Meet Ann Stanier, chatelaine of the legendary Dragon Orchard in the Herefordshire village of Putley.
When Malus Magazine asked me to write a feature about Britain’s Cider Women I sent the same questions to several of the UK’s leading orchardists, cider makers, advocates, and retailers. With limited space in the magazine I was unable to include all their responses but did not want to waste their fascinating comments, so I have posted them individually on this blog. I cast the interviewees in an imaginary film called ‘Sisterhood of Cider, The Movie’ and I asked them not to be modest in their answers because I was ‘bigging’ them up for feature. Please meet The Grower.
What is your role in cider?
My husband, Norman Stanier and I live and work at Dragon Orchard in Putley, Herefordshire on the farm that has been in his family for over a hundred years. We have about fifteen acres of Cider Apple Trees which produce up to three hundred tons of fruit in an “On” Year.
For ten years, from 2007 -2017, our cider company Once Upon a Tree which we ran with our business partners Simon and Hannah Day was based at Dragon Orchard until it outgrew the premises and relocated to just outside Ledbury. We continue to supply cider apples to various cider producers including Bulmers, Kingsthorne, Little Pomona, Once Upon A Tree and Weston’s.
How long have you been doing it?
We have been at Dragon Orchard since 1992 but the family have been Farming in Putley for over 250 Years and producing cider fruit for 50 years.
What is your favourite aspect of your work?
Loving and tending the Trees particularly the pruning.
Describe cider to a person who is unaware of it.
Cider is the Fermented Juice of Apples that reflects the characteristics of the different apple varieties used.
What does cider mean to you?
Cider is a drink that at its best is intrinsically linked to the soils, climate and culture of the area from which it hails.
Why should a person drink cider?
Cider should be drunk to slake the thirst, satisfy the spirit and fill the heart.
If you were to be nominated for an award for your ceaseless work for cider why should you win it?
We are basically growers not cider makers anymore, but we would like to be recognised for our contribution to keeping alive the heritage of a tiny corner of Herefordshire.
Why did you choose cider and not wine or beer?
Apples!!! We moved to a fruit farm and have tried to make the most of what we grow.
If you have a favourite apple what is it and why?
Blenheim Orange, a wonderfully versatile apple which can be used for cooking and eating, making apple juice and creating the most delicious Dessert Cider, Blenheim Superb from Once Upon A Tree!
What would you change about the UK’s current cider sector?
Better recognition of what cider is made from one hundred percent juice and what is made from concentrate with added flavours.
What is the biggest challenge we face as cider advocates.
Being able to differentiate our product made from one hundred percent juice from commercial mass production cider made from concentrate with added flavours.
What slogan should be on cider t-shirts?
Sip Cider Sensuously