As American as Apple…Cider?



Traditional cider is a lightly alcoholic beverage (usually less than 7% abv) produced from apples that have been crushed and pressed, with the resultant juice fermented. It is often called “hard cider” in the United States to distinguish it from unfiltered apple juice. Cider production is centered in the UK, which has the highest worldwide consumption, but many other countries and regions—including the United States—produce it as well, and cider and perry (cider produced from pears) are experiencing a renaissance that is running parallel to the other craft beverage industries.

Drawing of John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed)

Drawing of John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed)

Early American settlers took great pride in cultivating the apple tree, as evidenced by the story of the folk hero and nurseryman Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman, 1774 – 1845). Some of the oldest apple orchards in the United States are located in the more temperate areas of New England, such as Vermont, upstate New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.

The popularity of apples and the subsequent spread of various types of apple seeds gave rise to myriads of new, purely American varieties, such as the Newton Pippin, that were then grafted and propagated. By the mid-1800s there were over 1,000 varieties of apples growing in the United States, most of which were used for cider.

The popularity of American cider declined with the rise of industrialism (in the mid-1800’s) as the population migrated towards city life, and was further thwarted by Prohibition. This coincided with a drastic decline in the cultivation of cider apples. These days, the majority of the apples and pears in the United States are grown in the Pacific Northwest, and most of these are for eating; however, small pockets of cider apple production may still be found in many parts of the country.



Leading areas for American cider production include New England, the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, the Great Lakes area, and pockets of the Pacific Northwest. The most recent statistics from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) show that Vermont produces the most cider at about 5.3 million gallons, with New York second at 4.4 million, and California and Tennessee both at about 2.9 million gallons.

The craft cider movement is growing in the United States, but is considerably behind the renaissance sweeping craft beer and local wine. There is, however, a noticeable interest in reviving heirloom cider apple varieties, whole fruit processing, and artisan cider production.



Some American cider producers are making ciders inspired by the Old World, while others are proving to be more experimental and creating hopped versions of cider, wine barrel-aged ciders, or combining honey and fruit to produce cyser, sometimes referred to as “apple mead” and best described as a cross between cider and mead.

American cider, as well as the production, culture, and sensory evaluation of ciders from all over the world is just a small part of the information included in the Society of Wine Educators’ Beverage Specialist Certificate.

Other topics included in this 100% online program include coffee, tea, sake, beer, distilled spirits, and—of course—wine. Click here for more information.

Are you interested in being a guest blogger or a guest SWEbinar presenter for SWE?  Click here for more information!


Is that Kona in your Coffee?

Hawaii Big IslandCoffee was first introduced to Hawaii in about 1813, via an ornamental coffee tree brought to Honolulu by Don Francisco de Paula y Marin, the Spanish physician to King Kamehameha the Great.  Soon, it became an agricultural mainstay of the islands, along with sugar cane and pineapple.

However, several circumstances combined to reduce the amount of coffee grown on the Hawaiian Islands, including the coffee blight of 1858, the result of an insect infestation; the world coffee crash in 1899, and the labor-intensity of coffee agriculture.

Of the small amount of land growing coffee in Hawaii today, the most famous region is Kona.  Located on the western slopes of the Big Island of Hawaii, the Kona district contains the heart of Hawaii’s “coffee belt,” which is about two miles wide and at the highest point measures 2,000 feet in elevation.  The area has a microclimate ideally suited to growing coffee, in part because the prominent volcanoes provide rich soil and help block the rains that fall prominently on the eastern side of the island.  The small size of the growing area and the high quality beans it produces contribute to a high price and a high demand.

Coffee on TreeThere are two types of Kona coffee, each with several grades.  Grades are determined by size, density, moisture content, and defects.  Type I grades are Extra-Fancy, Fancy, Kona #1, and Prime.  The grades for Type II are Kona #1 Peaberry and Kona Peaberry Prime.  The term “peaberry” refers to the shape of the bean.  Normally the fruit of the coffee plant contains two beans that develop with flattened facing sides, however, if only one of the two seeds is fertilized, the single seed develops into an oval (or pea-shaped) bean.  Kona is, along with Tanzanian Coffee, one of the two main types of coffee associated with peaberry beans.

These grades originated in the 1980s, when the word Kona was used on a wide variety of products.  In order to protect the region of origin and control the quality of the product, the Hawaii Department of Agricultural created the grades and required inspection of beans, proof of geographic region of origin, and proper labeling of its coffee.

Coffee labeled as Kona must be completely from the Kona District and include the identifier “100% Kona Coffee,” a phrase trademarked by the Hawaiian Department of Agriculture in 2000.  Kona Blends are allowed and may be a combination of Kona and beans from other regions, but must contain at least 10% Kona beans with the percentage of Kona beans clearly displayed.

As with other coffee regions, the producers and the state have had to be very protective over the Kona name and label, as some third-party companies were found to be labeling Central American coffee as Kona.  These mislabeled beans made it to coffee-store chains such as Starbucks and Peet’s, who upon learning of the issue contributed to a settlement and agreed to buy future beans directly from Kona farmers.

If this story sounds similar to those you have heard regarding wine, brandies, types of cheese and other agricultural products, you are correct!

If you would like to learn more about coffee, you may be interested in SWE’s Beverage Specialist Certificate program, which in addition to coffee, includes information on wine, beer, spirits, sake, tea, bottled water, and ready-to-drink beverages.


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Post authored by Ben Coffelt  –