Buying cheese online – what you should look for
Buying cheese online in the UK can be a daunting task – just how can you be sure who you are buying from and the quality of their cheese? What makes The Courtyard Dairy special?
Firstly, rest assured that you can safely rely on The Courtyard Dairy only to supply cheeses that taste amazing. Experienced owner and affineur Andy Swinscoe cherry-picks only the best cheese producers (known personally from his background as a cheese-buyer) and their top cheeses. This gives a more limited range, but to be selected, every cheese has to be ‘special’. If you are interested in what makes The Courtyard Dairy’s cheeses so amazing, read about their ethos here, or read some of the press reports here.
Secondly, The Courtyard Dairy is an actual cheese shop (based just outside Settle, North Yorkshire). The cheese offered online is exactly the same as that offered in the shop. This means that every day the cheeses are tasted, cut, sold and give pleasure to hundreds of customers, regular and new. Each cheese is painstakingly cared for by cheesemongers who absolutely love cheese! If you’d like to chat first-hand to a cheesemonger, to see what is tasting unbelievably wonderful at the moment, simply telephone the shop on 01729 823 291).
Thirdly, don’t just take their word for it! Take a look here to see what those who really know think about The Courtyard Dairy – there’s a whole host of prestigious awards including Cheesemonger of the Year from the World Cheese Awards, featuring on BBC Radio 4’s Food and Farming Awards, and BBC1’s Countryfile.
- Look for reputable cheese shops which are on high-streets and are actual shops; the people that run them are more likely to really know their cheese because they have to look after them everyday. For them cheese is not just a commodity. They know that looking after their cheese properly is a valuable skill. They have to talk about cheese and taste out cheese to customers everyday – they are right in front of them, so the cheese has to be good! Shops such as Geroge Mewes, Paxton and Whitfield or Neal’s Yard Dairy (and The Courtyard Dairy) are some of the best. They will be turning over quantities of cheese through their shops, so the cheeses they supply should be fresh cut and in better condition.
- Look for online shops that freshly-cut each cheese and wrap it in waxed paper. Vacuum-packed and waxed cheeses will last longer (hence some online cheese shops will do this to control stock), but it does affect the flavour and texture.
- If you really want to be sure, ring up the shop and chat to a cheesemonger about what is great at the moment – cheeses do change seasonally – and get a feel for their background knowledge.
- Look for reviews (on Google, Trust Pilot and via the press), but also look for online links to the actual makers of cheese – if you like a particular cheese, where do they recommend that you buy it online?
- Look for artisan cheeses. Like a ‘real life’ cheesemongers, the online cheese shop should also give you details of where the cheese came from and who made it. Proper farmhouse British cheese is that which has a natural rind (you can see it), is cut from a complete wheel and is made on a farm using milk from that farm’s animals (for example Hafod Cheddar, Kirkham’s Lancashire and Baron Bigod Brie).
- Look at the knowledge-base of the online shop: are they simply selling cheese or do they know lots about it and show how much they love it! Read what they’ve written about cheese, and see if they provide other information.
- Finally… give it a go. Why not try a mystery monthly delivery from them, or try something different and see if they manage to exceed your expectations! Most cheese shops that sell online also offer a monthly cheese club.