In a new series, the Fortnum & Mason food writer of the year Clare Finney explores drinks at Borough Market that have been produced using ingredients and methods that put sustainability front and centre. This week: soft drinks
“If you’re going to do something wrong, do it right” is up there with “When in Rome” and “You only live once” for the most permissive proverbs in the language. Yet while the latter are licenses to pursue decadence and damn the consequences, the former has at least a vestige of virtue to its call.
In the context of Borough Market, it rings particularly true. By all means, indulge yourself in a cake, chocolate or a sugary drink—but make it a good one. Make it a milkshake from Bath Soft Cheese Co, made with organic, unhomogenised milk and fairly traded Madagascan vanilla pods. Make it a juice freshly pressed from fruit that would otherwise go to waste at Chegworth Valley. Make it a cordial of foraged elderflower or wild strawberries, which grow in abundance in the bushes and trees around the Kentish home of Noel from Fitz Fine Foods.
Sweet, floral touch
“If you keep the bottle in a cold, dark place, away from direct sunlight, it will last for over a year,” says Noel—provided, of course, that you can resist that long. Mixed with tap or fizzy water (invest in a carbonating machine so you can avoid single use plastic bottles) it makes for a beautifully refreshing soft drink—but it also adds a sweet, floral touch to cocktails of gin or sparkling wine. Uses range from drinks to baking, and the recyclable glass bottle and compostable cork tick far more boxes when it comes to sustainability and versatility than your average can of soda. “They’re almost embarrassingly popular,” Noel laughs modestly.
With the milkshake at Bath Soft Cheese Co, not only will you enjoy creaminess and sweetness, but also the knowledge that the cows whose milk you are drinking are grass-fed, rotated and reared outside on pasture in the summer months. The farm is Park Farm in the West Country. It’s been in the same family for four generations, and the family’s commitment to sustainable, organic farming is as strong as their blue cheese. “The ice cream is actually made for us specially in a farm up the road from Park Farm,” says Jess at the stall. They provide the equipment and expertise, Park Farm the milk fresh from the morning’s milking. “We pasteurise it gently, so it doesn’t affect the flavour, and it’s unhomogenised so it’s really creamy and rich.”
Not every drink need be an indulgence, of course. If it’s simple, thirst quenching water you’re after, Borough Market installed the answer last year in the form of three free drinking fountains, each with three streams of water: two to be drunk from and one to refill water bottles, which you can buy from the Borough Market’s Store if you’ve forgotten your own. The Market has since phased out sales of single-use plastic bottles from the stalls: 10 per cent of all Thames litter constitutes plastic bottles, which Londoners are notoriously bad at recycling.
One sustainable soft drink option that is highly visible at the Market is fruit and vegetable juice, which you can buy bottled (in glass, of course) or pressed on site in front of you. Chegworth Valley presses fruit and veg that’s too ripe, bruised or misshapen to sell into a dazzling range of juices, while their gently pasteurised bottled numbers are pressed on the farm.
“Kath and Ted send their suplus fruit and veg to a friend to press,” says Shuk at the Ted’s Veg stall. “We get through quite a lot of it, so have to top it up sometimes, but largely it’s surplus.” This means nothing is wasted on the farm, Kath and Ted can support their local economy, and customers get a range of organic, lightly pasteurised juices, ranging from apple and strawberry to pear.
It’s easy to forget, in our drive to eat more ethically and sustainably, that drinks have just as much of an impact on the environment as food, if not more so. If we’re to get those bottles out of the Thames, and the wildlife that lives within it, we need to think about what we’re drinking, and do something right even when we’re doing it wrong.