Celebrating the history of Cheshire’s Mornflake company
PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 January 2020
Millions now start the day with porridge oats – and some of the very best come from this county. If you’re not a convert yet, then you’re definitely going against the grain
Who would have thought a bowl of hot porridge could be so cool? This 21st century phenomenon has been causing a stir from pop-up stalls to established High Street coffee giants.
It may once have been the favourite food of men in kilts and maiden aunts but now, it seems, we all want our oats. It's wonderful news for Cheshire's Mornflake company. For generations, they've been sending smart folk off to work with the sort of healthy glow you normally only get from a 15 tog anorak.
But oats aren't just a winter warmer - Mornflake is busy year-round because of the versatility of its product, according to director James Lea.
His ancestor William Lea set the mill rolling in the village of Swettenham in 1675. That makes it the fourth oldest family business in Britain and the oldest in Cheshire.
'We moved to our Crewe mill when my grandfather, Philip Lea, was called back from the RAF in World War II due to his reserved occupation to mill cereals,' he says. 'We were feeding the nation and we are extremely proud to be from Cheshire.'
Everything they make is milled and crafted on site. 'We also work closely with our farmers to help them grow the finest quality oats, selecting the best seed to suit their land,' he adds. 'Provenance has become a huge food trend, but we've been at it for generations.'
There is a lot more to Mornflake than porridge. 'That is really just the start,' said James. 'There are well over 240 ways to mill an oat and the different variations can make many things beyond porridge oats.'
These include whole-rolled or jumbo oats that work a treat in flapjacks and the Mornflake range of muesli and granola. Stone-ground oatmeal - a more traditional variation - is often used in baking and it is very popular in the Scottish Highlands. Coarse oatmeal has a rice-like texture making it a delicious alternative for risotto.
Nutritionists say oats are a fibre-rich wholegrain cereal with the benefit of beta glucans which have been shown to help reduce cholesterol, and it's not just the British who appreciate them. Mornflake sells to more than 60 countries.
You might think today's Millennials are too busy on social media to be bothered with anything more distracting than a sugary breakfast bar, but you'd be wrong. 'Oats are very much on trend with many foodies, and health-conscious consumers use them as a delicious canvas for their customised breakfast bowls,' says James. 'You can now find porridge cafes and pop-ups across major cities with everything from sweet porridges to savoury congee dishes.'
So how does James enjoy them? 'We tend to keep it really simple here. We mill our oats extra fine to make a creamier texture so it tastes great made with water and a pinch of salt.'