We’ve been growing, harvesting and distilling our very own Black Mitcham peppermint for almost three decades, all from our family farm in the Hampshire countryside.
Thanks to the slow, sustainable way we farm, Summerdown Mint has a pure, invigorating taste and aroma – unlike anything you’ll have tried before. Wander through our fields on a summer’s day and you’ll be struck by its crisp intensity, its ability to cut through the distractions and ground you in the right-now.
We transform this vibrant plant into an astonishingly aromatic, barrel-aged peppermint oil, which plays the starring role in all our award-winning chocolates, teas, candles, diffusers… and everything in between. It’s a unique, revitalising range designed to slow you right down and brighten up the everyday.
The Summerdown story and how Black Mitcham came home
As a family, the Colmans have always been inspired by robust, piercing flavours. For years it was mustard, but 25 years ago they turned their tastes to mint.
Back in 1995, Sir Michael Colman travelled to America in search of Black Mitcham peppermint – a notoriously tricky herb to grow and one which had, 100 years before, been native to England.
Struck by the overwhelmingly intense, nostalgic flavour of this peppermint, Sir Michael decided he’d take a few cuttings back home, and have a go at cultivating them with the help of his farm manager, Ian. After a lot of research, advice and a good bit of patience, they started by planting a plot the size of a tennis court. And, over time, those peppermint plants slowly started to establish themselves in the soil at Summerdown.
Skip forward a few decades to today and we now grow over 100 acres of English peppermint, transforming it into the world’s purest peppermint oil, which we use in everything we make. We also sell this oil directly to our favourite makers, so that they can use it in their collections, too. We’ve become ‘the peppermint people’.
What’s more, every single one of our peppermint plants is related to those original cuttings taken by Sir Michael, and has fully acclimatised to our environment. That’s why the flavour and aroma you get from Summerdown Mint is so refined – and completely unique.
Summerdown and sustainability
Whilst the conversation around sustainability and words associated with it may be relatively new, sustainability has always been a way of life at Summerdown.
We believe in farming for the future, so we’re always thinking about our impact on the environment and how we can maintain a thriving, sustainable ecosystem. Biodiversity is crucial to everything we do at Summerdown and is championed by our peppermint. The team shares a holistic approach to the farm – we view every area of the farm as connected. The health of our peppermint, for example, is dependent on hedgerows and the wildlife found within them.
We are a certified B-Corp, work with wildlife conservation charity Plantlife, are a Countryside Stewardship farm and are involved in research initiatives such as the Woodgarston project with South East Water and Natural England.
Our Master of Mint, Ian, has turned Summerdown into a peppermint playground for wildlife, insects and flowers. We have beehives in our mint fields, barn owls in farm buildings and every year we plant special feed crops for birds and sow wildflower seeds, encouraging new creatures to make themselves at home around the edges of our fields and woodlands. Because of all our sustainable practises, as a farm we are carbon neutral.
Keeping Summerdown’s soil as healthy as possible is a real priority for us. We need to make sure it remains as nutrient-rich as it was the day we started farming – after all, that’s the soil our peppermint originally fell for. And you can only grow the finest peppermint in the purest, most carefully nurtured soil.
The underlying aim of our business is to be regenerative, that is to say, we strive to make business decisions that actively engage the restoration of the environment and reduce our negative impact on it.
You can read more here about how we look after life on land.
A B-Corp is a business that has a certification to show that it is measuring its environmental and social impact. The certification process looks at the whole picture – from supply chain, to input materials, to charitable giving and employee benefits. We are over the moon to have been accredited and are one of only a few of farms in the UK with this status. We are also are part of the UK BCorp working group on Regenerative Agriculture. We believe that business can be a force for good, that is to say we believe we can bring Great Taste award-winning peppermint chocolates to consumers whilst looking after the planet and people too.
The majority of our chocolate is sourced through the Cocoa Horizons project, a not for profit impact driven programme with the vision to drive cocoa farmer prosperity by creating self-sustaining communities that protect nature and children. We believe this is even better than buying Fairtrade.
Their initiatives focus on three key areas:
- Productivity and helping farmers prosper
- The environment: no deforestation and becoming carbon positive
- The community: zero child labour
Below are some of the ways the Cocoa Horizons project is helping cocoa farming communities:
- Increasing awareness in communities via training, education and support
- Increasing carbon sequestration by planting cocoa and non-cocoa trees
- Reducing carbon emissions by promoting green energy devices such as cook stoves and solar home systems
- Stepping up traceability efforts to farm boundaries, thus ensuring new farmers are coming from no deforested areas and that existing farmers are from no protected areas
Their aim is that by 2025 they will have a 100% sustainable supply chain.
The single original Colombian cocoa in our new bars is sourced from a cocoa manufacturer in Colombia focusing on sustainable development for the cocoa territories in Colombia. They are driven by a passion to transform people’s lives and livelihoods for the better and every step of production is lovingly cared for, expertly crafted and carried out with the farmers, their communities and the environment in mind.
Where possible, we are moving towards removing carbon-based plastic from our range. Our pyramid peppermint tea was our first product to be 100% plastic free, using Natureflex, a biodegradable cellulose product derived from wood pulp, sourced exclusively from responsibly-managed plantations, instead of plastic to wrap the bags inside the recyclable cardboard box. Natureflex is suitable for both home and industrial composting.
Our teabags are made from ‘Tearoad Soilon’ which is polylactic acid (the base material of which is plant starch). Our chocolate bars are also 100% plastic free and come in fully compostable packaging.
Last year, we made a commitment, that any new product we launch, will be 100% virgin plastic free.
In the instances where, at present, it isn’t economically viable to totally remove carbon-based plastic from our chocolates range, we are moving towards using 100% recycled plastic products – we currently use 50% content recycled products. We have moved to using clear recycled plastic trays to overcome local council recycling restrictions and to ensure universal recyclability. Our aim is to help build towards a fully closed loop environment.
Until we can replace existing product packaging with plastic free alternatives, we’ve also looked at ways in which we can take steps towards offsetting our plastic. We are now certified plastic neutral – working with RePurpose Global, we’re removing as much plastic waste from the environment as we put into it by supporting a low value plastic recovery project in India.
Countryside Stewardship supports Defra’s Strategic Objective of ‘a cleaner, healthier environment, benefiting people and the economy’. It also supports Defra’s 25 year environment plan ‘for our country to be the healthiest, most beautiful place in the world to live, work and bring up a family’.
It’s for land that requires more complex management tailored to the individual site. The main priorities are to protect and enhance the natural environment, in particular biodiversity (the diversity of wildlife) and water quality.
This is a long-term project being run by South East Water in collaboration with Natural England and farmers operating within the Woodgarston catchment area. Its main goals are:
- To reduce nitrogen getting into the water system
- Help farmers capture nitrogen in the soil
- Create a best practice model to be shared around the country
- Increase collaboration between farms