5 Artisanal Cheeses Worth Trying, According To The Cheese Cartel
The Cheese Cartel founders share their favourite seasonal cheeses
All the best parties involve cheese and that’s exactly where these five cheese-loving friends come in. Designer Jade Tang-Taylor, Sylvia Zuur, Pledge Me’s Anna Guenther, Thankyou Payroll’s Hugh Evans and The Vodafone Foundation’s Lani Evans are behind Cheese Cartel, a new business launched at the start of this year. The monthly cheese subscription box aims to showcase local artisan cheese makers while satisfying the palates of fromage fanatics across the country.
The five founders have all previously founded New Zealand businesses involving an element of social good. Their dedicated cheese crew is no different and helps to support small-scale business owners.
“Cheese Cartel gives us the opportunity to work together and promote passionate small business owners who are producing the best cheese in New Zealand and even the world,” says Lani. “Extra bonus, we get to try all the cheese.”
The team, who all work in full-time jobs elsewhere, are split between Wellington’s Pukerua Bay — where Hugh and Lani’s house doubles as Cheese Cartel HQ — and Auckland. Their idea began, suitably, over a cheese platter and glass of pinot between friends, but they soon saw their new company registered. To launch the business, they kicked off a crowdfunding campaign on Pledge Me at the end of last year, aiming to raise $18,000 to validate their idea of a cheese subscription service. The campaign ended up raising over $20,000, with pledgers offered a variety of subscription offers.
The team has hosted high cheese teas with matched wine and craft beer and cheese masterclasses in Auckland and Wellington. They gather for a monthly cheese platter to taste-test the current cheese box selection and explore new flavours. On a regular basis, they are also making their own soft cheeses at home — “crispy, oozy, squeaky” halloumi is a favourite.
Lani says a big part of Cheese Cartel is helping local cheese producers share their stories with consumers. One of their first cheeses was the very last wheel of the award-winning farmhouse cheddar from Cwmglyn.
Its cheesemaker Biddy Fraser-Davies was an award-winning entrepreneur and one of the founders of the Eketahuna Cheese Festival. She discovered a passion for cheese making at the age of 60, when gifted her first cow. Her handmade cheddars went on to win “Super Gold” at the World Cheese Awards, beating out 2700 cheese entries.
“Sadly, Biddy passed away in July last year. We were lucky enough to get the last wheel of her hand-made cheddar to share, as a chance to celebrate her achievements and remember this incredible cheese-maker,” says Lani.
OUR FAVOURITE CHEESES
1 Hohepa Cumin Gouda
Anna Guenther: Hohepa is cheese with a side of social justice. Hohepa is a social enterprise offering education and social therapy for people with intellectual disabilities, including activities like weaving, woodwork, and cheese-making. Its Cumin cheese has a soft, sweet taste and texture, peppered with the refreshing bite of whole toasted cumin seeds. As it ages, the cheese takes on a nutty flavour, so if you’re patient (I am not) you can set some aside and experience the subtle differences over time.
Lani Evans: Tenara is my desert island food — I could eat it every day with no regrets. It’s an ash-coated goat’s cheese covered in the cheese-making geotrichum bacteria. It’s a challenging cheese to look at with its wrinkly grey exterior and creamy white centre, but this mousse-like, slightly crumbly delight is totally worth it. The cheese has a light smokiness with a little bit of goaty sharpness and texture like a cloud. It’s fantastic paired with a riesling (I’m partial to a Maori Point Riesling right now) to cut the sharpness, or just eat it like an apple. Honestly, it’s that good.
3 Over the Moon Black Truffle Brie
Jade: This extra creamy brie with black truffle is my idea of cheese heaven. The brie is best served alone, so this unusual cheese can be the star. It’s a signature cheese by international cheese judge and Cheese Master Neil Willman. The rind is soft and white and the cheese paste has a smooth texture with a buttery flavour. Made from high-quality cow’s milk, each wheel is layered with black truffles, giving a rich aromatic nutty or earthy taste.
4 Little River Cumulus
Silvia Zuur: As the name suggests, it’s just like eating clouds. It melts on your tongue and has a light subtle flavour with a complex musty back note. The Cumulus is the New Zealand version of Chaource, made by Little River Estate, Nelson. Chaource is a soft cow’s milk cheese originally from the French village of Chaource and is known for its creamy, crumbly texture and velvety white rind. It pairs well with Champagne.
5 Blue Monkey
Hugh Evans: I’ve been seduced by Blue Monkey’s creaminess and full flavour and I love the fact it’s seasonal and that I have to wait to get my hands on it. It’s a raw milk blue cheese with intense flavours and a bit of stank — you’ll love or hate it, there’s no in between. Is this the best blue cheese in the country? I couldn’t possibly comment.