Apple juice for breakfastGreen Tourism accreditation is that we have become much more aware of how much waste we produce by monitoring it on a weekly basis.
We knew that we didn't send much to landfill, because we recycle and compost as much as possible, but what we hadn't realised was how much of what we did send was made up of orange skins (we squeezed oranges every morning for breakfast). Orange skins accounted for at least half, often much more, of the total weight.
We started weighing waste from the middle of October 2007, when visitor numbers were lower, but extrapolating the figures recorded in the following six weeks, we calculated that during the summer months we were sending up to 24kg of orange skins per month to landfill. Composting anything but a tiny proportion of this ourselves is not possible, as the skins are too acid, and take too long to decompose.
The first thing we did was call our local municipal waste centre, who agreed that we could add the skins to their garden waste bin. This seemed like a reasonable solution, until someone very sensibly asked "Why don't you serve apple juice instead ?" This was a perfect 'can't see the wood for the trees' moment. We had been so wrapped up in trying to solve the problem of serving fresh orange juice while minimising waste that we hadn't considered the obvious alternative.
The Tamar Valley was full of orchards up to the 1800's, and was home to many varieties of fruit that had been bred to succeed in the local climate, most of which had names that have now been mostly forgotten. Small examples of these orchards are still in existence, and interest in the old varieties is growing, with a number of people recording their details and propagating them to make sure that as many as possible survive. Cotehele House have created a mother orchard of several hundred varieties for exactly this purpose.
With such a rich resource on our doorstep it seemed crazy to continue squeezing oranges that had been flown halfway around the world.
We now collect apples from our own trees, and a number of others within just a few miles of the house, and have them processed. They are taken to a local producer a few miles down the Tamar Valley, where they are crushed and pressed; the resulting juice is bottled and pasturised and will keep for a couple of years. We generate enough juice to last at least twelve months, and to sell to guests as a tasty souvenir.
Most of the fruits are unnamed, and their juicing qualities unknown until they are squeezed. We collect apples in small batches, which are mixed together and taken to be processed when we have enough for a pressing - between 50kg and 75kg per batch.
Each pressing generates a slightly different juice, always unique, and complex because of the mixture of fruits, and so what we serve will change during the year, giving you a variety of flavours of the area you are staying in.