These Three Americans Are Making Cider — the French Way — in Texas

Patrick Kwiatkowski, a founder of City Orchard. (Credit: City Orchard)

With the opening of City Orchard, cider is breaking out in Houston, Texas. The three American founders of this establishment, Patrick Kwiatkowski, Mathew Smith and Clay Watson, plan to take the local market by storm and give themselves two years to convince the public they’re worth it.

The relaxing of state laws and the popularity of craft beer are at the root of this new trend, according to the three partners. Smith, originally from New York State where he grew up in the shade of apple trees in the family’s orchards, dreamed of taking his expertise to the southern United States, as did Kwiatkowski, a native of Michigan. “We met by a happy coincidence and at that moment we decided to share our projects, our passions and our goals. The result was the creation of this company where everyone has a role,” explains this former chemical engineer who lived in France for several years, specifically in Normandy where he learned all the techniques for making cidre (which is an alcoholic cider).

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“The apples we use to make our ciders come from the Great Lakes region, mainly from the Smith family farm. We use no less than 38 different kinds of apples, including European ones such as the French Noel des Champs, Vilberie and Médaille d’or, or the English Yarlington Mill, Brown Snout, and Chisel Jersey among others. Currently, City Orchard produces 21,000 liters per quarter. We cross cultures strategically to obtain the best possible cider. The quality of the fruit is very important to achieve different variables. At the moment we have four types of brut, semi-dry, and dry ciders. Our goal is to reach a dozen in casks within a few months and to establish ours [on the market]. We are also working to enhance the taste by blending the cider with other fruits such as plums, grape skins and honey,” explains Kwiatkowski.

City Orchard’s tasting room. Photo via City Orchard Facebook page

The team works at a 1,000-square-meter location, half of which is devoted to production while the rest has been converted into a tasting room that will enable them to establish their brand. “Our cider is available in three products: the Apple Tree series, the Cider Fresca series and the Orchard Blend series. We also offer several artisanal beers made by Clay Watson, the third partner, a Texan and brewer in his state,” he explains. Eventually, their goal is to sell their cans to supermarket chains (HEB, Kroger, Central Market), restaurants (they already sell to already about twenty), and specialty stores.

“We are already present in the bars at Whole Food Markets and we plan to establish ourselves in Dallas and San Antonio as early as next year,” he assures in perfect French. The strategy of the three partners is to expand into other southern states such as Mississippi, Alabama, or Louisiana from their distribution center in Houston. Kwiatkowski wanted to show his respect for France by reproducing the maze of Bayeux Cathedral, located in Calvados, the mythical orchard region of France, in the gardens of the cider factory. “I wanted to make the connection with Normandy, the land of savoir-faire and the largest cider-producing region in the world. We are even considering a collaboration with a Normandy partner,” he says. For him, cider is an old product getting a new lease of life.

City Orchard, 1201 Oliver St. Unit 108, Houston TX 77007