Squeezing the most out of their apples

Sea Cider Farm turned a family hobby into a successful business in Central Saanich

Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse owner Kristen Jordan speaks to Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce members about her business in Central Saanich.

Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse owner Kristen Jordan speaks to Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce members about her business in Central Saanich.

The next few editions of the Peninsula News Review will highlight businesses on the recent Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce Tour of Industry. Read about what they do, their challenges and success stories.

“This has been a work in progress for years,” Kristen Jordan told a gathering of Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce members about the Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse, a business she and husband Bruce created out of her family’s love of making — and drinking — apple cider. Sea Cider was the chamber’s lunch stop on its Oct. 30 Tour of Industry event.

“We’ve been asked many times, why cider?” she explained. “The simple answer is, I had apples.”

For years, she and her family made cider out of their own apples at home. When she was a teenager, she inherited an apple orchard on Shuswap Lake in the interior. This history in her family led her to buy a piece of property in Central Saanich 15 years ago. It just happened to have apple trees and was near other farms in the district.

“So, we bought the farm and I thought we could do something with it,” Jordan said. “So, I read the district’s official community plan and felt the community and the government had an appetite for this.”

After buying the farm, Jordan embarked on creating a cidery, collecting apples from a variety of sources and turning them into quality ciders, some of which have won them awards. Apples come to Sea Cider Farm from Vancouver Island and the west coast of the mainland. They also support Lifecycles, a Victoria non-profit food awareness group that harvests apples from heritage or abandoned orchards in the area. Sea Cider gets apples from the group and donates proceeds from their final product back to the program.

Sea Cider currently employs 17 people and Jordan calls it a small business — but one that is growing.

When they first started making cider, Jordan said they were producing 4,000 litres in their first year. Today, that has grown to 60,000 litres each year. It is sold mostly to wholesalers in B.C. who get it on the shelves in liquor stores. As they have grown, they have also started selling cider in Alberta and in the northwestern United States.

“We started making cider for friends and family and now we’ve turned it into a business,” Jordan said. “We’ve really had to step up our game.”

To do that, she said she attended ‘cider school’ at Washington State University, learning the latest tricks of the trade and cider-making methods. She essentially turned the family hobby into a local profession.

In 2006, she said they built the Cider Room, an indoor dining area, laced with wood which was sourced right from their own farm. It gives the room a rustic look that’s appealing to their guests, she said. Sea Cider Farm has also branched out to offer catering and event service.

“That has become a very important part of our business,” Jordan said.

That additional revenue stream enables the farm to weather the high and low seasons and to plan ahead for their cider-making process. It also helps them meet the challenge of making more cider with existing equipment. Jordan said they do have plans to expand as their own trees on the farm mature. She said that is anywhere from five to eight years away.

From day-to-day, Jordan said she has an excellent team of employees — from cider-makers to sales staff. And that is translating into success.

“Business is great.”

To learn more, visit www.seacider.com.

Tour Mini Series

In Friday’s News Review: The products and expertise of Central Saanich-based Quester Tangent can be found on trains around the world.

There are two more installments in this Tour of Industry series.