Thame Food Festival 2017


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    We were back again… a year on from when we first tested our drinks on the unsuspecting public at the Thame Food Festival of 2016. If last year’s festival was our baptism of fire, let’s see this year as our inauguration.

    Thame will always hold a special place in CEIBA’s heart. The quaint market town plays host to frequent meetings with our Prince’s Trust mentor at The Thatch – a highly recommended pub. It also plays an important role in the birth of CEIBA as it was here we first tested the drinks and gained the confidence to take it to market.

    I cannot deny that we miss the bustle and vibrancy of a festival in the streets of the town centre, but the festival in an open field brought with it some new delights – space, a community of dedicated foodies and a country festive atmosphere!

    Our drinks went down well – of course – with a new addition of some CEIBA Virgin cocktails that we made live and fresh. These went down a storm. The extra fruit sugars from our own made fruit infused syrups brought out even more flavour from the drinks. We’ll have to upload our recipes for the Ginger Mojito, Coco Raspberg and Mango Fire we served because they truly were delicious and shows what fun you can have without alcohol.

    It was great to see Liam and Ryan of Orwells Restaurant in Shiplake. These innovative chefs grow 75% of the food that ends up on the menu and their restaurant was voted Restaurant of The Year by the editors of Waitrose’s Good Food Guide. Congratulations to them and all the best on their next steps towards Michelin Star status. Proud to say they loved the drinks and now serve them at their restaurant.

    Next stop is the National Health Trade Summit up in Manchester. We hope to spread some healthy cinnamon love up North!

    Ceiba Cinnamon Infusions Bottling

    Bottling: We’re one step closer to you!

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    March has been a hectic month. More specifically, the end of February leading up to the beginning of March has been a crescendo leading to an all-encompassing climax – bottling.

    I must admit, I do love the pressure of a bottling run. The date you often have to book a month in advance and you had better make sure that everything is in place for that date. I can imagine for most companies, this would be a doddle. Or maybe at CEIBA we just like the complicated.

    Our bottling runs are not a simple mixing of ingredients at the bottlers. Our cinnamon infusion is made beforehand by the lovely team at the Greyhound Brewery and we always need to coordinate our run with their capacity. This is perhaps the first challenge.

    The second challenge comes from the natural nature of our product. When we were first consulted on scaling up our recipes, we were advised to use a lab who could turn our infusion base into a simple cinnamon extract that could be standardised and simply added to the drink. We weren’t keen on the idea and stuck to our guns with the original and authentic recipe of using a cinnamon infusion base. The second challenge is that we are dealing with a natural ingredient that varies in flavour depending on the crop and so we must keep a close eye on flavour.

    The infusion is made one day and shipped to the bottler the next. There isn’t time for error which is why we’re grateful to have master brewers on board who know how to handle these sorts of ingredients and are clued in with the tips and techniques to insure consistency. But I’m sure we’ll always be on edge to see how this part of the process turns out. I guess we’ll relax with time.

    A day at the bottlers is great fun. The aromas you get from your ingredients are incredible because they’re present in such bulk. Nonetheless be warned, the aromas can fool you! In an atmosphere where you’re constantly taking in flavours and scents, you soon become desensitised to it. Your palate is crucial for the testing so a good tip is to test your products outside, breathe in some clean air and clear your senses.

    Once the tense period of blending the recipes is done (the main weight lifted from our shoulders!) it feels good to leave the drinks in the hands of expert bottlers and their slick machines. The rest pans out like clockwork to a rhythm of clinks, sloshes and conveyor belts.

    Job done means we’re one step closer to getting the drinks in your hands!

    Thame Food Festival: The Acid Test

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    Thame Food Festival CEIBA Cinnamon InfusionsSeptember of last year, CEIBA made a visit to the Thame Food Festival. This wasn’t a run of the mill event for us, not by a long stretch. Thame was our first unveiling of what we had been conjuring up to the public. It was the acid test.

    What many don’t know is that we had hoped to have our products ready for market by the time Thame came around. However, drinks manufacturing at scale is a whole different ball game to brewing up something in the kitchen and we were still on the path to mastering it – you brew something up in the kitchen, it tastes good, happy days. You brew something up at scale, you have to make sure the pH is right, filtration is on point, specific gravity is correct and, of course… that it tastes good.

    So what happened at Thame? I can assure you that nerves ran deeply throughout Team CEIBA. Picture an artist spending time on a painting before unveiling his work to critics who may fall in love with the piece or hate it. When producing a drink like ours, it’s very different from blending a nice juice together. We are effectively constructing the base cinnamon infusion, which has to be right, and then balancing flavours on top whilst having no idea how the public would receive the drink as it hasn’t been done before.

    We’ve always wanted the drink to be a health drink and to keep the sugar low. The problem is, healthy drinks are notoriously unappealing (think spinach smoothie) and sacrificing sugar perhaps limits how much flavour you can get out of any given fruit as a fruit is composed of largely sugars. But we found a way and we wanted to see what the public thought of it.

    Although we were not market ready in time for Thame, we took the opportunity to test our recipes on the unsuspecting palates of the public. A good 2000 people tried the drink and we gathered invaluable feedback on our recipes of what people liked, disliked and what they thought we could do to improve them.

    Thankfully the vast majority of people approved of the drink. This was the confidence booster we needed and armed with pointers on how to move forward, we returned to the labs, improved our recipes and made haste to get a full-scale production run going.

    I don’t want to jinx anything, but we are now very nearly there. 😉