Dear readers and tea lovers everywhere,
Welcome to a regular feature of our blog,
‘Afternoon tea with ….
people of note’
Today, we’re taking afternoon tea with Jill Fisher, lemonade purveyor to royalty. Mother of four, triathlete, Ironman competitor and keeper of the family’s prized lemonade recipe, Jill’s family story is truly a message in a bottle.
Using a lemonade recipe passed down through generations, Jill has captured the essence of family, tradition and breezy summers days with her refreshingly natural elixir: Lighthouse Lemonade.
Jill hails from New Brunswick, on Canada’s east coast; this means she grew up surrounded by water and lighthouses were a common feature of the craggy coastline.
Her Ladyship (that would be me!) is pleased to sip an iced tea with a zing of Lighthouse Lemonade. This is not Her Ladyship’s traditional afternoon tea, but given we’re finally enjoying the lazy, hazy days of summer, she’s relaxing a bit.
What’s the story behind your lemonade?
The exact origin is lost in the mists of our Maritime ancestry. But I know it was a cherished drink of my great-grandmother, a spirited sea captain’s daughter named after one of his favorite ships. My great-grandmother, Vessie, often used her shipping trade connections to ensure a steady supply of lemons during the late 1800’s.
Wow, that’s going back a century or two!
Yes, indeed; over the centuries, gallons upon gallons of this lemonade were brewed and consumed at the summer cottages at Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick. It was the perfect refreshment for generations on both sides of my family.
Have the ingredients for the lemonade changed over time?
I make Lighthouse Lemonade with the simplest of ingredients and follow the original recipe that made visits with Vessie such a hit. It’s made with water, lemon juice and lemon zest. I add citric and tartaric acids – both occurring naturally in certain fruits.
There’s a connection to royalty – what is it?
Rideau Hall in Ottawa, the official residence of the Governor General, ordered Lighthouse Lemonade to serve at the royal reception for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, a.k.a. William and Kate, on their official visit to Canada in 2011.
How did Lighthouse Lemonade arrive at Rideau Hall?
Ahhh – long and interesting story of a light bulb moment and perseverance! A couple of years ago, I was watching the Canada Day celebrations from Parliament Hill on TV – and as it was July 1, you can imagine the heat. That was the light bulb moment. What could be more fitting on Canada Day than a traditional Canadian lemonade? I set my sights on Rideau Hall and started to work my network fast and furiously. After eons of emails, phone calls, the kitchen at Rideau Hall ordered a couple of bottles to sample. I almost missed the follow-up order as I was running and did not bring my Blackberry with me!
Why did you call your lemonade Lighthouse Lemonade?
I was wracking my brain for a name and my daughter Naomi – 11 at the time – got the idea as we were crossing the causeway by car for our annual family pilgrimage to New Brunswick. An old lighthouse stood at the end of the causeway. She had an epiphany only 11 year olds can have and declared the company and the lemonade should be Lighthouse Lemonade. I ran with that name! I’ve adopted the Cape Jourimain lighthouse, so central to my Maritime family, as our corporate logo.
Cape Jourimain Lighthouse
Where in New Brunswick did you grow up?
In Sackville and my roots run deep in New Brunswick. I am a direct descendant of Charles Fisher who brought responsible government to New Brunswick and a Father of Confederation. He attended the Quebec and London Conferences that produced the British North American Act in 1867, when Canada graduated from colony to country.
So now you live in Ontario?
Yes I came to study at the University of Waterloo and now I live near Guelph.
How often do you visit New Brunswick?
I visit New Brunswick every summer.
You are a graduate of the famed Stratford Chefs School; why did you enrol?
I had been working in food-related businesses since I graduated from Waterloo; I just decided one day it was time to move forward.
You are an accomplished triathlete; how did this come about?
I was always involved in competitive sports; and after four children, wanted to reclaim my body and my independence. 12 years ago for some unknown reason, the local triathlon re-routed the bike route by our house. It was a turning point for me. I started to train and kept training and started to compete. I love the positive attitude in this sport. Can’t wait to start next triathlon.
What is you go to method to cheer yourself up?
It’s always exercise of some sort – bike, running in the woods, cross country skiing.
What skill would you like to learn?
I would like to have a mechanic’s skill & knowledge – to fix cars, machines and should take that sort of course.
What never fails to make you laugh?
It’s a comedy show from Quebec called Just for Laughs – I think the skits are absolutely hilarious.
How do you make the life of a successful entrepreneur less stressful?
Exercise a lot, get good early sleep and eat well.
What is your favourite work of art?
Horse and Train by the late Alex Colville. My parents knew him personally and I know the stretch of track that’s represented in the painting.
Horse and Train by Canadian painter Alex Colville
Toronto Symphony or Tegan and Sara?
Niether. Tafelmusik, the Toronto-based Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir. I go to hear this orchestra as often as I can.
How do you celebrate big moments?
Going off to a quiet spot.
What is your idea of an ideal summer day?
Walking on the red rippled sandbars at Cape Tormentine, NB, and enjoying a gin and tonic with Lighthouse Lemonade in it!
What fictional character would you like to meet?
What is your fondest childhood memory?
I have many; but one was getting out of bed as a three year old and sneaking into kitchen and watching my father shuck oysters; instead of sending me back to bed, my father showed me how to shuck oysters.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Anything with food! But especially crème au sucre, a dessert with whipping cream and brown sugar!
What is the best surprise you’ve ever had?
I keep having them.
What is your favourite Canadian city?
Which contemporary celebrity do you admire?
Don’t pay attention to celebrities.
What is your favourite virtue?
Generosity of spirit.
How do you describe your personality?
Driven, energetic, great sense of humour!
What do you appreciate the most in your friends?
Generosity of spirit.
What is your main fault?
Trying to do too much.
What is your idea of happiness?
Being able to accept myself: the good and the bad.
What do you bring on a long flight to make yourself comfortable?
Books; and a notepad.
When you take a vacation, do you focus on luxury, adventure or relaxation?
What is the most amazing thing you have ever done?
Completing my second Ironman.
What is your favourite daily ritual?
Getting into bed at night.
What is the best advice you would give your younger self?
Put in the hard work early to reap benefits later.
How do you indulge your inner kid?
Playing in the water.
And since we’re celebrating Canada Day next week, what is the best part of being Canadian?
Being well-thought of on the world stage; I can go to any country as a friend.