The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge today visited Healeys Cornish Cyder Farm on the most important day in its annual diary to watch the pressing of the first apple harvest of the year.
Cornwall’s largest commercial orchard based at Penhallow, near Truro, has some 3,000 trees comprising of nine different varieties of apples, from the Katy, a dessert fruit used for juices, through to the Yarlington Mill, a more traditional cider apple.
The Royal visit tool in the farm and the production facility before cutting a cake with the Healey family to mark the 30th anniversary, to the day, of the family moving into the farm in 1986.
Healeys now supplies its established brands like Rattler and Cornish Gold nationally, in large part thanks to the multi-million pound investment in their production facility.
Joe Healey, Commercial Director at Healeys Cornish Cyder Farm, said: “It’s wonderful to have the Royal couple here to see the traditional start of pressing and to be able to celebrate a great family milestone with them.
“We have a very short window to harvest and press the apples, so it’s a wonderful time for their Royal Highnesses to visit. Pressing time is a 24 hour operation to make sure we gather as much juice as we can from the fruit. Last year we pressed more than 1,500 tonnes of apples.”
After planting its first orchards in 1986, Healeys Cyder Farm makes a huge variety of products from the apples, from juices through to jams. Through expert blending of sweet and bittersweet varieties, they create their own uniquely tasting cider.
There is a good yield this year, which has been harvest slightly earlier due to the warm summer. Around 28 tonnes of apples can be processed every day at the family owned and run farm, with up to three tonnes pressed every hour during the harvest.
It takes about three days to press enough juice to fill a 50,000 litre tank at Healeys. When a tank is full, yeast and nutrients are added to boost fermentation before a team of master cider makers transform the matured alcohol into the award-winning Healeys range of drinks.
Sam Healey, Operations Director, said: “I love harvest and pressing time here at Healeys. The sweet smell of apples fills the farm and it is a great time of the year for people to visit us, as they can see for themselves how our cider and juices are created, and follow the journey from the apples being picked in our orchard, to cider being bottled and sold in our shop. It’s a perfect way to share our passion for creating the best products we can.”
Healeys runs regular tours of its bottling plant and orchard, as well as operating a recently expanded visitor centre where you can learn more about how some of the county’s tastiest drinks are made – and sample some for yourself at the same time.