How We Make Our Juice
The fertile hills and valleys and excellent growing climates of Washington State make it the largest and most renowned apple-growing area in the United States. About half of the apples Tree Top receives from its grower owners in the Pacific Northwest are destined for world famous Tree Top brand juice beverages.
During apple harvest each year, Tree Top’s juice production is at its peak as we receive fresh fruit at our strategically located facilities from more than 1,000 growers and their warehouses in the region. From mid-September through December we operate around the clock to bottle as much pure juice and concentrate as possible.
Controlled atmosphere storage is used to maintain the freshness of apples too abundant for our growers to get to the fresh market, such as your grocery store, or to Tree Top for processing during harvest. Controlled atmospheres virtually put the apples in a suspended state of freshness by “putting them to sleep” with reduced temperatures and controlled oxygen levels until they are ready for delivery or use at a later date. The ability to receive fresh fruit year around allows us to maintain enough juice production throughout the year to meet customer demand.
During juice production, special trucks capable of hauling stacked apple bins arrive continually to our weigh-in and inspection stations where every bin is reviewed by a quality control expert and accounted for. Qualified bin loads are then sent to our juicing plant where they are unloaded for sorting and several rounds of cleaning before the juice making begins.
In fact, fifty tons of apples every hour are washed in a huge rotary drum. The four-stage wash includes banks of high-pressure nozzles that help make the fruit squeaky clean. A conveyor moves the fruit to the disintegrator, which is much like a large and powerful blender. Here the apples are broken into small pieces under the force of whirling, half-inch-thick blades. Reduced to bite-sized fragments, the apples are then conveyed by auger and pump to the decanter.
The decanter is where juice is separated from solids. Here a powerful centrifuge spins the pieces at a dizzying 4,000 revolutions per minute, generating a force 4,000 times greater than gravity. As the juice is separated, the solids are extracted from the decanter in a multistage process. After additional processing, the remaining fruit solids are sold for a variety of uses, including food ingredients for human consumption and feed for cattle. There is virtually no waste from Tree Top's processing system.
The Juice is clarified in a second centrifuge, this one turning at 6,500 RPM and 5,000 Gs. Suspended solids remaining in the juice are removed through microfiltration as the fluid is pumped through a series of ceramic membranes. Juice clarification is a multi-stage process. During each of many steps, suspended solids are extracted until what remains is pure, cloudless, amber-colored juice.
At this stage we either pasteurize and bottle our delicious “Not From Concentrate” juice or we make the product into concentrate which can be blended at a later date to demanding Tree Top Standards. Concentrate is produced in an evaporator where steam heat and a vacuum remove much of the water. The result is seven times the strength of original juice. The essence, or flavor of the juice is distilled in a separator, the liquid vaporized, then recondensed as a clear fluid which is used later when we make our “From Concentrate” apple juice. A single gallon of essence provides flavor for 150 gallons of single strength apple juice.
The blending process to make From Concentrate apple juice is very precise and tightly controlled. Computers monitor flows and measure concentrate volume by weight. These steps are critical in assuring that the great taste of Tree Top never varies from container to container. In the blender, a sweep agitator reunites the basic components of apple juice: concentrate, essence, and water.
Exacting quality control standards assure batch-to-batch consistency within 1 percent. Sugar-to-acids ratios, color, and pH are measured objectively. Human tasters also play a key role in assuring Tree Top quality. Every batch of Tree Top apple juice is sampled by a trained taster before it goes in a bottle. Product purity and shelf stabilization are assured by sterilizing and pasteurizing at 180 degrees. Consumer safety is assured through tamper-evident closures.
Finished product is shipped from Tree Top production facilities to retailers, brokers, and distributors in 30 states and selected international markets.