How we obsess over getting you the perfect piece of cheese every time
Every time you take a bite of cheesegeek cheese, we want you to experience that product at the very top of its game. An unforgettable moment of cheese magic.
So how do we go about trying to ensure this is the case, every time? It’s easier said than done – here’s how we do it in 8 steps…
1. Internal tastings; making the grade
The first step is introducing cheeses into our universe of cheeses that are at the very top of their games. We run regular internal tastings, where our goal is to try new cheeses as well as review existing cheeses. New cheeses regularly come onto our radar, both from brand new cheesemakers, as well as from existing cheesemakers. As a team, we work through these cheeses, ensuring only the very best make it into our universe. Importantly, we also ensure at least 4 of us assess each product to try and remove subjectivity; just like any cheese lovers, we each have our favourite styles and varieties as well as those we are not quite so keen on! In terms of seasonality, this is an ongoing process of logging variations in each of our products across the year, but more on that in the ‘despatch team’ section later.
2. Relationships; sharing the love
Once we have a cheese in our universe, we begin to build relationships with the cheesemaker. I personally ensure I visit all our British cheesemakers. This is so important for a wide range of reasons.
- Their story; cheese is an emotional product, and the ‘why’ behind the cheese really does come through in the end product – we want to share those stories
- Their philosophy; understanding their philosophy and what they want to achieve with their cheese is so important in ensuring we present that cheese to you in a way the cheesemaker would do so themselves – it provides some context on why the cheese is how it is
- Their passion; their passion for what they do is infectious, and such a motivating factor in ensuring we are constantly bringing the necessary levels of energy and innovation to support their labours of love
I recently visited Cashel Farmhouse Cheese in Ireland and was fortunate enough to spend a day chatting with both Sarah Furno and her husband Sergio (current owners) as well as her father Louis, who started making cheese in the early 1980s (40 year anniversary this year!). Listening to Louis discuss why he started making cheese, as well as how he started making cheese was fascinating. Back then, blue cheese was seen as an ‘alien’ food product, in a market entirely dominated by Stilton. Funnily enough, in part due to naivety, Louis and his wife Jane didn’t follow any guidance from Stilton makers when developing their cheese – in fact many of their processes are completely counter-intuitive when it comes to making blue cheese. But it is that very reason that led them to create something entirely unique and special, a cheese that retains its uniqueness even to this day, 40 years later.
3. Tasting with producers; batch selection
Tasting batches of cheese with producers is one of my favourite parts of the job, but also the most important.
Artisan cheesemakers craft cheese that has a wonderful variability as it reflects the land and the seasons. In many cases, they also must rotate their starter cultures (the blueprint for flavour in the cheese) to avoid a virus called phage that can prevent lactose converting to lactic acid in the VAT and effectively destroy the entire batch of milk.
These different starter cultures create slight variations in flavour, and when added to other variations like what the animals were grazing on, or temperature conditions have a real impact on every single batch of cheese. Therefore, tasting and selecting batches, building an understanding which cultures create the flavour profiles we generally favour, ensure we have the best chance of selecting cheeses we think you will love.
I recently spent a morning with Ben and Sam at Curlew Dairy in Yorkshire, they make the wonderful Yoredale Wensleydale. I was really intrigued by the differences in style the two starter cultures they use led to. One was creamier, oily on the palate and slightly richer and full bodied. The other was slightly more lactic and acidic, and a little thinner, resembling fromage frais.
The variation was incredibly subtle and could only be picked up tasting them side by side. I had a firm favourite, and that is the starter we will be trying to secure for our customers going forward.
4. Ordering system; freshness
Our focus on subscriptions and curation, as well as the fact we offer specified delivery dates at any date in the future (ideal for gift occasions or calendar events) mean a large proportion of our orders are made in advance. For our curated boxes we are also able to take a lead on which cheeses are featured.
This means our cheeses are predominantly only with us for a few days; they come in to go out. Shortening the time between the maturing shelves and your cheeseboard plays a huge part in ensuring freshness and trying to replicate that magical way a cheese tastes when I taste it with the cheesemaker in their maturing cellar.
5. Allocation and Stock management; CASSIE tech
Linked to the above, our proprietary stock and allocation system, CASSIE, ensures that as much cheese as possible is cut fresh from whole for your order. The minute a cheese is cut into, it starts to slowly deviate from perfection. Therefore, minimising the time from first cut to delivery is something we place huge emphasis on. Generally speaking, when your cheese arrives, it will have been cut fresh by hand the day before.
This is no mean feat considering we have over 60 varieties of cheese in stock at any one time, and CASSIE makes this possible, whilst ensuring our industry leading wastage is close to 0%.
CASSIE has another crucial part to play, and this is allocating your cheeses to ensure they are a balanced selection and work in harmony with the other cheeses in your delivery. We even recommend the order you eat your cheeses in. All these factors will have an impact on how good each cheese tastes. Of course, every allocation is overseen though by our master taster and cheese specialist Annabel just to ensure there is always a human element in the process.
6. Despatch team; daily quality control
Our despatch team are incredible, true specialists in their field. Not only are the incredibly accurate and careful when hand-cutting and wrapping your cheeses to ensure your unboxing experience is as special as it can be, they are also cheese tasting experts. Every day, they visually assess and taste each batch of cheese. This means they know how each cheese should taste, and can flag anything that is sub-par immediately. They also track seasonality which ensures we are constantly able to update CASSIE to ensure the system is dynamic and learning all the time. Every cheese you receive is not only a great cheese, tasting at its best, but it is also the best time of the year to be enjoying that cheese. Hurrah!
7. Food tech; packaging and care
Once your cheese has been sourced directly, classified as ripe, allocated and then cut fresh and wrapped with love and care, it is time to ensure your cheese arrives with you in the condition it leaves us.
This starts with the cheese wrap, which is a specifically designed specialist material that ensures each piece of cheese can both breathe and doesn’t dry out.
Each cheese is then placed carefully into an insulated and chilled box, protected with paper filler to avoid bruising and deforming in transit.
The box is then sealed, and sent on an overnight courier service. We have used every courier on the market, and firmly believe (having now collected data over 6yrs) that DHL and Packfleet are the best in the business. We know they are not always 100% (99% in case you’re wondering), but we also know that nobody else performs as well. It’s not even close actually!
8. In-box info and experience
When your cheese arrives, the attention to detail is still not quite over – we then provide you with lots of information within your box on how to care for your cheese both before and after opening it to elongate the quality of every piece. We also provide lots of tips and info on how to enjoy your cheese, ranging from what to pair it with to tasting notes to get your taste buds into gear!
So, as you can see, a huge amount of time, care (and downright obsession) goes into ensuring we make our cheesemakers proud, and that you get an experience that reflects how grateful and proud we are to call you customers.
Many of these processes simply didn’t exist in the market when cheesegeek was launched, and several of them still remain unique to us. We don’t believe anybody takes greater care or obsesses more over every single step of the journey, from farm to fork, than we do. We really hope that love, care and obsession comes through every time you open a cheesegeek product and take a bite of our cheese.