Meet Our Suppliers - Warwickshire Hamper
Read the stories behind the wonderful suppliers who all 'Ticked the Box' and made it in to our Warwickshire Hamper...
Welcombe Hills Vineyard
A rosé by any other name - what could be a more appropriate, especially as the vineyard is on land once owned by the Shakespeare family. A blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Dornfelder, we love this for its beautiful light pink colour reminiscent of Provence. Gentle and light with a ‘so English’ balance of strawberries and cream, it’s the perfect drink at any time of the day, with a dryness and sophistication that is already winning awards.
Downsizing from the London corporate world, Jonathan and Nichola Kelsey fell in love initially with the house, nestled on the Welcombe Hills overlooking Stratford, that also happened to come with a small vineyard. What began as a hobby is now a thriving business, with nine grape varieties producing white, rosé, red and sparkling wines, plus a grape-infused gin. Tours, tastings and private event bookings available.
St. Maur Elderflower Liqueur
St. Maur is the brainchild of William and Kelsey Seymour, otherwise known as the Earl and Countess of Yarmouth. Handcrafted with flavours gathered in family-owned woodlands at the ancestral home of Ragley Hall, the couple first devised it to be served at their wedding. The flowers are collected in June, delicately and with great care. The end-product is a delight, for sipping, mixing and making cocktails: a true grown-up way to have elderflower.
English summers are said to start when the elderflowers bloom, and end when the berries are ripe, ready to be hand-picked. There are several cocktail recipe ideas on their website. Our favourite? The Hugo, which we tried at the Arrow Mill pub across the road from the Ragley estate: St Maur, ice, freshly squeezed lime juice, fresh mint leaves and sparkling wine. Cheers!
Sip 'n' Swig
We were delighted to meet this newly-married couple and share their passion for super-charged cocktails, many of which will feature in our hampers in ready-to-drink pouches using the best of British regional ingredients.
Our taste of Warwickshire is a Gin Bramble using Pinnock Gin from Kineton. Giles learned his craft with The Savoy Group, and he and Jodie offer everything to do with cocktails including a home delivery service, masterclasses and bars for events.
In the world of British cheese, there’s probably only one thing more distinctive than the shape of Berkswell Cheese, and that’s the taste. Looking like a UFO, its unusual shape comes from been moulded in a kitchen colander. With a natural rind that is edible and slightly chewy, the texture is firm, dense and granular, making it one of the finest examples of a British ewes’ milk cheese. As such, it is often compared to its famous Spanish sister, Manchego, and the similarities are evident.
Berkswell is produced in the company’s dairy at Ram Hall Farm, part of the Berkswell Estate, using only milk from their own flock of 450 Friesland sheep, and entirely handmade by a small and dedicated team. Its taste profile matches perfectly to the sweetness of the borage honey; dried fruit and nuts can also be added for a mini-feast, drizzled with sweetness.
If anybody is entitled to call himself The Big Cheese, it is Adrian Fowler, the fourteenth generation of his family working at Fowler’s of Earlswood, who have been making cheese since 1670. Still a relatively low-key operation in terms of premises - there are no tours on offer, no heritage centre to visit - Fowler’s nonetheless produces twenty textures and flavours, with maturation ranging from four weeks to four years, with all cheeses made with pasteurized milk from the farm next door. They are sold in the Midlands, but you won’t find them elsewhere.
Tasting our way through the Fowler’s cellars for this hamper, we chose the Warwickshire Vintage Clothbound, a hard-pressed cheese, calico clothbound and naturally-rinded. With a hard and fractured texture, a sweet nutty aroma, a strong complex farmhouse flavour and seasonal colour variation, it offers a strong and old-fashioned taste which we loved alongside our runner bean chutney. A perfect choice for a ploughman’s board if ever we saw one.
The Outdoor Pig Company
Is there anything more British than a pork pie? And will you ever find one tastier than those produced by this wonderfully-named company? There’s a reason they keep on winning, year after year, at the British Pie Awards.
The Outdoor Pig Company primarily sells wholesale to leading butchers and farm shops in the Midlands, several of whom then go on to own-brand the products, which could explain why their name is not a household one. It’s also one of the reasons why we feel exceptionally proud that they have teamed up with us for our Warwickshire selection - which also includes the company’s honey and mustard roast ham, another winner.
Around the Midlands, you will find The Outdoor Pig Company selling and promoting their range of pig-related produce - pies, hams, sausages and bacon - at food festivals from May to September. And if you live in the area, you can also hire them for wedding, party or corporate catering. If not, enjoy a real taste of Warwickshire pig courtesy of us.
It doesn’t get much more local - or artisan - than this Runner Bean Chutney, hand-made by Sarah Gunter from beans grown in her own allotment in a residential suburb of Coventry, to a recipe handed down from her grandfather. We selected it from her extensive range of preserves - jams, jellies, marmalades, chutneys and curds - usually sold online or at local farmers’ markets such as Stratford-upon-Avon, which is where we first met her.
A vibrant yellow and green chutney with a tangy taste, it includes onions, cider vinegar, tomatoes, turmeric, coriander and mustard. Sarah is always experimenting, and open to new ideas, and was happy to go along with our suggestion to ‘pimp’ this recipe slightly with an added touch of mustard, to further complement the slightly stronger flavours of the meat and cheese products in our Warwickshire selection.
Arden Forest Honey
When we first met Steve and Esme and began tasting their range of single origin, untreated, cold filtered and 100% raw honey, we were spoiled for choice. Wildflower, Echium, Spring, Heather, Meadowfoam? In the end, it had to be borage, for two main reasons. Firstly, it tastes delicious. Secondly, borage - also known as starflower and often used in the health and beauty industry - is found growing extensively in Warwickshire, so much so that many other beekeepers who want to capture its unique flavour relocate their hives to the region for the pollination season.
Steve’s variety is light in colour, with a delicate and mild taste that goes perfectly with ice cream, in a cup of tea or - in our case - drizzled over the cheeses in your hamper. If you haven’t tried the salty delight of cheese with the sweet taste of honey, you really don’t know what you are missing. Once the bees have foraged, the honey is collected from over 400 hives, located across Warwickshire, to be extracted and placed in jars by hand: a true labour of love.
Henley Kitchen & Bakery
When you have a superb local bakery on your doorstep, it makes perfect sense to utilise their skills to the best advantage. We commissioned Richard and his team to come up with our trademark Cheese Logs: a slice of Fowler’s Triple X mature cheddar cheese shortbread dough that you pop into the oven once you have opened our gift box, ready to serve warm alongside the rest of our choices. It even comes wrapped in greaseproof paper overprinted with simple cooking instructions.
If you’re visiting Henley-in-Arden meanwhile, pop into the bakery for homemade bread, cakes, pies and pastries, a deli selling local produce, and a welcoming café with indoor and outdoor seating.
We are glad to say Richard and his team will also be making our Cheese Logs for each new hamper with a regional cheese of choice.
Paxton & Whitfield
You can’t serve great cheese without great biscuits, of course.
So who better to team up with than one of the oldest-established cheese specialists in the country. We’ll be matching one of their superb range of biscuits to each of our regional hampers, and to complement our Warwickshire choices of Berkswell and Fowler’s, we have gone with Paxton & Whitfield’s Celery & Sea Salt Oaties. Handmade with locally sourced rolled oats from County Armagh and palm oil from a certified sustainable source, the sharpness of the celery and the crunchy sea salt create a delicious contrast to the nutty taste of the oats.
The company set up its first cheesemongers in London’s Jermyn Street in 1797, and still has its flagship shop there today. Over the years, building its reputation for great products and quality service (not to mention royal appointments going all the way back to Queen Victoria), it has continued to expand, with a second London shop in Cale Street, a shop in Bath, and its head office and maturing rooms in Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds, from where it services its online orders.
Twelfth Night’s Sir Toby Belch might have preferred cakes and ale, but we think chocolates and gin are an equally fabulous combination. We asked Sally and her award-winning chocolatiers to devise three exclusive chocolate bars for us using some of the same Tudor-era botanicals from Shakespeare Distillery’s gins: lime & coriander, British rose, and rosemary & lemon balm.
For an extra treat, they have also produced some special truffles, infused with St. Maur Elderflower Liqueur. All chocolates are made at their premises at Yew Tree Farm courtyard shopping, where they have a shop and offer chocolate-making workshops. You can also buy chocolates online, or have them made to order for weddings, parties or as corporate gifts.
Ethical Addictions Coffee
We wanted to choose a coffee company we could support year-round, and who would add value and taste to each hamper. Step forward Ethical Addictions, run by ‘Head Bean’ Ian Meredith, a Welshman who is also an honorary tribal chief of Orera, in recognition of his contribution to the village’s life and economy.
Located on the slopes of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the village is the source of EA’s Machare coffee. Over the last ten years, EA has purchased raw arabica beans direct from the growers, which are then roasted in the company’s facility in Gloucestershire. Cutting out any middlemen, this a stage beyond Fairtrade, with a far higher price paid to the growers. Machare Farm is also organic, and on the EA website you can not only find out more about their range of coffee products, but explore all the ways in which they help with the sustainability of the region.