How iconic and totally British is the Tiptree Jams’ and Marmalade badge?When a competition arose with the opportunity to create a bake of my own using one of these delectable products on my Twitter page how could I not get involved?
Out of 99 entrants my white chocolate mousse and lemon curd roulade was judged to be “Winner of the Tiptree Bake Off,” and from there my prize of visiting Tiptree’s site in Colchester took place in May.
How ironic, in my day to day job as a regional sales manager my key account is just under one mile away from this wonderful venue that I never knew existed! Every day each and everyone of us could be passing a hidden gem so my suggestion is engage with the locals to all areas you visit and find out what’s about and recommended!
However I digress…..Tiptree is an independent business now owned by its share holders. Jam and marmalade are their core products nevertheless they want to stay at the top of their game and “Innovation” is a key word in their current set up. Tiptree export to 73 different countries ensuring they have global reach. New product categories include fragranced candles & diffusers, honey, several brands of manukau and gins, a range of fruit varieties.
Under the “Wilkins & Sons” umbrella ranges included are the Thursday Cottage Brand, Jules & Sharpey and Coles Puddings.
They also have their own bakery, Tiptree Patisserie and 10 tea rooms across Colchester, the newest one being in Chelmsford in Bond Street. This was acquired as an empty shell and incorporates the old with a modern new design, very much focussing on customer profiles in 2018, and how to satisfy their needs, whilst ensuring the Tiptree brand exudes its popularity.
My start to the day was meeting Liz Baker, marketing manager, settling in with a coffee and a chat about the resume of the day.
Placed on each table was the Summer Dessert Special – My “White Chocolate Mousse Lemon Curd Roulade.” A little flutter of pride ran through me, and the chest expanded like a courting pigeon!
So many questions, so much information, so much fun all in a space of thirty minutes.
Scott Goodfellow, joint managing director of Wilkins and sons joined us. His enthusiasm and passion swept over us like a wave. His eagerness to discuss new products was infectious, grabbing bags of the new vegetable crisps and dipping in mayonnaise, explaining how Tiptree & Sons want to be innovative and keep moving forward in their market place.
Tiptree are an autonomous business and grow what they can to produce their range of jams and pickles. All their berries are hand picked and hand sorted. Laborious yes, but meets the exacting standards required to ensure they maintain their quality, and the Royal Warrant which has been in place since 1911.
A lot has changed since the early days of taking the employees to pick the fruit!
An interesting fact Dan Waskett, farm tour guide, told me when we were touring the farm was “Caught Red Handed!” Do you know where this comes from?… No nor did I.
It actually comes from the Mulberry tree pickers as when the mulberry is picked it leaves a stain on your hands no matter how gentle you are. In the early days those who stole fruit from a tree could not deny it due to the colour of their hands!
Two other new facts learnt on this informative tour “Plonking!” This is term used when de stoning fruit. It’s the sound made when the core or stone drops on to a metal tray which I can audibly hear in my head, so makes perfect sense.
Also strawberries harvested in the U.K. are picked with a small stalk left on the fruit. This dates back to when the Victorians dipped their strawberries in cream and didn’t want their fingers to be covered in cream. Licking your fingers was not etiquette!
Tiptree, as well as their normal strawberries have their own signature berry called “Little Scarlet.” Obvious question, what’s so special about this berry? It is the size of a 5p piece and is an intense wild alpine strawberry from America. It is very sweet and produces amazing jam. They cannot keep up with demand and have started growing the crops on the table top system to improve numbers produced.
Tiptree have also invested in a NGS system for perfect strawberry production.
Thinking NGS maybe some highly intellectual wording for the system I had to giggle when told it means “New Growth System.”
The NGS system regulates the air temperature and the air quality , with automatic plastic covers moving up or down according to the strength of the sunlight and exterior heat. It is 91% self sufficient, which is pretty darn impressive.
Simple as the meaning is this, it enables Tiptree to remain top of their game and grow fruit of the highest quality. 1,000 tonnes of their strawberries go to supermarkets, plus usage for their own production.
Part of the success includes using Coya, ground up recyclable Coconut musk in their soil which adds nutrients to the fruit.
Dan advised they are often contacted to see if Tiptree will send plants or off cuts to other countries so they can grow the berries themselves but it is always an adamant NO!
It’s fame is even mentioned in a James Bond film, “From Russia with Love” when James himself says he would like “Little Scarlet” Strawberry jam on his toast with the customary English bone China cup of tea.
Whilst touring round the farm we had a whistle stop tour of the Farm camp for the employees. Tiptree have 400 employees, with 250 of them tending the crops.
The camp has been recognised as the best in Britain for its facilities and looking after the welfare of the workers. Around the clean, accommodating looking caravans there is a community hall which has such facilities as a gym, table tennis and pool tables and a pool. Tiptree village is within walking distance for the employees’ shopping requirements, and there was a general feel of camaraderie in the camp. Dan explained that most of the fruit pickers are Romanian or Bulgaria, and return on a yearly basis. Extremely efficient, hard working employees, just what a business needs.
Farm tour over we headed over to start the factory tour. Hair net doned, clean Tiptree coat fastened and appropriate footwear on off we went.
First stop, “The Pudding Room.”
What thoughts does this sign conjure up for you?
This in fact is the Christmas Pudding production room, independent to the main factory. Assembly of the Christmas puddings actually starts at Easter.
As the door opened the aromas took me back to my childhood kitchen, where my Gran had a wonderful mixing bowl and was stirring the alcohol drenched raisins into her homemade Christmas pudding. Cinnamon and nutmeg infused the air, and a warm cloak of general happiness enveloped me.
I didn’t get any recipe secrets apart from the fact their fruit is soaked in apple juice prior to adding to the mixture, and the puddings are gluten free, alcohol free and dairy free.
Over to the main factory tour which proved to be an eye opener. From running through the production of marmalade, to seeing black currant jam start to finish, jarring, labelling and then a warehouse scoot round, all very enlightening.
My tour guide was so informative covering topics of supply, recycling, work shifts and brands. Highly recommended tour.
The final part of the day included a late lunch, the devouring of my white chocolate and lemon curd roulade made by Tiptree Patisserie and a visit to the shop.
The tearooms source local, seasonal ingredients and produce quality home made dishes. For lunch we had an asparagus tart, with a rich blue cheese sauce and mounds of crisp, fresh salad. Salivating just thinking about it now.
Drum roll please! Attention turned to my dessert. The staff at the Patisserie had tried to keep as close as possible to my recipe, and to say I wasn’t disappointed was an understatement. Soft, springy, light sponge wrapped round a luxurious rich white chocolate mousse, with tangy lemon curd coming through in every bite. They did me very proud.
Full to the gunnels off we trotted to the shop. Tiptree and Liz were extremely generous filling my basket with jams, pickles, gin and even a diffuser as all part of my prize.
A nifty gift idea is that in the shop you can get labels personalised while you wait.
Liz produced my own pot of lemon curd with “Winner of the Tiptree Bake Off” on it which was superb.
I also bought my gin loving sister-in-law to be a fruit flavoured gin with a birthday message on it, which I felt was an innovative present. I’m sure this facility is put to full use at busy periods in the shop.
Tiptree Jam Shop & Tea Room
A truly wonderful day. Yes I was treated like a princess and yes as my prize I had some luscious goodies from the gift shop to take home with me, but Tiptree is an iconic British business.
The staff are friendly, knowledgeable and willing to help.
The tearoom serves homemade meals using fresh and local ingredients, and the ultimate cream tea washed down with a selection of teas, coffees or soft drinks.
The farm and factory tour is not only fun, but reveals the behind the scenes of this business. A truly worthwhile day out, supporting our British culture and industry.
Until next time eat well and be happy,
Love Sophie 👩🏼🍳 xx