“You’d be amazed at how many little kids love blue cheese.” S I M O N L A M B , C R A N K Y G OAT
The reactions of customers at the market who taste the cheese motivate and inspire our cheesemakers. Says Alan from Kervella: “The biggest reward is when a local tells me they haven’t tasted anything like this (Temptation, a blue cheese) since they were last in Italy, or when a tourist says our cheese reminds them of home.” Simon from Cranky Goat particularly relishes the response of young children. “The three- and four-year-olds try everything. You’d be amazed at how many little kids love blue cheese. We will have a great conversation about what we are tasting. That is the key because they are then able to articulate what they like and then decide which flavour they would like more of.” Dave from Thorvald has noticed that his customers are demanding a lot more from the cheeses in terms of flavour. “New Zealand never developed quite the same cheese culture as Europe, so when supermarkets came along it became more about convenience rather than flavour and experience. But now, our customers are beginning to realise that although the one-kilogram block of colby and
Above: Clockwise - Cheese tasting with Viavio at the Nelson Market; happy, healthy cows in Golden Bay
the industrially made hockey pucks that you buy at the supermarket have their place, there is much more to cheese than that.” Simon explains that New Zealand cheese was originally made into rectangular blocks for good reason. “In the late 1800s/early 1900s New Zealand cheese companies were sending blocks of cheese to Europe on boats in wooden boxes because the blocks took up less room than round wheels.” Dave adds: “New Zealand cheese won an award in Britain in 1908 – most likely because the cheese had a three-month boat journey, allowing it to mature in exactly the way it needed to. There is a saying in cheese, that age doesn’t matter – unless you are a cheese. Often there is no such thing as a bad cheese; it’s either ready or not ready.”
Customers care about provenance
The way we think about and buy food locally is being transformed, Simon notes. “There has been a huge change in our customers’ palates in the past five years – they are becoming more discerning. Also, people are starting to question where their food comes from. What’s the provenance? What’s the sustainability of how that food is produced? What goes into it?” Flavia agrees: “We have noticed that New Zealanders are becoming more aware and concerned about the ingredients and additives contained in their food, and the health impact this may have.” Both Simon and Dave point out that goat and sheep farming can be a lot less intensive on the land than dairying. With regard to the cows’ milk cheese, Dave and Flavia say they like using Oaklands milk because the company uses sustainable practices – they don’t feed palm kernels to the cows, no permeates are used, and it’s all whole milk, as is the milk used by Kervella in Golden Bay. With four ingredients in their cheeses and two in their yoghurts, local producers don’t use any unnecessary additives. The national profile and supply of artisan cheese is steadily growing, thanks to consistent effort by cheesemakers throughout New Zealand. These businesses are determined to create unique cheeses using natural ingredients and traditional techniques. The next time you buy or taste cheese, try something a little different. Step out of your comfort zone – it may just add more intensity to your experience.
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