Cheese is no stranger to the Filipino food lover’s palette, and many would travel far and wide to taste more of this delicious commodity.
Travellers to New Zealand are delighted to learn that beyond its well-known green pastures, the country is populated with excellent little cheesemakers and artisan food producers who are putting old ways back in fashion.
Until the 1920s, New Zealand was dotted with small cheese factories as in the days before refrigeration, the milk could only travel a few kilometres before it spoiled. Now, a new generation of cheese-makers has revived the industry and has started making cheese with all that fabulous milk.
Filipino cheese lovers going to New Zealand can enjoy its revamped artisan cheese industry in these locations:
Auckland and Northland
In the far north, there’s the Mahoe Cheese near Kerikeri, which has won multiple prizes including the Champion of Champions at the New Zealand Champions of Cheese Awards. This family farm has 60 Fresian cows, whose milk is turned into Dutch-style cheese like the “Very Old Gouda” which is beautifully tart and complex.
Another award winning artisan cheesemaker, Grinning Gecko, also sources top quality certified organic milk from a local farm and makes some of New Zealand’s finest soft cheeses. From their little factory situated in the heart of Whangarei, Northland, you can view cheese being handmade three or four days of the week – a sight for the serious cheese obsessive.
Waikato – where the grass is greener than just about anywhere else in New Zealand is home to many of the country’s best-established cheese-makers, including Mercer Cheese, where 12-kilogram rounds of edam, maasdam and gouda can be gorgeously sliced to order in front of you.
Meanwhile, Over the Moon Dairy is a relative newcomer: it started in 2008 in the little country town of Putaruru, producing cheese from sheep’s, goat’s and cow’s milk, marked by intense flavours and technical precision. Many of the recipes were created by co-owner Neil Willman, who is a master of cheese and runs the New Zealand Cheese School. The Galactic Gold – a washed-rind has the reputation of “the cheese to end all cheeses”.
Lower North Island
Beside the Whanganui River, Lonely Goat Cheese makes artisan cheese using traditional hands-on techniques and recipes. Its owners have earned two medals for their Fiery Feta and Pepato style cheeses and have made their delicious array available in Wanganui River Traders Market.
A little further south, artisan cheesemakers Cartwheel Creamery articulates cheeses reflecting the natural goodness of the Pohangina Valley, near Palmerston North. A taste of the spicy Blue Rhapsody at Feilding Farmers’ Market or from the creamery itself will make for an unforgettable experience.
Kaikoura and Canterbury
Kaikoura Cheese owners started with three goats on land outside of Kaikoura a couple of years ago. Now they have 60 goats and their little factory and shop in town produces the sublime Tenara ash-coated soft goat’s cheese, which is at once nutty and floral, with a great texture.
There’s also in Christchurch the Canterbury Cheesemongers, a shop with an incredible range of New Zealand cheese.
The Deep South
A few hours’ drive south at Oamaru is also the factory at Whitestone Cheese, where one can settle in for a sampling in its airy tasting room. They make an enormous range of cheese here, with milk sourced from a handful of farmers around North Otago. The Lindis Pass Camembert gooey and stinky has been described as New Zealand’s greatest cheese.