WHO ARE COUNTRY CHEESES?
We started Country Cheeses 20 years ago with a table in Tavistock’s Pannier Market, six cheeses, and loads of enthusiasm for eating ‘real’ cheese. We now have three shops, one in Tavistock, Topsham and Totnes, where we sell in the region of a hundred different cheeses, all British and mostly from the Westcountry. We feel ourselves to be very fortunate as we deal with the cream of cheesemakers who are driven to produce the best cheeses you could find anywhere, and who are also prepared to produce cheeses especially for us.
The art of cheese making was nearly lost in this country. Years ago, cheese making was an art that stayed in the family environment, passed from one generation to the next. A farmhouse cheese was one that was made on the farm where the milk was produced and the cheese was really just a method of preserving milk. However, during the Second World War milk was classed as a national commodity and farmhouse cheesemaking ceased, all soft cheese production stopped and milk was transported to factories to be made into hard cheese, again as a method of preserving large quantities of milk. By the time the shortages of the war ceased, many cheese makers had moved on to other things. Prior to the war there were over five hundred registered cheese making farms in the South West. After the war there were only fifty.
The popularity of supermarkets is also culpable for the decline in artisan cheese making. The fashion for vacuum-packed ‘convenience foods’ hit an all time high and many people became accustomed to the unchallenging, mediocre flavours of foods that were manufactured and mass produced.
We want to reverse this trend and introduce people to the old fashioned flavours of ‘Real’ cheese. The more people who taste the stunning examples of artisan cheese making in this area, the more people will go out of their way to buy it and the more the demand increases, more and more farmers can be persuaded to diversify and experiment with using their milk to make cheese. And most importantly, the variety and accessibility of exceptional ‘real’ cheeses will increase, bringing one of the nation’s most traditional, varied and nutritious foods back into our diets.
What we do is a way of life rather than a job. In all three shops we feel very much part of the community and we get a great feeling of excitement when we uncover new cheeses for our customers. It’s wonderful to see the look of amazement and delight when people realise for the first time that the array of cheeses before them are mainly from the Westcountry, and also that the flavours and textures are so diverse and fantastic.
What we have always wanted is for people to have a good, memorable, and tasty, experience when they visit our shops, and as times have changed and technology has improved, we realise that we can hopefully provide a satisfying and tasty experience for cheese lovers who are not in the vicinity. With our website we can hopefully share our cheeses with those of you further a field as well, with the aim as far as possible of giving you the same enjoyable and informative shopping experience as if you were standing in one of the shops, but sadly no smell! We are specialists but we strive to be especially accessible too. Long Live ‘Real’ cheese!