“When I taste a good dry cider, I just get goose pimples,” he explained to The Local. “And any Swede who’s been to Somerset knows what good scrumpy cider tastes like.”
“The idea is just to produce a very good quality craft cider from what you and I would call cider apples.”
Taylor has become well-known in Sweden over the last decade for his role in the SVT gardening show Trädgårdstider (Garden Seasons) and its predecessor Trädgårdsonsdag (Gardening Wednesday). He is known for charming viewers with his unusual Scanian-British accent.
Since stepping down as head gardener at Malmö’s Slottsträdgården (castle garden) in 2017, he now has enough time to pursue other ventures. This led the Sheffield-born Brit to team up with Håkan Hansson, the wine-making pioneer behind Hällåkra Vingård outside Malmö.
“We have one hectare of land, and we have found a really good collaborating partner,” he said of Hällåkra. “We’re planting 1,100 trees. They will fruit in the autumn, and that cider will be ready one year from now.”
Hällåkra plans to sell the cider at its vineyard alongside its wine and other local Scanian delicacies.
The first 300 young cider apples trees in place near Hällåkra. Photo: John Taylor
The difference between Taylor's cider and that currently produced in Sweden is that his will be made from real English cider apples, rather than from the much sweeter eating apples used by the few Swedish producers.
“You don’t get that scrumpy feel. There’s no dryness in eating apples. They’ve got no tannins in them,” Taylor explains. “These are proper, unique cider varieties. These varieties don’t exist in Sweden.”
The journey to the sole remaining wholesale supplier of cider apple trees in the UK takes three days, and includes a ferry trip from the Hook of Holland and back.
Taylor made the first trip in October last year, bringing back 300 trees. His next trip will be in February, when he will bring back 800 cider apple trees and 30 perry pear trees.
When the orchard starts producing next year, Taylor aims to supply restaurants and a few select bars before increasing production and selling the drink more widely in coming years.
“It’s a massive investment in terms of cost. It’s the biggest investment of my life,” he admits.
It’s perhaps no coincidence that his decision to bring a bit of English culture back to Sweden has come at exactly the same time as Taylor, after 25 years in Sweden, has finally taken Swedish citizenship.
“I’ve just got Swedish citizenship because of Brexit; one would hate to be thrown out,” he says. “It’s odd. It’s a transition, isn’t it? What I’ve noticed is that I try a bit harder with my Swedish.”