It was the one drink that almost every civilisation managed to develop independent of each other. Having just one of it in its natural avatar can keep the doctors away so imagine its fermented appeal. We are on about Cider!
There’s no clear evidence of where it originated from but the ancestors of apple hailed from China and made their way to Europe via the trade routes. Even as far back as on 3000BC, the Celts in Britain made cider and there’s evidence of apple trees growing along the banks of the Nile River in 1300BC and given their experiments with ferment and distillates, bet they had cider too.
In fact, the wine-drinking Romans were surprised to find cider being drunk on the British isles when they arrived circa 55BC. And, the Romans were quick to fall in love with the drink, spreading its goodness across Europe, making it popular amongst the Germanic tribes and the Normans. They were the first to even distill it and obtain the first Calvados too!
Between the 14th ad 19th century, the Mini Ice Age in Europe made grapes and grain production suffer but apples thrived thereby making cider ever more popular. Fast forward to the 16th CE, the discovery of hops and the invention of the steam engine in the 17th century made beers more resilient to travel land thus more prevalent. The fact that beer was made from grains which were easier to source locally than apples also contributed to this shift of power.
But this was just a short decline for during the wars that followed, water wasn’t to be trusted and lightly alcoholic beverages would be preferred. Sure beer was there but it was harder to make than fermenting a fruit. So, cider and wine (and mead) became popular again for their antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic properties and nutrition value. Everyone drank it, including children! and religious texts praised it.
A quick mention of the English civil war which rendered the aristocrats redundant and they receded to the English countryside and starred who were experimenting with apple varieties and fermentation techniques on their estates and it was them who invented secondary bottle fermentation, almost a century before Dom Perignon (December 1638) was even born! The champagne bottle we know today was originally invented by them to prepare cider.
A point to note is that the word cider derives from from the Hebrew word ‘Sheker’ or Greek ‘Sikera’ meaning strong drink even though it feels light. And in spite of this high alcoholic content upto 8-10%, cider is considered healthier than beer – it doesn’t leave you with a beer-belly or dangerously high cholesterol levels. In fact, the Chinese drink ciders alongside their meals for their digestive properties.
They’re naturally rich in anthocyanins, polyphenols, nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants, naturally benefiting the human body when consumed in moderation. Since the beverages are brewed from fruits, the ciders are 100% vegan and gluten-free!
Today, with China producing 54% of the world’s apples and India being the third biggest, after the US, Asians are falling in love with this drink again. And when we say again, it’s because the first wave of ciders didn’t fare too well.
Bhai, Tempest, Himachal and some other brands existed but couldn’t produce tempting Ciders – neither on the palate nor as reliable brands. But now there’s another wave of more bankable cider producers – There’s Siqera, White Owl, the newest one – Wildcraft – and several others on the tap at numerous microbreweries like Doolally who can be said to have started it all.
And then comes other flavours to try – mangoes, oranges, mulberries, lychees, and much more. Options are endless.