Over the last few years, Birchwater has seen a significant rise in popularity in the UK and across the Northern Hemisphere. Once a widespread tradition in the Scottish Highlands, the practice of tapping Birch trees and using the sap as a pure and revitalising drink had long been forgotten but its recent revival has led to Birchwater firmly establishing itself in the UK market as a delicious, nutrient-rich, detoxifying drink that cleanses the liver, soothes arthritic pain, rejuvenates skin and balances cholesterol.
Until recently, however, Birchwater had never been produced in the UK, and was imported from Finland, Latvia, Ukraine and Belarus. That was until Perthshire-based husband and wife team Rob and Gabrielle, using their combined expertise as forester and healer, revived the folk knowledge surrounding the use of birch trees that was once widespread in the Highlands.
Their knowledge of trees and their healing properties, plus their desire to share the health benefits of Birchwater more widely in the UK, resulted in the Birken Tree company, the first and only home-grown producer of Birchwater in UK, which they set up in 2018 in the foothills of the Perthshire Highlands.
Birchwater can only be extracted or ‘tapped’ from Birch trees during one very short three-week period in March.
“The tapping period is a crucial time for us as it’s such a short window of opportunity and it’s also extremely weather dependant,” said Rob.
“In early Spring when the temperature rises, the Birch trees fill with hundreds of litres of sap that filters up through the tree to provide nutrients for the new leaves. To collect the Birchwater, we carefully insert a hole and a tap into the tree, enabling the sap to immediately flow out into closed bags.”
“We also use the leaves from the trees to make a purifying tea for anti-inflammatory purposes and urinary tract healing. A rare fungus growing on Birch trees can be used for treating skin conditions, and much research has shown it has anti-tumorous properties.”
This unique and highly newsworthy tapping process achieved significant media coverage in March when Birken Tree held a press event for journalists to come and view the ancient process. Coverage spanned across TV, radio, press and magazines and included Landward, STV News at Six, BBC Radio Scotland, The Herald, The Courier, The Scottish Farmer, Scottish Field, Flybe Magazine, Capital Magazine, and Bite Magazine.
Birken Tree already has some exciting new brand plans for the future. These include a sparkling version of its Birch sap, along with two flavour variants: a Wild Cranberry and Blaeberry base and a Meadowsweet base.
Underlying these future plans, sustainability lies very much at the heart of the Birken Tree business.
In Scotland, there are over 91,000 hectares of Birch woodland, and they are among the oldest species of tree still living. Birken Tree only uses wild Birch trees, not plantations and they aim to carefully protect their Scottish Birch woodland to ensure that future generations of these trees will last for centuries to come.