Cider Musings

Ode to Nature

At TeePee Cider we aim to work with rather than against Nature. 
An orchard is not a natural place, but it can be a place where Man and Nature can work together with Man appreciating the conflicts that can occur when a lot of any one plant are brought together. Our philosophy is to ameliorate these conflicts as far as possible. Maximum production is not the goal, Organic symbiosis is. These can be rich ecological habitats
Hence the cider trees we planted, are grown as standards, i.e. we do not use dwarfing stock to make a bush orchard to maximise apple yield. That results in the risk of insect infestations and the need to control them with pesticides. We prefer to avoid all sprays and prune the large trees to allow air to circulate. We use pheromone traps as needed to control codling moth. However since we introduced sheep to 'mow' the grass swath this has  become less of a problem. 
We do not use thinning sprays. Perfect large apples are not a goal, As tannins and flavours are concentrated under the skin, the smaller the apple the better the flavour. Hence most vintage cider apples are small. 
We do not fertilise the orchard but use a 'closed loop' system with the sheep. They eat the grass and manure the ground. Also a little fresh silt washes down from the Tararua hills in floods bringing some minerals. We do not till the land but encourage a diverse range of grasses and flowers to grow. 
We encourage pollination by having several bumble bee nesting boxes and are building up a local population in addition to native solitary bees which we also encourage with other boxes designed for them. 
Each winter we prune the trees and burn the wood to reduce infections building up. The ash is then mixed with the compost from more herbaceous cuttings and spent pomace. Wood ash is an excellent source of lime and potassium.  Not only that, using ashes in the orchard also provides many of the trace elements that plants and trees need to thrive. Fertilisers often do not have these trace elements and have a negative environmental impact from their sourcing . 
The apples are picked at just the right time in the cool morning each day after they have fallen spontaneously from the tree. to achieve peak ripeness. 
The apples are washed in well water from the alluvial water that runs freely under the Western Wairarapa plain. 
Fermentation is slow and cool using natural yeasts that have built up in the cidery and press cloths over the years. We believe the cider flavours are better this way. It takes 6 months and fits well into the cycle of the seasons. A turbo yeast could do it in 3 weeks but misses the point.
We use a secondary fermentation in the bottle to make the cider sparkling  like champagne. Again this could be done by forced carbonation or using the Charmat process but we prefer to work with nature and use a champagne yeast, This takes longer and provides a finer mousse ( up to 250 million bubbles) , and a more complex flavour. 
We use glass bottles. These do have a relatively high carbon footprint but can and should be recycled.  
We use Zork caps. These are plastic but are recyclable and reusable. Once opened a bottle can be recapped to retain the fizz for several days. 
As much as possible we provide physical labour rather than mechanise. This brings us closer to nature
All our processes are refined to achieve the best balance for nature in this man made  and directed type of agriculture. We want nature alongside us even though this is not natural bush for Aotearoa. Apple trees are the natural bush in the Hindu Kush. We are rewarded by a lot of bird life in the orchard and an increasing fertile soil with a rich ecosystem or microorganisms. And the best cider!