by Scotland.

The renaissance of English whisky dates back to 2006 with the creation of the English Whisky Company in Norfolk. The east of England is ideally placed to be the base of a new whisky sector as that part of the country produces abundant supplies of high quality barley, which is a key factor in the whisky distillation process. In fact, at one point in history, barley was transported from Norfolk to Scotland for that reason. In addition, the area has crystal clear freshwater springs.

St George’s Distillery was the first English whisky distillery to be set up in 120 years and has gone on to produce some stunning whiskies, matured in oak casks imported from the US. The success of that rebirth has led to more English distilleries springing up around the country from the Suffolk coast to the Cotswolds, all of them producing unique whiskies as diverse and as enjoyable as any to be found in Scotland, Ireland or the US.

The English whisky scene faced a tough test in 2020, like many other categories of industry, but it kept going and thrived. In fact, last year was a significant landmark in the English whisky sector due to the staging of the first English Whisky Festival, in October. The festival was an online event, and featured two days of competition, as fourteen of the 24 English distilleries competing, and a great chance for critics to savour some of the best whiskies around.

One of the defining and advantageous features of English whisky is the relative lack of stringent rules, beyond the requirement that whisky has to be aged three years in wood. This means that English whisky makers are free to experiment and produce some truly stunning and remarkable spirits. To help you become familiar with the best of what this industry has to offer, here are some of the very best modern English whiskies around today:

The Oxford Artisan Distillery – Oxford Rye Anniversary Edition

This is a 100% heritage rye grain, distilled in a column still set-up and then matured for around a year in virgin American oak before being transferred into a Sauternes cask for another year. The result is a whisky that is packed with rich, sweet flavours, including toffee and caramel, yet still showing traces of rye with a herbal freshness and even a hint of orange peel. It has a lovely rich finish and is a remarkable and memorable modern English whisky.

The Cotswolds Distillery – Cotswolds Single Malt

This exciting single malt is the first whisky to come out of the Cotswolds Distillery, and this much-anticipated release has not disappointed whisky fans. The distillery only uses Cotswolds barley, and there is a nice touch in that the variety and farm where the barley was grown is indicated on each individual bottle.

This whisky is aged for three years in premium Kentucky bourbon barrels and reconditioned American red wine casks, and provides a light, sweet aroma, along with a deeper, darker taste.

The Oxford Artisan Distillery – Bechor Rye

This unique whisky is aged in virgin English oak casks, produced by an English cooper, and offers a cereal-heavy aroma and fruity goodness. This is a subtle whisky, with toasted spice and even peppery elements, and provides a lovely lingering heat on the tongue.

Adnams Southwold – Adnams Triple Malt Whisky

To many, the Adnams name is more familiar for their craft beers – but in sunny Southwold on the Suffolk coast, their whisky distillery is also creating wonderful things. Their Triple Malt is aged in new American oak and combines wheat, barley and oats for an unbeatably smooth, creamy taste sensation. The barrels give it bold flavours of coconut and vanilla, while the taste is a complex mixture of honey and citrus fruits.

The English Whisky Company – Single Malt

The classic whisky from the original of the modern English distillers, this is an unpeated single malt that won a Gold Medal at the 2017 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. It’s aged in carefully chosen Bourbon casks that are imported from the US and help to give it a gentle, creamy profile with familiar fruity flavours. The taste is nutty and clean, and has a hint of zesty orange and tropical fruits, making for an easy drinking softer whisky.

The Lakes Distillery – Steel Bonnets Blended Malt Whisky

One of the most interesting of English whiskies, this is produced by prominent English distiller the Lakes Distillery. Created by blending their own English single malt with a Scottish malt, the company say it is the first cross border blend. It has already landed an award at the 2019 World Whiskies Awards and has become a favourite with English whisky drinkers. It offers a creamy taste, with plenty of fruit flavour and heat followed by a long, mellow and nutty finish.

Anno – Single Malt Whisky

At the luxury end of the English whisky market is this remarkable drink. Anno claim that this is the first whisky to be made in Kent, distilled in partnership with the Westerham Brewery. The brewery added their own yeast-strain to local spring water and English barley to create the whisky’s mash, before the ageing process took place in a medium-charred Bourbon cask, that had previously been used with a single malt Scotch. The result is a pale whisky, with delightful hints of biscuit and marzipan, and it comes in a handmade collectors box, ideal for true whisky connoisseurs.

Sparkle and Fizz: Top English Sparkling Wines for 2021

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Put aside champagne and say no to prosecco, these days drinkers are increasingly choosing English sparkling wine when they want to celebrate in style.

The rise of this genre of English has been unstoppable in the last decade. There are now well over 100 wineries across the UK and over two-thirds of the wine produced in England is sparkling. In fact some of the best sparkling wines have attracted favourable comparisons with champagne.

This is not entirely a coincidence. In some southern counties of England, the soil and climate are almost identical to the famous Champagne region. In fact, many English wineries even use the same varieties of grapes that make up champagne, which is usually made with chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.

English wine making is finally getting the credit it deserves as growers and producers have mastered the particularities of the English climate, often drawing on the expertise of more established wine-growing regions. The result has been a dramatic rise in the quality of English sparkling wine, so with the summer fast approaching, here are some of the top vintages to look out for in 2021.

Jenkyn Place Blanc des Blancs 2015

Jenkyn Place is located near to the idyllic village of Bentley in the North Hampshire Downs and is owned by the Bladon family. They moved there in 1997 but only began planting vines in the estate’s former hop fields when Simon Bladon tasted English sparkling wine at a furniture auction in 2003. Two years later, they harvested their first grapes and have since produced high quality sparkling wine with a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.

The hot dry summer of 2015 enabled them to produce their very first blanc de blancs, made entirely with chardonnay. Produced by their resident winemaker Dermot Sugrue, this elegant, complex wine has an abundance of fresh fruit aromas and rich citrus flavours along with a rich creaminess on the palate. It is the perfect match for chicken dishes, light cheeses and smoked salmon.

Louis Pommery England Brut

Vranken-Pommery is a well known champagne house, but were one of the first to launch an English sparkling wine, as well as planting a vineyard in Hampshire last autumn. Their collaboration with local English vineyards has produced this stunning wine. Produced using the traditional method, taking carefully selected chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes, this is a lively fizzy wine that is  pale yellow in colour and offers a lovely combination of honeyed stone fruits and refreshing lemon and lime with a well balanced and satisfying mineral finish.

Adnams English Sparkling Classic Cuvee

The ideal pairing with almost any kind of food, this vibrant and refreshingly bright wine with some of the tangy flavours of apples, is also perfect for drinking on its own. The non-vintage blend of pinot noir and chardonnay was made using traditional methods and then aged on lees for at least 30 months. The result is a wine that is golden in colour with a slight blush tint, offering a gentle creamy finish with

Tinwood Blanc des Blancs 2018

The Tinwood lettuce farm in West Sussex was replanted with vines in 2006 and the first commercial harvest followed in 2010. In the years since, the winery has expanded to offer tasting tours and overnight stays, while their wines have been going from strength to strength. Made completely from chardonnay, this blanc de blancs has spent a minimum of 18 months on the lees and 5 months on the cork to produce a delicate pale gold wine that offers zesty delight, featuring masses of tropical fruits and a lingering, balanced finish, making it perfect with a seafood platter on a summer’s afternoon.

Morrisons The Best English Sparkling Brut Vintage 2010

Produced by Rolling Green Hills for Morrisons’ own premium label, this 2010 vintage has been stored in cool cellars for eight years and offers deliciously fine bubbles and complex biscuity flavours. Made from a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, the wine has surprisingly rich hints of toast and stewed apple and would go perfectly with a roast chicken dinner.

Sharpham Summer Sparkling

This fantastic sparkling wine is almost the taste of summer in a bottle. Produced with estate grown red grapes, this fun and fruity wine comes from the beautiful Sharpham winery, which is set on the banks of the River Dart in Devon. A fresh pink wine, it has a gentle spritz and sunny red berry and clotted cream flavours that go perfectly with any picnic.  

M&S Balfour Classic Cuvee Brut

The Hush Heath estate is home to the Balfour-Lynn family, a 400-acre farm that was originally a working farm but has been reinvented with apple orchards, woodlands and wildflower meadows, as well as being home to a variety of award-winning wine. This lively fizz, produced for M&S, is a perfect example of their balanced style, with vigorous citrus and apple flavours and a fresh acidity.

Kinsbrook Vintage Cuvee 2014

Kinsbrook Vineyard announced themselves on the sparkling wine scene in style with this cuvée, one of three debut wines from the Sussex producer. Founded in 2014, the vineyard is run by the youngest owner in the country, who was inspired to plant vines after travelling through New Zealand’s wine country. Kinsbrook’s first batch of wines include a limited production bacchus and pinot gris, but the vintage cuvee is the best of the lot. Created by award-winning winemaker Dermot Sugrue, the sparkling wine offers crispness with orchard fruit aromas that make it seriously drinkable.

Harrow & Hope Brut Reserve

Buckinghamshire’s famous Harrow & Hope winery was named England’s Winery of the Year in 2019, and its signature pinot noir-based blend of sparkling wine has landed multiple prizes. It is produced by respected winemaker Henry Laithwaite, who began his wine making career in Bordeaux and Australia before returning to Marlow in 2010 to plant his own vineyard on a sunny, south-facing slope in the Chilterns. Light gold in colour, this sparkling wine is complex and creamy in the mouth with a toasted brioche aroma and a ripe, fruity finish.

Bolney Wine Estate Cuvee Noir 2014

If you’re on the lookout for something a little different, this sparkling red is good candidate. It is made from 100% dornfelder red grapes and has the lightness of fizz with the flavours of a red wine. It’s packed full of red stone fruit flavours, along with a hint of smoky spiciness to finish that really sets it apart from white sparkling wines. Served chilled, the strong flavours make it a great match with barbeques, roasts or rich desserts.

Artelium Makers Rose 2015

A new name in English wine, Artelium is a wine estate in Sussex surrounded by bluebell woods that offers sweeping views across the South Downs. Planted in 2018 and 2019, the vineyard has thrived on the area’s rich clay soil and long growing season. Artelium also have a second vineyard in Madehurst, planted on chalk soil to provide a second terroir to add complexity to their wines.

Their first two releases include this bright rosé, which provides startling intense colour, clean, mineral aroma and a creamy acidity on the palate. Its full-bodied flavours mean this rosé doesn’t need to be confined to summer sipping either, but would go down just as easily with roast lamb.

Tesco Finest English Sparkling Wine

Produced for supermarket brand Tesco by the award-winning Hush Heath Estate, this sparkling wine is perfect for those on a budget. A blend of hand-harvested chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes, it has been made using the traditional method and tastes like a far more expensive wine. It presents as a sumptuous pale gold product and offers a refreshing crispness, moreish apple and citrus flavours and delicate brioche notes with an elegant finish. The perfect fizz for a sunny day.

Hattingley Valley Blanc des Blancs 2014

Hattingley Valley was founded in 2008, at a time when English wine was still regarded as a novelty, and has gone on to become one of England’s most successful wine producers, exporting sparkling wine to 16 countries and scooping a host of awards. Its blanc de blancs has already won several prizes and the 2014 vintage is another wonderful edition, thanks to that year’s mild spring and sunny summer which created ideal growing conditions.

Made entirely from chardonnay grapes, it has a balanced, creamy texture and is aged on lees in the bottle for five years which gives it a rounded complexity. Rich with citrus and honey scents, this pale golden wine has mineral flavours and a refreshing acidity that will definitely keep you going back for more. It will continue to improve over the next five years and keep well for at least ten.

Nyetimber Cuvee Cherie

Nyetimber were one of the first of the big English sparkling wine producers, having released their first blanc de blancs back in 1997. Since then, the West Sussex estate has become famous among wine experts, boasting numerous awards for its wins made from 100% estate-grown grapes.

This cuvee chérie is another first, a delicately sweet wine that was originally designed to complement British desserts. Made with 100% chardonnay, it has a refreshing minerality, balanced citrus flavours and a clean fresh finish that pairs wonderfully with gently spiced Chinese, Japanese and Thai dishes as well as English desserts, although it also works well with a traditional afternoon tea.

Radlow Hundred English Brut Sparkling

Radlow Hundred is a wine brand that is known for doing things a little differently. The family have been farming this part of the Herefordshire countryside for eight generations in a region once known as the Radlow Hundred. Now their small-batch wines pay tribute to the local community and their farm’s history. This particular brut sparkling commemorates the freezing winters of the 1800s when locals were able to skate on the River Wye. It is a blend of pinot noir, seyval blanc and chardonnay, and is a light golden wine that provides free-flowing bubbles, a grapefruit and honey scent and delicious flavours of apple and melon.

The Best of English Breakfast Tea in 2021

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Tea is often considered to be a quintessentially English drink. After all, we have been drinking it for over 350 years. But in fact the history of tea goes much further back.

The history of tea begins in China. According to one famous legend, in 2737 BC, the Chinese emperor Shen Nung was sitting by a tree while his servant boiled some drinking water, when leaves from the tree fell in the water. Shen Nung, who was a renowned herbalist, drank the infusion that his servant had accidentally created. The tree was a Camellia sinensis, and the drink was tea.

The truth of this story will never be known, but it is clear that tea drinking became popular in China long before we knew of it in the west. Archaeologists have found tea containers in tombs dating from the Han dynasty but it was under the Tang dynasty (618-906 CE) that tea became the national drink of China. In fact, it was such a favourite that in the late eighth century a writer called Lu Yu wrote the first book entirely about tea, the Ch’a Ching, or Tea Classic.

Tea soon spread to Japan, where it became a key part of Japanese culture, where the Tea Ceremony celebrated the drink, a form of ritual that may have its origins in the Ch’a Ching.

The drink didn’t reach Europe in a significant way until the second half of the 1500s, via the Portuguese who were living in the East as traders and missionaries. But it was the Dutch who were the first to bring tea back as a commercial import. Tea soon became fashionable in the Netherlands and gradually around Europe, though at that time it was a drink of the wealthy.

England was relatively slow to take to tea, and the first reference to tea appeared in a London newspaper in 1658, just six years after the establishment of the first coffee house in London. But when Charles II married the tea-loving Catherine of Braganza, tea became fashionable and a habit that spread quickly through the upper classes. The East India Company soon began to import tea from China, and the English love affair with the drink began.

Initially, tea was popular in coffee houses, among the middle and upper-class gentlemen who did their business there, while women drank tea at home. The price of tea remained high initially, due to high levels of taxation. In fact, the first tax on tea was so high, it drastically reduced sales.

Inevitably, the high taxation of tea led to an increase in smuggling. Tea was in great demand by the 1700s but many English people couldn’t afford the high prices, which provided an opportunity for criminal gangs. By the late eighteenth century there was an elaborate organised crime network, which may have imported as much as 7 million lbs of tea every year.

Even worse than the smuggling was the adulteration of tea, which involved the adding of anything from non-tea leaves to sheep dung to the basic product. Eventually, in 1784, the government realised that the heavy taxation was creating more problems than it was worth so the tax was cut drastically and smuggling ended almost over night.

Another boost to tea drinking came with the end of the East India Company’s monopoly on trade with China, which took place in 1834. This meant that they had to look for other locations to grow tea and so turned to India, which was already the centre of their operations. Beginning with Assam, several places in India were given over to the growing of tea and this was boosted when in 1858 the British government took over direct control of India and helped to promote the tea industry and cultivation. By 1888, tea imports to England from India exceeded the level of China imports.

The end of the East India Company monopoly also had an unexpected consequence for naval design. With tea import now open to anyone, there was a race to come up with ships that could travel the distance from China to England as fast as possible, hence the creation of the new Tea Clipper style of vessel, which were designed with sleek lines, huge masts and enormous sales. This era saw the famous clipper races, between British and American ships, which reached a peak in the 1860s.

 to bring home the tea and make the most money, using fast new clippers which had sleek lines, tall masts and huge sails. In particular there was competition between British and American merchants, leading to the famous clipper races of the 1860s. This era came to an end when the Suez canal was opened, as this massively reduced the length of the journey and made it possible for steamers to get to China and back with their load of cargo.

Throughout this period, consumption of tea in England was continuing to rise, from an annual rate of 2lbs per head in 1851 to more than 6lbs per head by 1901, thanks largely to cheaper tea imports from India and Sri Lanka. Tea had become a part of the English way of life, a fact that was effectively recognised by the government during the First World War, when they took over the importation of tea to England to ensure that this essential morale-boosting beverage would still be available at an affordable price for ordinary English people.

The government did the same thing during the Second World War, and tea was rationed from 1940 until 1952. That year also saw the re-establishment of the London Tea Auction, a regular auction that had been taking place since 1706. The auction was still at that time, the centre of the world’s tea industry, but better worldwide communications and the growth of auctions in tea producing nations saw it decline in importance in the second half of the twentieth century.

These days the shelves of our supermarkets are packed with a huge variety of English breakfast teas, but quantity can sometimes overwhelm quality. Many of the mass produced tea products found in shops are rather bitter blends that make a bland and boring cuppa. The good news is that there are  many tea makers around producing amazing breakfast teas with high quality, artisan flavour.

The art of the English breakfast tea involves understanding that the addition of milk and sugar should be used to draw out the subtle flavour of the tea, not to cover up a tannic or bitter taste. To help you to explore the world of English tea, here are some of the best blends available in 2021:

Twinings

Twinings has long been one of the world’s most recognizable tea brands. Famous for producing and creating some of the best English teas including Earl Grey, this company provides a lovely breakfast tea blend that ticks all the right boxes. Their English breakfast tea features a distinctive blend of Indian, Indonesian, Chinese, and Kenyan black teas to produce a tea with a full body that is bursting with brisk and memorable flavour

Harney & Sons

This company is another one of the major names in English tea, and their exquisite black tea blend is the perfect start to the day. Their Harney & Sons English Breakfast Tea is made from Keemun black tea leaves, and it produces a richer, smokier flavour than the other black tea brands on this list.

Taylors of Harrogate Yorkshire Gold

Taylors of Harrogate is a well known English tea maker that produces a breakfast tea blend which delivers a bright cup of golden tea that is packed with malty flavours and a rich body. The tea is made from high-quality black tea leaves imported from Kenya, Rwanda, and India.

Cup & Leaf

The Cup & Leaf take on the English breakfast tea is smooth, full of flavour, and the ideal way to start off the day. Their breakfast blend features Sri Lankan tea leaves that produce citrusy and nutty flavours which are increasingly rare in breakfast blends. This tea can be mixed with a splash of milk, sugar, lemon, and mint to help draw out the natural flavour profile of the blend.

Tetley

A name that tis well known as a prolific producer of tea, Tetley’s breakfast tea blend features a mix of African and Indian black tea leaves resulting in a beverage that is loaded up with rich, complex flavours. The Indian Assam tea used in their blend adds a malty flavour that is enhanced by the full-bodied taste of African black tea leaves.

Tazo

Tazo is one of the newer English tea companies that focuses on healthy blends that offer bright, bold flavours. Tazo English Breakfast Tea is produced with hand-picked tea leaves that are sourced for their high-quality flavour and aroma. The result is an energizing blend that is packed with bold and brisk flavours. Although the steeping time for this tea is a little longer than with most black teas at five minutes, there is no bitterness to the blend and the wait is definitely worth it!

Stash

Stash is a tea company that is well known for its wide range of Fair Trade certified organic teas. Stash English Breakfast Tea can be bought both loose or in bags, and it features the characteristic malty flavour of blended black tea leaves for a final cup that is a delightful bright golden colour.

Enjoy the best of English cheese in 2021

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England may not have earned as high a reputation for its cheeses as our continental cousins on the other side of the English Channel, but English cheese has a long and rich history, with many distinctive and famous varieties.

Cheese of course is not an English invention. In fact, it is believed that the production of cheese even predates recorded history. Experts believe that cheese was probably discovered by accident, perhaps as early as 8000 BCE, though the likely explanation is a little unpleasant to contemplate.

At this point in history, sheep were being domesticated for the first time. Rennet, which is the enzyme used to make cheese, is naturally present in the stomachs of sheep and other ruminants. It is slightly grisly to imagine, but the leak-proof stomachs and other bladder-like organs of sheep and similar ruminants were often used to store and transport milk and other liquids. The combination of warm summer heat and residual rennet in the stomach lining would most likely have curdled the milk to produce the earliest forms of primitive cheese.

As our ancestors began to understand this magical new food source, they learned how to strain the milk curds and to add salt for extra preservation, which produced a final product that we might recognise as cheese. But this was a long time before the invention of the refrigeration process, and even with a dose of salt in the mix, most cheeses in warm climates were made daily and eaten while they were still fresh. In fact, there are Roman texts describing how popular cheese was at the time. The Romans enjoyed a variety of cheeses and they considered cheese making an art form.

The word cheese itself is derived from the Latin word caseus, and the root of this word can be traced back to the proto-Indo-European root kwat, which means to ferment or become sour.

If you’re thinking that the Romans brought the secret of cheese with them when they invade Britain, you’d be mistaken. Cheese making on these islands began before the Romans arrived. Those early versions of cheese were the forerunners of Cheshire and Lancashire cheeses. In those days, English cheesemaking was localised and produced by peasant farmers, which led to the development of countless local cheese traditions and styles. Later, after the arrival of Christianity in England, monasteries also became an important cheese making factor, while the monks were also responsible for the development of many fine types of ale.

Cheesemaking, based largely in the monasteries, was a thriving industry until Henry VIII fell out with the Church at the end of the 1530s. His fight to control the English Church, sparked by his desire to divorce his first wife Catherine of Aragon, led to the closure of all of the monasteries in England, which drastically affected the production of cheese in England.

In fact the practice of cheesemaking went into a serious decline until the 1600s when, thanks to the development of more modern cheesemaking practices and the increasingly urban population of England, there was a revival in the fortunes of cheese. Larger dairies and creameries began to appear to meet the demands of the growing populace of towns and cities. While this was able to meet the needs of the people, the result was that local artisanal cheesemaking declined rapidly and this trend continued until the second half of the 20th century.  

Fortunately, the last few decades have seen the return of the locally made cheese. The modern trend for renewing our old cheese traditions and creating new ones began in 1973 with the founding of the Campaign for Real Cheese by Patrick Rance. By the 2000s, there was a new and fast growing artisanal cheese movement, which has revived some ancient English cheeses and created entire new cheese products for us all to enjoy. To help you on your exploration of English cheeses, here are some of the many local cheeses to sample in 2021.

Appleby’s Cheshire

The family run firm Applebys is one of a small number of cheesemakers still producing traditional handmade Cheshire cheese. At Appleby’s, the cheeses are still bandaged rather than waxed, which leads to a much deeper savoury taste, packed full of minerals and yet betraying the familiar zesty citrus tang that has made Cheshire one of England’s most popular cheeses.

Beauvale

A relatively new cheese, Beauvale is made by Cropwell Bishop a long established and traditional Stilton producer. Beauvale is the English answer to the famous Gorgonzola. The incredibly creamy, soft texture, which becomes almost spreadable at room temperature, combine with a mile blue favour to produce an award winning cheese, which underlines the strength both of the old and the new in the world of English artisanal cheese making .

Berkswell

English-made goat and sheep’s milk cheeses were all but unheard of in England until the 1980s, but these days they are at the cutting edge of cheesemaking, and are paving the way for exciting new cheesemakers to make their mark. Berkswell is a sheep’s milk cheese that’s matured until firm and packs a sweet, caramel flavour along with delicious nuttiness that lingers on the tongue.

Cornish Yarg

This is a famous English cheese that’s wrapped in nettle leaves as it is aged, which adds further flavour and a striking appearance to the final wheel of cheese. This, combined with the creamy texture, which becomes crumblier towards the centre, as well as the slightly tangy taste has made for a multi-award-winning combination. To enhance the seasonal effect of this remarkable cheese, Cornish Yarg also comes wrapped in wild garlic leaves.

Ticklemore

This bloomy, bright white cheese is made from goat’s milk, and it offers a very clean, refreshing flavour that doesn’t have the familiar overpowering flavour of some of the more aged goat’s cheese. The texture of Ticklemore is quite firm, and the unusual shape is caused by the cheese being drained in a basket, which allows a more natural rind to form and creates ridges around the outside.

Tunworth

A Camembert-style cheese that really does prove that English cheesemakers can make soft varieties just as well as the French. This cheese has an incredible depth of flavour, with hints of mushroom, cabbage, milk and fresh fruit. The rind on this cheese is wafer-thin, just strong enough to hold the oozing middle together, and the cheese itself has been named the best in Britain on two occasions.

Keen’s Cheddar

There are countless varieties of cheddar out there these days but Keen’s Cheddar has firmly secured its position as one of England’s most popular cheddars, and it is a world away from the mass-produced blocks that you will find in the supermarket. This is a proper handmade West Country Farmhouse Cheddar that is noticeably less sweet than modern varieties and has a much more pronounced farmyard flavour. If you’ve only ever eaten supermarket cheddar, you should definitely give this a try. It is what cheddar is supposed to taste like.

Sparkenhoe Red Leicester

For many years, red Leicester was widely regarded as a lurid orange block that tasted only slightly different to the mass-made cheddars that fill our shop shelves. Some might even have wondered how it had remained popular throughout the centuries. In 2005, however, proper authentic red Leicester was put back into the market for the first time in decades, in the form of Sparkenhoe. The deep, fiery orange, along with the sweet, long-lasting nuttiness and chewy texture reminds us of how traditionally created red Leicester can taste, and sets the bar high for other Leicester producers.

Stichelton

This particular modern English classic developed out of the strict rules associated with the production of the famous Stilton cheese. For a cheese to be called Stilton, it is required to meet several guidelines. It has to be made from pasteurised milk, created in certain counties of England, and hand-ladled into presses. Cheesemaker Joe Schneider followed all of these rules with his new cheese product, apart from the rule on pasteurised milk. He made his with unpasteurised milk. This meant he had to come up with another name for it, hence the creation of Stichelton. In fact, this creamy, tangy cheese has proven almost as popular as Stilton itself.

Stinking Bishop

Perhaps one of the most famous of the UK’s more modern cheeses, thanks largely to its appearance in the Wallace and Gromit films, there is no doubt that Stinking Bishop provides a serious pong. This is because the cheese is washed in pear cider, which helps develop the beautiful pink rind for which this cheese is noted. Once you get past the smell, however, you’ll find that the cheese itself is fairly mild and herby. If you’re interested in the modern English cheese revival, this one is a must.

Crisp and refreshing: The best of English cider in 2021

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You may not know this, but in the UK, we drink more cider than any other country in the world. In fact, along with beer and tea, cider is arguably one of our defining drinks culturally.

The popularity of cider has fluctuated through the ages. At one point, cider was considered a breakfast drink, while labourers’ wages were once paid with the drink. There have also been times when cider was less popular than imported drinks such as wine and port. Fortunately, in recent years, cider has been enjoying a revival like that of craft lager and beer.

History suggests that a lot of our cider culture came to England with invading armies. The Roman Empire brought a number of apple varieties, along with cider-making techniques. When Christianity assumed the position of dominant religion around 600 CE, monasteries began to plant orchards and produce cider. This was both for the monks to drink and to sell to the public. And when the Normans invaded in 1066, they brought new tannic apple varieties that were well-suited to cider-making. They planted additional orchards, and even brought with them the state-of-the-art pressing technology to make the process even more efficient.

Cider really began to assert itself between 1500 and 1800, when the world went through a period of cooling. This had marked effects around the world, but in England, the result of the drop in temperatures was that grapes were killed off as the climate became unsuitable. But apples had no problem surviving in the new temperatures, so cider experienced a rise in popularity.

At the same time, political unrest also made it harder to acquire wine, due to wars with France, Spain, and the Netherlands, which halted wine imports. This led to the upper classes taking more of an interest in a drink that had hitherto been regarded as a drink for commoners. In 1664, John Evelyn presented a paper on cider to the Royal Society, in which he suggested that cider could take the place of wine in our dinking culture. The rise in cider’s status even reached the man at the top, as King Charles I was said to prefer the drink to wine.

The tradition of using cider as a type of payment goes back to 1204 CE, where it was first recorded as a payment to labourers at a manor house in Runham, Norfolk. This practice carried on for many centuries, usually as a way for wealthy landowners to pay their farm labourers. Some sources even suggest that top labourers were paid as much as eight pints per day. The Truck Act of 1887 officially prohibited this practice, but it lingered for many decades.

Commercial cider production increased hugely during the 20th century, and the National Association of Cider Makers was formed to represent the industry in 1920. To keep up with increasing consumer demand, growers began to intensively manage their orchards to increase yields and produce a consistent product. According to regulations, for a drink to be called ‘cider,’ it only needed to include  35% juice, and this could be from concentrate. As a result, the taste of natural cider began to fade from the UK palate.

In recent years, however, that has begun to change. Small-batch, 100% juice, naturally fermented cider has been making a comeback. Cider is gluten free and relatively low in ABV compared to wine and it is often a locally sourced and produced product, giving it strong green credentials.  

This explosion of interest in cider has also led to a renewal of interest in less traditional cider growing areas of England. There is no doubt that Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset, the traditional region of cider growth, remain at the heart of the industry. The West Country is known for its strong and cloudy scrumpy ciders, though it also provides a wide range of dry and medium-sweet versions. But there has also been development in many other cider growing regions, each with its own particular soil and climate conditions, such as Yorkshire and Norfolk.

Hopefully there will be plenty to celebrate this summer, so to help guide you through the world of modern English cider, here are some of the best vintages to be looking out for in 2021.

Kent Cider Yowler

The gentle and delicate apple aroma and lovely rich amber colouring in this delightful drink are reminiscent of a summer’s day wandering through Kent’s orchards. The unusual name of the drink derives from the ancient traditional wassailing ceremonies that were once common in Kent. These ceremonies were intended to welcome good spirits and a bountiful harvest to the orchards. Yowler is a sparkling drink and the slight fizz adds extra refreshment to a flavour-packed tipple.

Dunkertons Black Fox

Extremely refreshing, this honey-coloured and sparkling cider from the Cotswolds region tends towards the tart rather than the sweet. That makes it ideal to accompany very sweet desserts or spicy food, as the sharpness of the drink helps to cleanse the palate. Black Fox is packed with flavour, and is smooth and rich on the tongue. It is no surprise to learn that the drink has picked up a host of prizes including a Gold Award at the Taste Of The West competition. This is definitely a cider to savour and enjoy all year round.

Lyme Bay Jack Ratt Vintage Dry 2019

This is a classic Devon cider that uses traditional apple varieties such as Dabinett and Kingston black. A full bodied drink, Jack Ratt presents as an extremely clear, rich-gold liquid that possesses a sharp aroma. It is slightly dry yet tingly on the tongue and packs a strong apple taste. Smooth and tangy, this is a highly refreshing cider that is versatile enough to accompany a meal or a night out with friends.

Hendersons Toffee Apple

This is an unusual but delicious cider from Kent that is impressively sharp and smooth and offers a distinctive taste. The delicate aroma hints at toffee but doesn’t overwhelm the apples, and the blend of sweet and tart that it offers is sheer perfection. The initial smooth sweetness of the drink develops into a lingering sharpness, which has hints of bonfires and autumn days. A thoroughly indulgent cider, this is definitely a drink that goes well with desserts.

Orchards of Husthwaite Galtres Gold Apple Cider

For more than three centuries, Husthwaite has been the main orchard village of North Yorkshire, but in recent years it has been revitalised with the introduction of local apple varieties. It has also become a major centre of fund generation for local community use. This cider offers a cloudy, gentle amber visual impression, while the taste is unusually floral yet smooth and warm at the same time. You will find that this refreshing drink has the perfect balance between sweetness and sharpness.

Ampleforth Abbey Cider

This is another traditional North Yorkshire cider, and has a slightly cloudy appearance. The tawny gold liquid in these bottles is produced using the first dessert apples of the season, which features a combination of Discovery, James Grieve and Grenadier for a memorable blend. A bittersweet cider, it hints at dryness along with the sweetness, and although it is relatively strong on the scale of English ciders, it is a light drink with a very silky texture. An impressive palate cleanser, this cider also goes well with food or is ideal as a standalone drink.

Cranborne Chase The Smuggler Dry

This is a typically Dorset cider and offers a lovely combination of sparkle, tartness and sweetness. It is an extremely drinkable, pleasant and refreshing cider that provides a gentle aroma of apples, while the taste of crisp fruit lingers delightfully on the tongue. The sparkle in combination with dryness also makes it ideal as the perfect thirst-quenching drink on a warm summer’s day.

Norfolk Raider Wingman

A still, cloudy cider that comes from Norfolk in the east of England, Wingman is slightly sharp in taste but not excessively so. Made from dessert apples, it offers a smooth initial taste, but when swallowed gives a sensation of sharpness at the back of the mouth, which makes it highly refreshing. Rich and smooth, this cider is full of tangy flavour and is best served slightly chilled.

Lilleys Select

A medium dry, and lightly sparkling cider that is produced in the heart of the Somerset Mendips, Lilleys Select is rusty gold in colour. The aroma and taste of the local apples is strong in this drink, while its light and refreshing taste makes it perfect as a summer drink, especially on hot days. You can really savour the sparkling flavour in every mouthful.

Sandford Orchards Devon Red

Named after the rich, red Devon orchard soil, this cider offers a light, pleasant and refreshing taste experience. The soft, mellow, yellow liquid is packed with the aroma of apples, which evoke the feel of long lazy days in the sunshine. Thirst quenching, this is a bittersweet cider with a tang that stays long in the mouth. Easy to drink either with or without food, it is a delightful and relaxing drink.

Napton Cider No 4

Both slightly cloudy and golden yellow in colour, this refreshing and memorable cider has a tinge of effervescence but retains a pleasing touch of sharpness. Best described as on the dry side of sweet, the apple tang lingers in the mouth for a while, and there is a warm aroma to this flavourful cider, which helps to make it an ideal summer drink, particularly when served with desserts.

A Fresh Look at English Beer: The Pick of 2021

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As the world slowly returns to normal, one of the most significant moments in the end of England’s lockdown has been the reopening of our pubs.

It is not too controversial to describe England as a nation of beer and lager drinkers, and the pub has been at the heart of it for centuries. Our culture has become entwined with the production and consumption of fermented hops, around which have grown a host of rituals, associations and social etiquette. At the same time, the pub has become a centre of social interaction, a key component in many communities, not just a place to drink, but a place to catch up, unwind and celebrate.

The English beer landscape has changed over time and some ancient distinctions are no longer applicable, while new differences in beer types have taken their place. For example, originally, ale was the world used to describe a drink made with malted barley, which was then flavoured with herbs and spice though no hops content, while beer was a continental European drink made form malted barley to which hops had been added, creating a refreshing bitterness.

The first evidence we have of hopped beer rather than old fashioned ale being drunk in England was in the 14th century, when beer was imported from the Netherlands to Great Yarmouth. It soon caught on! Evidence indicates that by 1412, beer produced from imported hops was being made in Colchester, Essex as the country began to develop a taste for the drink.  

It took some time for domestic cultivation of hops to get underway but in 1520, there is evidence of the first hops plants being cultivated in Kent.  At the same time, ale brewing and drinking continued to be popular in England, and both beer and ale were enjoyed as distinctive drink, but by the 18th century, hopped beer was in the ascendancy and the distinctions between beer and ale were gradually forgotten.

The growing influence of England around the world from the 17th century onwards, along with the country’s huge trading network resulted in the spread of beer around the world. Much of this was  

accidental and not entirely down to trade. English ships carried beer on long journeys both as a source of drinking water and as part of the crew’s daily rations to keep them happy.

At the same time, back in England, there was even a health argument for drinking beer. The preference for beer over water made sense at a time when there was no public sanitation. The process of brewing beer killed much of the harmful bacteria that was found in public drinking water.

Beer drinking, and the culture of inns and public houses had become an essential part of English life long before the 20th century, but by then, mass production of beer was beginning to threaten smaller breweries, a trend that continued throughout the 20th century as the beer industry was dominated by a small number of powerful breweries.

That changed in the early years of the 21st century, when the Labour Chancellor Gordon Brown made dramatic alterations to the taxes on beer duty. The result was a proliferation of small, artisanal and craft breweries, leading to a rainbow of inventive styles and flavours, that has seen England once again become one of the world’s leading beer centres. So as we celebrate the gradual easing of the lockdown and a return to normal, here are some of the top beers to sample in 2021:

Potholer – Cheddar Ales

This golden ale is a perfect representative of the South West of England, and the glorious summers that many English people enjoy in the region. The Cheddar Brewery, based in Somerset, produces some of England’s finest beers and this golden drink is one of the most refreshing you will find. The beer has a light, grainy malt character, while the bitter hops add a slightly fruity and zesty edge, and there is a lovely smooth finish. The perfect beer to go with the best Cheddar cheese.

The Porter – Ansbach and Hodbay

Porter is a style of beer named for its popularity among the street and river porters of London’s in the 18th century and at one time, it was the country’s most popular form of beer. Ansbach and Hobday’s porter is the beer that laid the platform for their success, and it is still at the heart of their range of beers and ales today. This is a carefully brewed black porter, that packs in plenty of rich, roasted malt flavour, along with hints of coffee and chocolate, and a distinctive tang.

First Chop Hop – First Chop

For vegans and those who prefer gluten free foods, First Chop are the go-to brand. They are one of England’s most famous vegan and gluten free breweries, and have expanded rapidly from their starting base as a small brewery located under a Manchester railway arch. They initially turned out 400 litres of beer per month, but have now expanded to a third brewhouse, based in Salford, which produces 30,000 litres a week. First Chop Hop is one of their most sought after products and is a   refreshing pale ale that can be enjoyed by vegans and meat-eaters alike.

Axe Edge – Buxton Brewery

The Midlands has long been regarded as one of the best places to brew beer, thanks to the distinctive qualities of the water in that region, which makes it possible to produce some of the best IPAs and milds that you will find. Within the Midlands, the heart of the brewing industry was Burton-on-Trent, which is perfectly situated just an hour’s drive south of the spa town of Buxton, which is famous for its pure drinking water. The Buxton Brewery have turned out some remarkable beers, including this IPA, which is packed with pine-influenced bitterness, a dash of fresh fruit and a crisp, dry finish. 

Red Top – The Old Dairy Brewery

The East of England is famous for its hop growing, and one of the best examples of the English bitter style comes from this region. Red Top is packed with the flavour of locally grown East Kent Golding, English Cascade and Challenger hops, which give it plenty of bitterness, along with a slight citrus twist, and a dash of sweetness and cream from the underlining malt flavour.

Mary Jane – Ilkley Brewery

Yorkshire has made many fine contributions to the English beer scene, and one of the most popular recent examples is Mary Jane, produced by the Ilkley Brewery. This is a relatively low alcohol pale ale that has become the beer of choice for many drinkers, thanks to easy to drink, soft style, which is full of fruity flavour and a delightful grassy bitterness.

Allendale Wolf – Allendale Brewery

The city of Newcastle is perhaps best known for its famous Brown Ale, although that product is now owned by the Dutch brand Heineken. There are plenty of other contenders to consider from the city, however, including this delightful brown beer from the Allendale Brewery in the west of the city. The malt in the Allendale Wolf is toasty and caramel flavoured, while the Target and Bramling Cross hops bring another dimension of earthy bitterness and fruit.

Mobberly Playback – Mobberly Brewhouse

With Manchester as its centre, the north west’s brewing scene has been one of the most successful in the modern craft ale movement, and among the many fascinating beers to be sampled in this part of the world is Mobberly Playback, an impressive and punchy IPA. This drink is full of fruity and fresh American hops and has a strong malty quality for a mighty overall taste.

Jaipur – Thornbridge

Our final beer is another from the Midlands and is one of the best known of the modern craft beer varieties. Known as one of the world’s best IPAs, Jaipur is produced by Thornbridge of Bakewell in Derbyshire. It has landed over 100 awards around the world, including the prestigious gold medal at the World Beer Awards. Jaipur is a perfect combination of six hop varieties, including Centennial and Cascade and is the archetypal IPA blend of aroma, bitterness and flavour.

Exploring the Gin Revival: The Best English Gins in 2021

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Few alcoholic drinks have quite the same storied past as gin, which has been entwined with English culture for centuries. This deceptively simple drink, that is capable of many refinements, has been the subject of celebration, scorn and concern ever since it first became popular in the 18th century, and now, in 2021, it is popular once again with a new audience.

The art of creating gin, through a combination of juniper and alcohol, may date back to Roman times and there is evidence that a mixture of juniper berries and wine was considered a good tonic for those suffering from chest ailments in Solerno, Italy, during the 1050s.

The drink we known as gin was first produced in a recognisable form by the Dutch, in the 16th century, when they began to produce a drink that was made up of a base of malt wine with juniper berries that helped to disguise the wine’s harsh flavour. It was originally known as a medicinal tonic, but by the 18th century, it was being enjoyed as an alcoholic drink. The drink created by the Dutch was known as genever, but by the time it had caught on in England, the name had been shortened to ‘gin’ which was easier for English tongues to form, particularly after a glass or two.

Although the drink caught on to a degree in England, it was not until William of Orange became king, in 1689 that gin started to spread as the drink of choice of the working classes. At the start of his reign, the new king brought in a series of measures designed to target France, including blockades and heavy taxes on both wine and Cognac, to weaken their economy. At the same time, he brought in the Corn Laws, which offered tax breaks for spirit producers.

The inevitable result was a gin craze, and at one point, it was said that a pint of gin was cheaper than a pint of beer, and the poor of England began increasingly to turn to the drink as their preferred option. A tradition of ‘gin and gingerbread’ stalls became established in London, when the Thames froze over during winter, and many merchants were able to cash in on the craze.

Gin became so popular that by the late 1730s, the government of England were extremely concerned. Not only were large swathes of the population consuming huge quantities of the drink, with no regulation on the manufacture of gin, distillers were getting away with using all kinds of unpleasant ingredients to boost their profits, including turpentine and sawdust. The initial solution was to require distillers to pay for a licence, but at a price of £50, there was no take-up.

The extent of the problem was illustrated by a famous etching by William Hogarth in 1751, known as Gin Lane, which illustrated some horrific examples of lives ruined by gin. Terrible stories of parental neglect and personal tragedies associated with gin began to appear in newspapers throughout the 1740s and eventually, the government acted. The 1751 Gin Act raised taxes and fees on spirits, while simultaneously, both beer and tea were promoted as an alternative.

The result was a steady decline in the consumption of gin, and by 1830, beer was once again the cheaper drink. But gin wasn’t going to fade away. In 1830, a man named Aeneas Coffey came up with a new still that revolutionised the production of spirits, making it easier and cheaper to produce a higher quality product.

Another boost to gin’s fortunes came from the Royal Navy. As English sailors of this time were often required to sail into areas of the world where malaria was prevalent, they were issued with quinine rations to fight the disease. Unfortunately, quinine had an appalling taste, so drinks company Schweppes produced an Indian Tonic Water to mix with the medicine to improve its taste. But at the same time, London Dry gin was popular among sailors as it was easier to transport than beer, and so the classic gin cocktail was born through a combination of the two, with limes added to the mix, as the citrus fruit was another staple of the Royal Navy, due to its scurvy-fighting properties.

During the twentieth century, gin consumption remained steady, but the classic drink was given a huge boost in the early 2000s when tax changes introduced by the Labour government made brewing and distilling a more attractive proposition. The result was a boom in gin production. In 2008, the first official gin licence issued since 1820 was given to Sipsmith, and in the years that have followed, a host of distillers have added their skills to the industry.

So to celebrate this most English of drinks, we’ve put together a short list of some of the most popular and sought after gins available in 2021:

Tappers Hydropathic Pudding

For gin drinkers who like a touch more flavour and an additional sweetness in their gin, Tappers Hydropathic Pudding is a perfect choice. It is technically known as a ‘fruit cup’, or a gin-based drink that is then flavoured with herbs, spices and fruits. It is essentially the gin version of Pimm’s. Produced in small batches in West Kirby, Merseyside, it’s a perfect drink when mixed with lemonade and is best served cool in the summer but warm in the winter.

Beefeater London Dry

The original classic London gin, Beefeater is arguably the grandfather of English gin. Distilled in central London, the process still uses traditional copper pot stills and from the distillery’s home in Kennington, it is possible to see into the Oval cricket ground. With plenty of juniper flavour, which is balanced with botanicals, Beefeater is best when mixed with tonic and ice, and rarely goes wrong as a gift, while its widespread availability is also a plus.

Hepple Gin

Chefs are ideally placed when it comes to working with flavour, and this gin benefits from the culinary expertise of its creator. Distilled in the North East, it was founded by the well-known chef and forager, Valentine Warner, and that culinary influence is obvious in a gin that is packed with classic flavour and that is best savoured simply over ice.

Abelforth’s Bathtub Gin

One of the new breed of gins to arrive in England in the past few years, this drink is delicate yet balanced, making it perfect for the beginner. Crafted by Tunbridge Wells based Atom Brands, is made with the Cold Compound process in which six botanicals, including cinnamon, cardamom and cloves, are infused with a base spirit in a copper pot still before being filtered out. The base for the gin is a botanical spirit distilled in pot stills by Langley Distillery in the West Midlands. This traditional process, which takes up to two days to complete, gives the gin its unique bronze tint.

Star Of Bombay London Dry Gin

With its famous blue bottle, Star of Bombay is produced in the stunning surroundings of the Bombay Sapphire distillery at Laverstoke Mill, Hampshire. This gin packs plenty of punch and is high on juniper, coriander and bergamot flavours to add extra intensity to your gin and tonic.

Adnams Copper House Gin

Better known for their beers, Adnams have also developed a fine gin tradition, thanks mainly to the success of Adnams Copper House Gin, which was voted the world’s best at the International Wine and Spirits Competition. The gin is distilled in-house at the Adnams Southwold Distillery using East Anglian malted barley spirit and six carefully chosen botanicals including hibiscus flowers in a handmade copper still before then being purified.

Caspyn Cornish Dry Gin

This was the first gin to be launched by Pocketful of Stones Distillery, which is based in Long Rock near Penzance in Cornwall. The gin is inspired by the Cornish spring and landscape and features botanicals that include hibiscus, gorse and citrus, along with Japanese tea. The gin is distilled in-house in small batches using two copper pot stills and a traditional process. The result is a beautifully fresh and invigorating blend of juniper, floral and citrus flavours.

Silent Pool Gin

Silent Pool Gin is distilled in-house on a former farm site on the Albury Estate in Surrey. As well as using water drawn from the spring-fed Silent Pool pond that is located next to the distillery, from which the gin takes both its name and the colour of its bottle, this drink feature an impressive 24 botanicals. These include chamomile, rose, elderflower, pear, bergamot and honey. The production of this stunning drink involves two simultaneous macerations with the resulting spirits added to the Holstein copper still that is heated by a wood-fired boiler. This gin is a beautiful mix of lavender, honey and chamomile and is presented in a stunning blue bottle.