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This is the first time a cordless drill has been used to pour me a drink. 

I am in Grandtully forest in Perthshire with Rob and Gabrielle, forester and healer respectively, who are resurrecting an ancient tradition. Birch tree tapping is a method of extracting sap from the trees at springtime.  The husband and wife team have founded the company Birken Tree and are managing a piece of woodland so the trees recognised for their health-giving properties can be nurtured and preserved. "In Scotland, there are over 91,000 hectares of Birch woodland, somewhere over 200 million trees, and Birch trees are considered to be among the oldest species of trees still living, so we need to look after them," said Rob and Gabrielle.

They hope to produce around 50,000 litres of Birchwater in a three-week window this spring by simply drilling a hole in the trees, inserting a tap and catching what comes out. The apparatus used is the same as for maple syrup production in Canada. Perhaps this is why most folk expect the sap to be syrupy, but it is more like coconut water. It has a silky but voluptuous mouthfeel and tastes only lightly sweet. There is a great freshness and purity and notes reminiscent of melon and cucumber, hints of citrus and even liquorice.

The tradition of Birch tree tapping has been more common in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia in recent history but seems to have been forgotten here although the woodland we are standing in is part of an ancient one which once spanned vast tracts of North Eastern Europe.

The sap has traditionally been used for cooking and drinking, for cosmetic and health applications and it can be lightly fermented to make alcohol.  Rob and Gabrielle are planning a sparkling version and have been approached by high-end restaurants for their bottles of still water.  Birchwater is available in the UK, but it is imported from Finland, Latvia, Ukraine or Belarus. They also harvest the leaves for making tea and there is a fungus that grows on the tree called Chaga which can also be found on beech, oak and alder and which is rumoured to have potent medicinal attributes (usual health  disclaimers apply; you can do your own research but do not substitute for the advice of your doctor).

Nutritional profiling of the Birchwater reveals it contains essential vitamins and minerals such as Potassium, Manganese, Magnesium, Calcium, Zinc, Sodium, Phosphorous, Vitamins: C, Thiamine or B1 and 17 amino acids. 

It’s certainly got a buzz about it.  Birken Tree was short-listed in the Artisan Drink category for the Scottish Rural Awards 2019 held at Dynamic Earth last month. They didn’t win but had the perfect hangover cure available for anyone in need the next morning! 
Birken Tree Birchwater is currently available to buy on its website www.birkentree.co.uk, and they have partnered with Greencity Wholefoods





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