The fermented juice of apples has thousands of years of history. The first record of cider is from the Celts, mostly the ones inhabiting the north of France and England. Apples were surrounded by myths, associated with rebirth and youthfulness by the Celts. And as the Roman Empire conquered most of Europe, arriving in England in 55 BC, the hard cider-like was already a well-spread drink among the locals.
According to records, Julius Caesar and other Romans were amazed by the beverage. Soon enough, cider started its journey throughout the Roman Empire and across Europe, becoming popular from the 9th century. During medieval times, cider-making evolved with better equipment to press the apples, and monasteries were the developers of a drinking culture. In the middle of the 17th century, cider had peak production and consumption, when almost every farm had its own cider orchard and press.
After Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the English began to acquire a taste for imported wines, and cider drinkers started to be considered poor or rural. But after World War II, the drink began to charm the townspeople again. In the 19th century, after some decades of decline in production, industrialization reached the cider market, but in Finland, the actual production did not start until 1962.
The Alcohol Act, which came into force at the beginning of 1995, triggered a cider boom in Finland. Ciders with up to 4.7 % alcohol were available in retail store shelves, kiosks, and restaurants. The effect was that the beverage began to reach more consumers and mostly women. But the consumption of cider is still considered small, compared with beer or distilled beverages, with 0,3 liters per person in a year.
But nowadays, new breweries and family companies are focused on bringing cider to the 21st century, with contemporary design, and a compromise with quality and old school methods of production. As Sami and Jarno Vesterinen from Hallonmäki, a cider producer from Perniö, says. "We see and believe that traditional ciders are growing when consumers are looking for new experiences, and when local production itself also matters. Local, socially, and environmentally responsible production and local ingredients are essential for us, not just as a trend but in the long term from past to present and into the future."
Over half of the ciders consumed by Finns are bought from retail stores, which are now able to sell beverages up to 5,5 %. And traditional ciders are breaking the habit of drinking ciders with a max of 4.7 % of alcohol, getting a new share of the market. "General public seems to have noticed that there is more in cider to experience than just apple juice concentrate and apple wine mixers which the most of the largest products have been made off for decades. Opposite to the old mainstream, we are introducing the real traditional ciders made of fresh locally pressed real apple juice. In our flavored ciders, we only add local fresh ingredients such as our farm's fresh raspberries." says Sami and Jarno Vesterinen.
What we know for sure is that cider is an underappreciated beverage around the world, finally getting some recognition with great producers rescuing the old methods, making amazing ciders to be rediscovered in the 21st century. As trends come and go, alcoholic drinks change to keep up with novelties, and sometimes they lose themselves on the way. But not cider. Cider is always there for you, a classic and refreshing pal, an old friend who doesn't change but just gets better.
Photo: Eduardo Casajús Gorostiaga on Unsplash