THE ILEACH :: THE INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER FOR ISLAY + JURA

Excerpts from issue 48/17 5 June 2021

ardstream
The Old Kiln Café at Ardbeg

Jackie Thomson writes:
It was only meant to be a scone, cup of tea and soup. 'What do you mean, put a café in a distillery?' 'You will never fill all the tables.'
Twenty-three years later and The Old Kiln Café continues its successful food journey. It would be hard to calculate the number of Clootie Dumplings, smoked haddock chowders, friendships, wedding lunches, rumbustious Rabbies lunches, sticky toffee puddings, ladies who lunch, birthday treats, and whisky-fuelled repasts the OKC has notched up over the years.
Who hasn't patiently waited for a table in the OKC whilst eyeing up the folks already on their desserts, transmitting powers to move them from their seats? Locals meeting old friends, effervescent whisky tastings, waiting staff dancing between tables (and tours), visitors meeting each other at their third distillery and sitting at a table to share lunch, weekly rituals, menu favourites, observing over the years babies growing up and blossoming to adulthood over decades. This has been the life, under the pagodas, of The Old Kiln Café, underpinned by consistently great home cooked food.
Before lockdown, increasing numbers of visitors led us to plan a few changes before the visitor centre re-opens for business. From Tuesday 8 June, Ardbeg Distillery's food operation, The Old Kiln Café, which has been situated in the East Maltings for 23 years, is on the move. The success of the café means that the whisky, for which Ardbeg is truly famous, had retreated further into the small shop and the retail space was a little congested. So, with our doors closed it was time for a refresh!
The great café menu will, for now, be moving outdoors to be served from our fabulous converted Airstream trailer - to be known as The ARDstream! Complete with wood burning oven, the trailer will be the focal point for our food offering over the next few months. Picnic tables and umbrellas, tastings and takeaways will all be available in the courtyard. As visitors return, and the colder months arrive, we are planning a new bistro style restaurant at the distillery - a refined menu in a great setting with tables and tastings which can be booked in advance.
Our chef, Andy and his team are excited at the prospect of creating a menu which delivers the famous Ardbeg food in a stunning new environment. We will continue with our successful, island-wide food delivery service for a few weeks. Running the deliveries since last October has been a real team effort and we have appreciated the support locally.
With fond memories of racing around the Old Kiln chasing tables, sauces, toasties and waiting list, we are very much looking forward to opening our doors again and inviting our visits to share our spirit and create new stories for the next chapter in the Ardbeg experience.

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In this week's issue:

40 years at Islay Woollen Mill, Littering in Bowmore, Islay and Jura move to Level 0, Jenni Minto MSP holds talks with Scottish Transport Minister, Sea rescue by Islay Sea Adventures, Jura Music Festival online with Jura Whisky, Dietmar Finger's portrait exhibition, Port Ellen's maths success, Objections to South Islay Development's plans for Port Ellen Playing Fields, Islay medical update, Thought from the Manse, kevin the Flying Pony pays a virtual visit to Roy's Celtic House, Evie's Shop in a Box, IDI's Kilarrow Open Day, INHT's Bushcraft training weekend, This is Islay podcast recruitment, Les Wilson's 'Putting the Tea in Britain' reviewed, My Favourite Bike Ride, Ardbeg's Old Kiln Cafe, Perry Green walks the Burma Road, Donald S Murray interview.

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Shop in a box
phone box

Evie Wood (Primary 4) writes:
Last year during home schooling, we were tasked with coming up with an idea for the Social Enterprise Academy Dragons Den Competition. My idea was to turn the phone box near my home into a shop. Since I was five years old this has been my dream. I got through to the finals and was interviewed by a panel of Dragons on Zoom. I was one of the winners and received £100 seed funding and support from a Dragon to develop my idea. They also helped my class to develop our ideas around social enterprises.
Port Ellen School has adopted the phone box and mum and dad and I have been working really hard to renovate it over the last few months. The phone box needed a lot of work. We took out and cleaned all the glass, removed all the rust, bought new metal window frames and painted it. These things were very expensive, so I had to find a way of raising money to add to the £100 I got from the Social Enterprise Academy.
So, I came up with the idea of making linoprint Christmas cards. I did three designs and mum helped me print them. I sold them for £1 each and raised £295. Ardbeg Distillery bought 150 from me and sent them to all the older people living in south Islay. I got some nice letters thanking me for them.
It has taken a long time, but it has been worth it. We are selling handmade cards and notebooks that we make at home as part of our family's business, Old School Prints. All the profits from these go to Port Ellen Primary School. We are selling merchandise from the school as well as from South Islay Development and the RSPB. It is really important to me to support causes that matter to me and where I live on Islay. We school children are also making things to sell in the shop to raise money. The Shop in the Box is officially open, so take a drive out to visit the biggest shop on the Oa.

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ISLAY & THE COVID-19 VIRUS: IMPORTANT INFORMATION

Last updated Wednesday 2 June 2021

Prepared for the benefit of Islay residents, this downloadable PDF file offers general information along with details of the Islay Volunteer Network and the state of play with regard to local businesses and services. Please check this page regularly.

DOWNLOAD HERE

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Book review
putting the tea in britain - les wilson

Putting the tea in Britain - The Scots Who Made Our National Drink. Les Wilson. Birlinn hardback. 262pp illus. £14.99
Despite the rise and rise of Starbucks, Costa and Caffé Nero on the high streets of Britain, statistics show us still to be a nation of tea drinkers, though admittedly not by much. While Britons drink around 100 million cups of tea every day, coffee is hard on its heels at around 95 million.
But with TV soap operas continuing the trend of making a cup of tea for every home visit or aftermath of an emergency, it's still tea that remains uppermost in the Brirish psyche. (How many hotels and restaurants offer 'Afternoon Coffee'?)
Author, Les Wilson is frequently to be found nursing a cup of tea, while all around engage with cappuccinos, lattes and double-espressos, but even he expressed surprise on discovering that one of those cited as responsible for the introduction of tea to Britain, hailed from these very shores.
"I have had a long love affair with India, and on a visit to this beguiling region I discovered, to my astonishment, that the first person to grow tea in Darjeeling was a Scottish doctor, Archibald Cameron. [..] He came from Islay, the inner Hebridean island that has been my home for many years - yet I had never heard of him."
Les follows this statement of surprise by pointing out that "...an extraordinary proportion..." of those who caused tea to become the favoured drink of half the world, were Scots.
And lest the fairer sex feel left out of the equation, it is of note that Glasgow's once fashionable tearooms, providing gathering places for "...unaccompanied ladies..." originated at the behest of Catherine Cranston.
However, though India may have become the major player in international tea sales, the drink's origins lie further east in China. "To eighteenth century Brits, tea meant China tea."
Thus began the opium trade, for China was not impressed with trading manufactured goods, and though the Chinese government held an abhorrence of opium, their population craved it.
The centre for opium poppy cultivation lay in Bengal, in north-east India, enabling the "...world's first multinational...", the East India Company, to produce the opium that they could trade for tea. (The Ghazipur opium factory, built in 1820, is still the world's largest today.)

However, continued intransigence and difficulties with the Chinese led to schemes and strategies to purloin a number of tea plants and transport them to India, where botanists had convinced the East India Company they would thrive.
Berwickshire born, Robert Fortune, who worked at Edinburgh's botanical gardens and then at the Royal Horticultural Society in London, landed the task of 'acquiring' quality tea plants from regions barred to westerners. This he achieved dressed in a Chinese costume and a "...splendid wig and tail..."
Fortune's specimens were carefully packed and sent to Calcutta, "...where they arrived in excellent condition."
However, tea seeds don't survive well when removed from the soil. As the author relates, while in Darjeeling, "...I collected a pocketful of tea seeds, in the belief that a tea bush would be an interesting talking point in our Islay allotment. Not a single one germinated."
History records that tea eventually flourished in the northern regions of India, mostly at the behest of the Scots alluded to on the book's cover: Robert and Charles Bruce who discovered that wild tea would grow in Assam, Angus born Robert Kyd, who founded Calcutta's botanic garden, Thomas Lipton who brought affordable tea to Britain, and James Taylor of Kincardineshire who eventually brought tea to Ceylon.
To come full circle, the final chapter, entitled 'Home For Tea', explores the small, cottage tea industry that has sprung up in Scotland. "There may ultimately be parts of Scotland that become known for their tea production in the same way that good whisky and wine can be regional."
Les Wilson is an excellent writer, creating an intriguing and compulsive narrative from remarkably thorough and wide-ranging research. This may all be history, encapsulated in the cup of tea sat on the breakfast table, but it's a history of which few of us are aware, and a history that often reads like a novel of buckled swashes and dos that have been derringed
. And as a particularly nice touch, the book is dedicated to former Ileach editor, the late Carl Reavey.
Even if, like me, you're a coffee drinker, 'Putting the Tea in Britain' is a highly desirable purchase.

bp

Les Wilson's 'Putting the tea in Britain' is available from Roy's Celtic House, Shore Street, Bowmore.

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This is Islay
this is islay podcast

A new monthly podcast featuring individuals, personalities and features of Islay and Jura. Listen now at https://anchor.fm/thisisislay

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Still here

The Ileach, now in its 48th year, has weathered more than just a few economic downturns in its time, local, national and global. However, the current situation is unprecedented in our lifetimes.
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NEXT ISSUE ON SALE, Saturday 19 June 2021

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