The Great Torontoist Challenge: Hot Apple Cider Edition
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The Great Torontoist Challenge: Hot Apple Cider Edition

Photo by Simon Chambers from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.
For a change of pace, Torontoist decided to do a liquid-based challenge for this edition. Being fall, and since we enjoy being contextually appropriate, we decided to head down to Cider Town for some of the good old brown and tangy. We stuck with the non-alcoholic version, and tried to test out both some of the “home-made” and the café procured varieties. We have to admit, though, that we never did make it to Mt. Swartzwelder.

The Contestants

  • PC Sweet Apple Cider. With their massive catalogue of foodstuffs, it was inevitable that PC would show up in another challenge. Their Sweet Apple Cider comes in 3 litre jugs and can be heated on the stove. It is touted as being “freshly pressed” and kosher. Multi-tasky.
  • Timothy’s Mulled Apple Cider. Timothy’s originated as a Western student’s business-school project and has been trucking along ever since. They’ve even expanded to South Korea, which we’re sure is some kind of applaudable feat.
  • Second Cup Hot Apple Cider. Second Cup is Canada’s largest specialty coffee franchisor with more than 360 locations across the country. That’s almost one for every day of the year!
  • Mott’s Hot Spiced Cider. Mott’s Hot Spiced Cider comes in individual powder packets in a variety of flavours, including Granny Smith (which we sampled), Hot Apple Pie and Original. Mott’s was founded in 1842 by Mr. Mott and has been specializing in apple based products ever since. They also, it should be noted, make a particular clam-based concoction that Torontoist has often found helpful when mixed with vodka.


The Criteria

  • Smell. Aroma of cinnamon? Apply-goodness? Natural smell?
  • Visuals. Does it look like cider? Or is it Neo Citran looking? Is it clear or scummy?
  • Texture/Mouth Feel. Cider should be cloudy, but not gritty, granular or with strange bits.
  • Flavour. Does it taste real? Good spice? Too sweet? Not sweet enough? Tartness?

Additional Criteria

We’ve listed these in order of cost regardless of weight as one of the contestants did not have a weight listed on the box. You can do the math!
Godiva ($34.99 for 283 g.); Chocolate Concepts ($16.99 for 12 pieces—package did not list weight); Laura Secord ($14.10 for 200 g.); Le Chocolat ($9.99 for 150 g.); Pot of Gold ($6.99 for 410 g.).


Maybe we shouldn’t have had the PC first. Maybe it just rules. For the second time in Great Torontoist Challenge history, President’s Choice has obliterated the competition.

  • Smell. PC—18.5/20. With a palpable appley smell, one judge described the bouquet of this cider as hay-ridish; when you smell it, you’ll know she means it in a good way.
  • Visuals. PC—14.5/20. A bit orange and with definite scummage that, while the judges generally agreed was expected from authentic cider, was off-putting to some.
  • Texture/Mouth Feel. PC—17/20. PC’s cider is real. It is made from pressed apples and due to that has some bits and, as previously mentioned, some scummage. But it felt the way cider should feel and that works for us.
  • Flavour. PC—16.5/20. This cider (below left) was appley with a nice level of natural sweetness.

Photos of our contestants by Julie Reitsma.


Mott’s claims on their website to be responsible for bringing “families the highest quality apple products for more than 150 years.” Torontoist is raising their hand and their eyebrows in Mott’s general direction. Their Hot Spiced Cider (pictured above right) failed this challenge miserably and was as un-apple and un-high quality as we could find. The initial reactions were that it smelled like Jolly Ranchers and cinnamon gum. Upon tasting this bright yellow mixture, the panel produced a cough, as well as multiple declarations of how it tasted like heated up Crystal Light and was granular in texture. Blech.
Our next failing contestant was Timothy’s, which, we’d also like to note, seems to be the most expensive cider on offer in this challenge. The smell can only be described as “some kind of baby food” and while the colour wasn’t as disconcerting as Mott’s, it was still very clear and tea-like in appearance. With unrecognizable floaty bits that we assume were added to create the illusion of authenticity, this cider tasted almost oxidized or fermented. The best one judge could say about it was that if it wasn’t supposed to be cider, she might consider drinking it.
The runner up in our cider challenge was Second Cup. This contestant smelled enticing and looked just about right, though it was a bit on the clear side. Second Cup was also a reasonable price, and we’d like to add that the kind barristas offered Torontoist a cinnamon stick as an accoutrement, which we think is delightful. This cider is made with a powder, but managed to stay on the smooth side, though it should be noted that a few judges noted a perplexing dry-mouth sensation post-sippage. On a whole this is a yummy winter-time bevarine, perhaps not as cider-centric as it could be, as the cinnamon was a tad strong, but still one that Torontoist would gladly have again.
Torontoist is relatively certain that President’s Choice Sweet Apple Cider was the only real one we tried. It is a decidedly high quality product that is well priced and quite tasty. Though it is a “straight-up” cider, with no added spice or sugar to it, you can easily add extra flavourings to make it your own signature style. Buyer beware, if you don’t want the real deal due to some sort of spastic cider-scum aversion, then get yourself some at Second Cup. But if you’re down for the bona fide goods, then you just can’t go wrong with PC. Now let’s all get on our tractor and pick us some apples or something.