The Hazelmere Valley is home to an unusual number of pear and cider apple trees, as well as Cedar Cider.
The Surrey-based cidery is the project of two passionate and dedicated people pooling their talents and rallying together their friends and family to produce intriguing, whimsical and quaffable ciders unlike anything else we’ve seen or tasted…
First of all, please introduce yourselves.
Gabriel: We are Cedar Cider, Jacquelyn and Gabriel. We are from the lower mainland boonies. Jacquelyn is the brains and the brawn, she does everything from cider making to accounting. My involvement is in the production and farming aspects.
What are your backgrounds?
Jacquelyn: I’ve attended culinary school, pastry school, trained as a tea sommelier, and, most recently, completed chocolatier training at Valrhona. I was working and learning in the food industry for just over ten years before stumbling into, and falling in love with, cider.
G: I studied gastronomic science in Italy at the slow food university, and completed my masters in food culture communications. I’ve spent most of my career in the food science/production industries. My work background has been in the winemaking industry and farming industry for 12 years.
How did you both, respectively, become interested in cider? What was the experience that triggered the passion?
G: I had a work study in the UK that focused on cider and cheese production. It introduced me to the farmhouse style and natural cider making angle. To be honest, I was pretty surprised cider had so much diversity. I left feeling inspired by the dedication to cider that local communities felt so strongly about.
J: For me, the most interesting aspect of cider comes down to the trees, and the farming. I absolutely love creating cider, but the final product becomes so much richer when you live it from start to finish.
Tell me about your transitions from drinking cider to making it.
G: At first, I tended to make cider with a glass in my hand, but it’s like going to the grocery store hungry, so I don’t do that anymore. I started by experimenting with all the microflora across all spectrums, trying to understand how receptive cider would be to different techniques and what profiles could be showcased.
How did your business partnership come together?
J: Life partners –> business partners. It just sort of worked for us, I guess!
G: We bonded over pruning trees. At that point we realized we both love the farming aspects and it just grew from there.
What inspired Cedar Cider?
G: Cedar Cider was inspired by crushing oddly shaped apples with family and friends. We found the farmhouse lifestyle to be rewarding, and it felt right to start a company that embodied natural cider making that doesn’t include filtering, pasteurizing or funny business.
What is the significance of the name?
G: I started making cider early on with some friends in a gritty garage and it evolved into making it in our cedar shackhouse where we still make it today!
I love your branding! Who illustrated your labels? What’s the story behind the little cabin in the picture?
G: My brother Daniel Jefferies at FIELD Contemporary art gallery designed all of the labels himself. The little cabin is a throwback to our family heritage of landing in the Kootenays in the middle of nowhere. It happens that our cider facility is also a little barn with cedar siding so it’s just a play on that.
The process of creating organic, handpicked cider sounds very painstaking. What are your favourite and least favourite aspects of the process?
J: The whole experience is rewarding, and absolutely worth it. It’s hard to choose a favourite aspect, but the lifestyle we get to live because of cider is an absolute gift. For least favourite, I would say our constant battle with deer nibbling away at our younger trees.
G: My favourite aspects are watching the young trees grow and seeing the fruits of our labour as we go from soil to sipper. The most difficult part is dealing with the west coast anthracnose fungus that is tough to deal with using only organic methods.
Besides yourselves, how many other people comprise the Cedar Cider operation and what are their roles?
G&J: Cedar Cider is a family based company, but for the day-to-day it is us doing everything from farming, maintaining ciders, bottling, labelling, bookkeeping – you might even catch us at your local restaurant/liquor store unloading cider as we also do all the deliveries ourselves! Daniel of course does the labels, website design, as well as helping out with a substantial part of the farm work! The rest of the work is chipped away at by parents of the two of us, our siblings, friends – anyone we can rope into helping out for a few hours really.
Describe your typical day to me. What is life on a farm/cidery in South Surrey like?
J: We usually get up quite early, around 5am, and slowly settle into our day. We will start with the ever important to-do list, and go from there – every day is different depending on the season or the orders, but right now it involves keeping a close eye on the trees, picking blackberries, bottling (always bottling), and Daniel is working away on a label design for a new series of ciders we will be releasing soon!
What sort of cider community is there in the Hazelmere Valley?
G: There are actually quite a few locals that have their older trees. People know about cider out here usually from experiences growing up with their family. I suppose there was a lot of canning, preserves and juicing out this way once upon a time.
What has your experience been within the BC cider community so far?
G: It has been a symbiotic community that openly shares ideas and experiences. In some ways we nurture the growth of each other and the industry altogether, it’s very much a rising tide floats all boats.
“We want people to feel the effort we put into it and understand that craft starts with passion.”
Several of your ciders are quite playful – “Rose Rambler” with raspberries and wild rose; “Sun Haze” with passionfruit; “A Nice Day” with pineapple juice, to name the few that I’ve tried so far. What inspires your choice of ingredients?
G: For our playful summer series, we try to make ciders that are refreshing and approachable for all cider drinkers. Our inspiration for the choice of the ingredients is to use fresh pressed juices and grow whatever we can. These particular ciders are inspired by the hot BC days we know and love. The “Sun Haze” was actually a reference to the smoke coming down the valley the past few years; the “A Nice Day”, a reference to mimosa; and “Rose Rambler”, a touch to using wild roses for our Rose style cider.
What unexpected or unusual ingredients would you like to use in the future?
J: As we grow, we definitely are looking into creating quite a few new flavours that are either a bit unusual, or ciders that work with herbs, botanicals or other fruits we grow here. We also are always on the hunt for unique barrels to add to our collection! We recently went on a mini cider tour in Europe and have definitely come back home with a notebook full of interesting cider variations.
G: Jacquelyn got most of what I’m interested in, but I also can’t wait for more barrel ferments and further aging. I’m definitely keeping my eye on different techniques the wine and beer industries are currently using. We are pretty excited to share some pet-nat and champagne style ciders shortly.
What sort of flavour profile do you strive for with your ciders in general and how do you achieve that?
G: It depends on the fruit we are using. For the majority of cider, I prefer bittersweet and sharps to showcase the natural fruity esters and phenols via a happy wild ferment. If I have some dessert apples I prefer to play with the funky or profile-aggressive yeast/bacteria that tend to overtake the fruit characteristics. To achieve it we go for long, slow cold ferments that usually last between 2-4 months to finish, depending on the yeast engine.
Overall, what sort of experience do you hope to impart when drinking Cedar Cider?
G: We are aiming for fun, easy going ciders that are well crafted and maintain balance. We want people to feel the effort we put into it and understand that craft starts with passion.
Tell me your last meal and which Cedar Cider you’re drinking with it.
J: I think both Gabriel’s and my answer will involve copious amounts of cheese! I would choose a hefty cheese and fruit board, heavy on blue cheeses, figs, dried cherries, thyme infused honey – paired with our “A Nice Day” Pineapple Cider for a burst of fruity, fresh funk. Could I have a bonus dessert of almond cake paired with our Apple Bourbon cider too please?
G: Cheese please! Castelmagno or an old Comte. I’d pair it with the heritage wild barrel ferment, funky pear.