Welcome to 2018 and a new year of cider.
As the temperatures plunge in Hong Kong, spare a thought for the sleeping cider orchards. The Herefordshire nights are long and the days are cold in January. The apple trees that gave up their fruit for pressing in the autumn are now resting silently. At the farm the long slow cold ferment of cider is under way. It is a quiet time for the cider makers too. They are tending to their barrels, checking the airlocks. There is pruning to be done and the planting of new trees.
But change is afoot: we are past the shortest day and the New Year is here. It is time to wake up the trees. Wassail!
The Wassail is an important ancient ceremony. Often celebrated on Twelfth Night, January 6th, it is vital for ensuring a bountiful harvest the following autumn.
Celebrants carry flaming torches to the orchard where fires are lit. The Cider Queen places cider-soaked bread into the fork of the tree to feed the good spirits. The Cider King pours cider over the roots of the tree to nourish the eternal cycle of juice to tree to juice. Everyone makes a lot of noise to scare away the evil spirits and to wake up the tree.
There is singing, dancing (often with Morris Men), banging of cans with wooden spoons, firecrackers. And much toasting with cries of Wassail! and the requisite response Drinkhail!
Then back to the cider house for more cider enjoyment.
Snuggle up with some cider
Cider isn’t just a summer drink.
The more tannic west-country style ciders have a robustness that works well in the winter rather like darker ales and red wine. In this weather there's no need to chill them. Mulled cider is a lovely alternative to mulled wine especially if you kick it up with a shot of gin when you serve. And don’t forget these ciders partner well with winter roasts or your hotpot.
So wrap up warm for the Hong Kong winter and pour yourself a real cider or two.
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