17 Mar 2017

Champion Cheese

From Country Life, 9:10 pm on 17 March 2017

Thirty-four years ago, gouda cheese had many New Zealanders stumped.

Accustomed to opening a block of cheddar and cutting a thick slice, a cheese with a rind was not at all familiar to many of us.

At that time Ben Meyer arrived in NZ with his wife Fieke, bringing his Dutch cheese-making skills with him. They opened a small shop in Hamilton.

"They [the customers] would say 'Ooh, I find the last bit a little chewy," he says with a smile.

Fieke, who ran the cheese shop, says people would look in but were reluctant to come inside.

"Then I stepped in front of the shop and started explaining, gave them tastes and then they knew and that's why they came back, some of them."

Little by little the business grew and now each week, for seven months of the year, 20,000 to 25,000 litres of milk is turned into cheese at their factory at Koromatua on the outskirts of Hamilton.

Milk from their own farm flows into the factory.

Ben and Fieke have taken a step back from the business and handed day-to-day responsibilities over to three of their adult children who have gravitated back to the farm.

Gert Meyer is now the cheesemaker, his brother Miel is the general manager and their sister Sophia and her husband Bert van den Bogaard are the sharemilkers.

This week Meyer Gouda Cheese won five champion awards at the New Zealand Cheese Awards, including Champion of Champions in the commercial cheese category for their smoked goat milk gouda.