Our Topaz and Evelina Apple Juice has won three stars in the renowned Great Taste Awards 2018 announced on 1 August. Two other Cotchel juices - Opal and Braeburn - won one star. This is the third consecutive year that we have achieved Great Taste Awards for our apple juice. Great Taste judges described as a “crisp, fresh and well balanced”.
The annual Great Taste Awards organised by the Guild of Fine Food received a record 12,634 entries this year of which under 3% (192) received the ultimate accolade of three stars. The easily identifiable black and gold Great Taste logos have become a stamp of quality recognised by consumers and retailers alike.
Pete Thompson, Cotchel’s founder, reflects on the impact of the summer drought on the farm’s orchards and wildlife.
It’s ten o’clock on another hot summer night and I have finally found the perfect temperature on what, for us, has been the hottest day of the year. The catch is that I am sat on the back step rather than in bed, sharing the moment with a few mosquitos.
On the plus side the orchards and wildflower meadow run right up to the door and with them comes the wildlife, right now that includes the hedgehog family. I can’t quite work out how many, at least one adult (mum presumably) and four youngsters I think, prickly cricket balls with a surprising turn of speed. They seem oblivious to my presence actually trundling under my legs while snuffling through the leaves. We have been putting water out for them which may explain their regular visits during the heatwave. Their snuffling, snorting and rummaging through the bushes around the house has been the soundtrack to the summer nights drifting through the open windows.
On the farm water, or lack thereof, will be the overriding memory for this June and July. It has been drier here than ’76 and we are grateful for our investment in winter-fill reservoirs over the years. We have enough water until mid-August and given this month is often the wettest of the summer we should be ok, fingers crossed.
The wage bill however will be inflated, thanks to the irrigation team working 24-7 week after week. So too the electricity bill - two irrigation pumps running full bore and vacuum coolers & coldstores working hard meant our record electricity bill for June. Hopefully the solar PV will have performed well and we have the consolation all our supply is renewable supplied by www.goodenergy.co.uk.
While we have kept current crops alive, growth in most veg grinds to a halt about 25°C so supply has been tight. The apples and pears this autumn will be small as a result of the temperatures and restricted water. Of greater concern is the poor emergence of seeds drilled for the winter, the heat and dry reducing germination. While the media is busy discussing stock piling food for Brexit next year, the reality is that UK veg supplies this winter will be reduced so imports will have to increase sooner.
Funnily enough the heatwave has broken before publishing this blog, the final few days of July seeing more rain than May, June and July put together. Either the advent of school holidays or agreeing to buy a neighbouring farmers reservoir must have seen to that. At least it gives us farmers something different to moan about, and the hedgehogs aren’t keeping me awake at night.
Pruning the apple and pear trees is a huge task every winter. We aim to have the pear trees done before Christmas and do the apple trees in the New Year. We're behind schedule this year. Bright, mild, dry days like today make a difference. Unfortunately for our pruning team they have been out there every day for the past two months, in bitter cold, wind, rain, and sleet.
The cold always gets through no matter how well wrapped you are and at the very least you end up with cold feet, especially at Wrabness where the wind comes straight off the river. We use electric pruners powered by a battery back-pack, which save us from RSI to our hands and wrists, but you always feel like you've done a hard day's work!
We're very excited to announce that from 1 December, three of our juices will be available in 23 Chelmsford Star Cooperatives in and around Chelmsford. Chelmsford Star is an independent co-operative society operating in Essex with an ambition to support Essex food and drink producers through their "Only Way is Local' campaign.
We met Chelmsford Star's Stewart Linehan, Stock & Merchandising Manager, recently at the Coggeshall Food Festival and got chatting about our aim to give a new lease of life to the apples and pears we grow and cannot sell. Stewart says:
“I recently attended the Coggeshall Food festival with my family where we came across a horse trailer selling warm cups of mulled juice and bottles of Apple and Pear juice. I got chatting to Pete Thomson who gave me the background story about Cotchel and the great work they are doing, not only reduce food waste, but also to produce great tasting juice with bold and bright bottle design - something that I felt had a place within our local food range.”
Chelmsford Star Coops will stock three of our juices: Braeburn; Opal and Braeburn & Conference Pear.
Perfect timing for the festive season as Braeburn & Conference Pear Juice has complex spicy flavours and is delicious warmed gently with mulling spices. The perfect non-alcoholic alternative to mulled wine or cider at Christmas.
We've been pressing and bottling fruit as Tendring Fruit for four years, a collaboration between two old farming families, but we've decided to change our name to Cotchel to reflect our commitment to using unloved fruit. We explain why. . .
It’s no coincidence that Apple Day falls just as we end our apple harvest. Nor that we have chosen Apple Day to launch our new website which we hope is good introduction to Cotchel and our ambition to give a new lease of live to unloved fruit. This is our first blog and we’ll be adding more on a monthly basis as well as starting a regular email newsletter which you can sign up for below.