The following is an article by HE Paul Madden, British Ambassador to Japan, that was originally published in Issue 7 of inCiderJapan magazine.
I come from Devon, one of the most beautiful rural counties in the so-called West Country of the UK. It is an area famous for its cider production. I remember the beautiful apple orchards in my neighbourhood when I was growing up. So I was delighted to see that Japanese consumers are increasingly developing a taste for British-style cider.
When I was young, my friends and I tended to prefer cider to beer. There is something particularly refreshing about a glass of chilled cider on a hot day. But, like beer, it’s also enjoyable at room temperature in colder weather. In England it comes in many varieties, from sweet to dry.
In the West Country, some farmers also produce their own “scrumpy”. Scrumpy is traditionally rougher, drier and stronger than regular cider. It is what the farm workers used to drink in the field. Because of its strength, you can’t drink it in such large quantities, but it is very tasty.
Apples are a highly versatile fruit, and they come in many different shapes and sizes. One of my predecessors as British Ambassador to Japan, Ernest Satow, retired to Devon at the end of his diplomatic career. He was a great connoisseur of apples. I have read his diaries, and they are full of accounts of the different flavours and textures of the many new varieties he sampled.
You can enjoy the crisp, sweet taste of fresh dessert apples. And, unusually, so-called “cooking apples” can be served both with a main course accompanying roast pork, or as a dessert, with custard or cream. But in addition to this, apples also produce the wonderful beverage of cider.
Cider can of course be drunk on its own, in a bar. But it is also an excellent accompaniment to food. In Britain it is particularly associated with pork. Some people make delicious stews of pork with cider. I think it goes particularly well with tonkatsu (pork cutlet). I also find it works well with spicier food like kareiraisu (curry rice).
Some good friends of mine in Devon, the Courtneys of Whimple, have their own apple orchards and produce some excellent prize-winning craft ciders. They are now exporting it to Japan too. As with many food and drink products, I think cider always tastes better if you know something about where it was produced.
When I first lived in Japan thirty years ago, it was very hard to find alcohol cider. But I am pleased to see that it is much more widely available nowadays. I know that when Japanese hear the word “saida” they tend to think of a soft drink like lemonade. For this reason, some people here use the word “shidoru”, from the French word “cidre” to distinguish the alcohol version. But I prefer to use the word “Zaida”. In my part of England that’s how people pronounce cider, because they tend to turn their “s” into a “z”. It’s a more relaxed, laid back sound. Just like alcohol, those little dakutens (voiced consonant marks) can make all the difference.