A love letter to Somerset

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This Somerset, our home. For all its myths and lore, wild festivals and rolling greenness, it is, for many, a place to look at through the windows of the car, or perhaps grab a quick lunch on the way to the golden beaches of the deep West Country. But for we who live here, there is magic – and it is in the contrasts it shines brightest.

Here, you can drink cider, brewed to the tannic sophistication of claret, in the backrooms of farmyard breweries, or order that same cider from starched bartenders at sparkling restaurants. You might buy your local farm cheddar in bulk at the weekly market, yet a hundred miles away, delicate wedges of it are wrapped in greaseproof paper and sold with reverence at the finest cheesemongers. Here, old stone pubs host folk and cider festivals whilst down the lane, ageing talents who came for Glastonbury and never left, live quietly in Georgian manors.

Outdoors, life is defined by the seasons, right down to the name.

Somerset: dwellers at the summer settlement. The Levels, once uninhabitable marshland in winter, made lush summer grazing grounds reclaimed by water as the year turned. Out of these sea-lakes rose Glastonbury Tor, said to be Avalon, the apple-filled island of Arthurian legend, where Excalibur was forged, and Arthur buried in the now-ruined Abbey below.

Teals Somerset - Boy on Swing
Teals Somerset - Ancient Ruin
Teals Somerset - Blog - Seedlings

Nature gathers around these flatlands, filling the stillness with rustle and song. In summer, the long, late light calls you outside where you’ll hear the rare call of skylark and cuckoo. In winter, as great murmurations of starlings swoop and swirl through lilac skies, you climb to high spots to let the wind blow you dry, then retreat to pubs, light fires, close shutters, revel in the darkness, preparing for the long days filled with lime-bright leaves to come again.

If the landscape does not call you to stop, the food surely will: cheddar that tangs on the tongue with umami crystals that taste of the farm, and bread of a springy sourness perfected by patience and a strong hand. You can buy mild raw milk straight from the farm, and find meat marbled with omega-rich fats from animals grazed outside almost the whole year-round. There are strawberries in summer that balance such sweetness with acidity as to remind you what a strawberry should actually taste like.

It is produce of this quality that has drawn food talent here over the past decade, and in doing so changed the landscape of eating in this part of the country. A Cheddar-maker repurposes his whey and begins to market the first English ricotta; another soaks an epoisse in Renegade beer. A horticulturalist discovers a passion for regenerative gardening and digs over her plot to growing biodynamic salad leaves. A cider-maker looks to the great French wine-houses for inspiration and begins to turn out world-class champagne-method cider and cider brandy.

It’s these people and their stories you stop for, and the reason we, Teals, are here. For the craftspeople now gathered alongside farmers and cheesemakers at the communal tables in pubs are creating new traditions as well as respecting established ones. These are the tales we are here to tell, and our store is a place where we hope new stories will begin. One thing is for sure –  there will always be a lunch worth stopping for.

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