A Brief History: Cider

1814332c4eb218fd36825133e2eabc7dApple trees were growing in the UK well before the Romans came but it was they who introduced organised cultivation.  It is likely that the wandering peoples, who travelled through the countries and introduced their ‘shekar’ (a drink obtained by cooking apples with fermented juice) to the early Britons. When the Romans arrived in England in 55 BC, they were reported to have found the local Kentish villagers drinking a delicious cider-like beverage made from apples. According to ancient records, the Romans and their leader, Julius Caesar, embraced the pleasant pursuit with enthusiasm.

After the Norman Conquest of 1066, cider consumption became widespread in England and orchards were established specifically to produce cider apples.

At the end of the 13th century, wine and cider brokers named by municipal officers were established in the city of Caen. The religious houses in High Normandy were provided with cider in plenty in the 14th century. It is also at that time that cider started to supplant ale and in the inns it competed with wine and beer.

In 1588, Julien Le Paulmier published a book that contributed to make cider better known and to give it the place it deserves as a healthy drink, and praised its medicinal properties. Under Louis XIII, because of taxes on wine, the vineyards in Normandy were nearly all pulled up, and the cultivation of apples developed and definitely spread to neighbouring areas. In 1720, the state got interested in fruit growing and set up nurseries.

In the latter part of the 19th Century, a campaign to stop payment in the form of alcoholic beverages brought about the addition of a clause to the Truck Act of 1887 which prohibited the payment of wages in this way.

Around 1914, war preparation artificially boosted and at the same time decreased French cider production but the cider regained its popularity during the twentieth century, but demand was largely for the mass-produced variety. Only in recent years has traditional cider making finally triumphed.

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