Say hello to Ben Leszcz and Mike Mills, the incredible duo behind Royal Canadian Mead! This refreshingly delicious drink is not not only the world’s oldest alcoholic beverage, but also the greenest! It is made from a base of fermented honey and has an extremely low carbon footprint. This mead drinks more like a craft beer or cider, but without the gluten or sugar you might expect! Plus, RCM uses honey from outside Prince Edward County, and all sorts of seasonal Ontario produce.
Fresh City: Congratulations on RCM! Can we assume that running a mead company is the realization of a lifelong dream?
Royal Canadian Mead: Thank you. It is not; in truth, for a long time, mead was hardly on the radar for us. We’re old friends, who—after leaving our roles as partners at design/communications companies—looked seriously at getting into the cider business. Then we discovered mead: An incredibly simple drink that ticked all the boxes of the things we love about natural, produce-driven food and drink, but that no one was talking about. It struck us as an incredibly exciting opportunity to re-introduce people to something that’s 9,000 years old.
FCF: Mead is definitely an older beverage, we associate it with vikings and hobbits!
RCM: You’re not wrong. Mead actually spans history and geography, stretching from China (where that 9,000-year-old evidence was found) to Egypt to Greece, where it was known as “the nectar of the gods.” In Ethiopia, it’s called tej, and it’s the national drink. Mead’s probably about as old as bees, discovered when someone left out some honey to collect rainwater; the wild yeast in the air would’ve kickstarted the fermentation.
FCF: So how and why did mead go from global fame to obscurity?
RCM: The growth of agriculture—growing grapes, barley and more—made wine and beer widely accessible. Wine and beer are very delicious. Today, if you find mead—and it’s rare—it’s probably more like a honey wine, at 10-12 percent ABV. It might be very sweet, almost like an ice wine. With RCM, we’re doing something that we think suits the modern palate: It’s crisp, dry, bright and sessionable. Hence the description: session mead. With an ABV ranging from 3.5 percent to 5.5 percent, depending on the product, we think our mead drinks more like a radler, or a cider.
FCF: Are those who enjoy a radler and/or a cider your core audience, then?
RCM: We think that anyone who cares about the ecological impact of what they eat and drink—and who likes the idea of bright, bubbly drinks made with fresh-pressed juice—will love our product. So we understand that customers might try RCM because it’s gluten-free, and low-calorie, and low-sugar, and low-footprint, but we believe that they’ll keep drinking RCM because it’s incredibly delicious.
FCF: We love that your drinks are eco-friendly! Is there a reason why don’t you use organic honey?
RCM: Organic honey is a funny one, as it reflects not only the operations of the apiary itself, but also, vast swathes of land around it, where the bees pollinate. All it takes is one conventional farm a few kilometres away to undermine organic status. Besides, we have a holistic view of sustainability that touches all aspects of the supply chain, from the way workers are treated to biodegradable packaging and beyond. We source our honey from a lovely, third-generation family farm, the Hogan Family Farm, outside of Prince Edward County, Ontario, and we try to source seasonal, organic Ontario produce for our fresh-pressed juice whenever possible.
FCF: Your line of flavours are delicious, what flavours are you considering for the future?
RCM: Our goal is to use as much Ontario produce as possible, so these days, every trip to the farmers market is research. Rhubarb! Strawberries! Raspberries! Basil! Mint! We are inspired by the bounty. And we’d also love to hear what our customers want—they’re the ones drinking it, after all!
Follow Royal Canadian Mead on Instagram, and shop their products in store and online at our Bottle Shop.