One ancient mill rises as Britain bakes at home

Michelle K. Wallace

TETBURY, England (Reuters) – Shipton Mill, which was milling flour when the Normans conquered England nearly a thousand years ago, has seen a rare boon from the novel coronavirus outbreak: soaring demand for their organic flour from a new generation of locked-down home bakers.

Nestled at the end of a lane among woods on a tributary of the River Avon, Shipton Mill offers dozens of ancient flours – some still stoneground and some from ancient English wheat varieties – to baking beginners and the professionals.

Such is the spike in demand from home bakers that Joe Lister, head of purchasing and sales at the mill, said he has had trouble keeping up, even though some sales to traditional bakeries have fallen off due to lockdown closures.

“The rise in demand in home baking is so big that we can’t keep up,” said Lister, whose father bought the mill in 1981 to restore. “We have never seen a demand spike like this before – very, very focused on home baking and so intense.”

The art of bread making, which has graced human rituals since the dawn of humanity, has seen a curious renaissance as billions around the world grapple with the solitude of seeing out the coronavirus pestilence.

Novice bakers, especially in the time-challenged cultures of London and New York, now have hours for the mixing, kneading and multiple rises. Some say it soothes. Others enjoy breaking the bread with lovers, family, or even, on the sly, with neighbours.

In Britain, flour and yeast sold out within days of the start of the outbreak, partly due to packaging shortages.

Reporting by Dylan Martinez and Will Russell; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Michael Holden

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