Real cider, authentic cider, proper cider, fine cider, natural cider, craft cider… Do we need to add a label to a word that already describes what cider is? And beyond this, do we have a word for what’s presented as a cider and is not? Oh well, we have four so far: Pittarra, hard-soda, puxarra and shider. Do you know any other?
The debate sprang up following a photo that Jeremy Authentic Cider posted on Instagram. He works importing West Country style ciders to Asia, and he found in Singapore the new product that has been massively launched by Heineken worldwide. Same content in its bottles, I guess, but different names and stories depending of the market, and always under the brand of a fox and the denomination of “cider”. It turns out that in that package, the aforementioned brand ensured that the content of those bottles was inspired by the New Zealand cider tradition. Well, it seems that in addition to orchard thieves, they are also identity thieves.
That conversation then jumped to a post I published on Instagram, in which several users exchanged opinions on the minimum percentage of apple that a cider must ensure to deserve that name. This is a hot topic right now in England, where you can call cider something that has as low as 35% apple juice and from concentrate. We came to some interesting conclusions that place that percentage above 90%. Physically speaking you can’t ensure it 100%, since during the cider making process some elements such as water come into contact with the product and the containers. That is, ensuring a minimum of 90% like is doing the Small Independent Cidermakers Association translates into 99.9% fresh apple juice in 99.9% of cases.
In one of the comments, Sam, owner of Anxo Cider, explained his professional point of view from the United States. One of the terms he used caught my attention. Sam referred to those alcoholic beverages with a low content of apple juice and mostly from concentrate as hard sodas. You know that in the States the cider as we know it in Europe is called “hard cider”. “Cider” can refer to unfermented apple juice. Hard soda seems to me an apt term for those alcoholic drinks with high amounts of water, syrups, sweeteners, etc. They are nothing but artificially carbonated sugary drinks with some type of supposed apple flavor.
The photo of the alleged inspiration reached New Zealand, where Mark from Abel Cider was scandalized. He didn’t not hesitate to criticize some kind of drift of the cider industry in his country, as the result of policies that allow to name cider something that is not. He warned me about the use of the term “real cider”, as he thinks that we don’t need to add or change anything to cider in order to identify what this drink really is. What it doesn’t make sense is to call cider something that, I agree, is not.
I remembered that in Basque language we have an ancient word describing cider with water. It’s called pitarra or pittarra (the double “t” constitutes a diminutive), and of course it’s not produced nowadays. Its sale has been completely prohibited in the Basque Country along History. It was only made for self consumption in farms, allowing to add water to the cider depending on the harvest and always regulated by ordinances, such as one dated in 1614.
The original meaning of pittarra is “small jug”, but the word is used for bad cider or wine in general. From the point of view of cider making, pittarra was made by reusing the remaining pulp macerated with water, pressed once again and finally fermented… The Spanish word “pitarra” means something similar (watery or bad wine/cider), but it’s also used for homemade wine. Mainly in Extremadura, where they use large clay jugs during the process. It’s a loan from Basque, as indicated by the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language.
Then, it came to my mind some picture, where I remember Edu and Antonio from Guerrilla Imports sitting in front of a beer dispatch in Gijón called Señor Lúpulo. The inscription on the window says like this: “Life is too short to drink puxarra“, traduced in the following line as “crappy beer” in English. Puxarra means bad or watery cider in Asturian Bable language. The definition given by the Asturian Language Academy is: “Sediment of cider or wine. Thing or set of things of little value or of poor quality”. But it has many other popular uses, generally meaning rubbish. Edu has offered “tastings to distinguish puxarra from cider“, and among many other things, he was one of the first who warmed in social networks about Heineken’s new product.
I’m not against using labels for recognizing quality of cider in the market, but quite the opposite. I think some PDOs and quality labels are doing a really good job. There is probably a need to differentiate and face the reality of industrial production. It happens in many other agri-food sectors. But we should also identify what’s not cider at all, and don’t allow it to be presented as such.
And suddenly, Mark brought a word to refer to those beverages. In New Zealand they call them shider. He made me laugh! Well, we already have four words to name what’s presented like cider but is not. Remember: pittarra, hard soda, puxarra and shider. Do you know any other?
PS: In Basque language we have another similar word related to cider: Zizarra. Do not confuse both. Zizarra was an early cider resulting from the first apples fallen from the tree, that was consumed during the farm works. Being apples that had not finished ripening, they had few yeasts and the juice did not get to ferment completely, so it was a sweet cider with short expiration, and wasn’t bottled.Source: http://www.euskalnet.net/fpreciado/astigarraga/pag04-cas.html