Brindisa has been importing and working with cheese from Spain for the past 30 years. Back in 1989, Brindisa founder, Monika Linton, started to bring back Spanish cheese to the UK with her brother Mark. Monika has always been on a mission and committed to discovering and supporting the small, often remote dairies wherever possible.
The range of cheese sold at Brindisa is probably the widest range available in the UK and what is so special about the cheese that Brindisa imports, is the ability to bring cheeses to our customers that are from the furthest, most isolated villages in rural Spain. This is possible because of the well established logistical chain that has been built up over the past 30 years and the strong relationships built with dairies. It is such a joy and a privilege to bring a handmade cheese from a small farm in Menorca and be able to sell it in London and explain why this cheese is so special.
Here you will find a little more about what we do and why we are totally obsessed with Spanish cheese...and why you should be too!
The cheese room is home to the cheeses that arrive from Spain to the Brindisa warehouse in London. It was created to improve the way the cheeses are cared for. It consists of two dedicated fridges that can provide the cheeses with different humidities and temperatures to encourage the rings to be in the best possible conditions. With the help of Jose Luis Martin, one of the fridges is for lactic cheeses and the other for hard pressed cheeses. At the Borough Market shop there are also enlarged cheese counters and refrigerated displays to better display, store and present our range of artisan cheeses.
The 'cheese team' at Brindisa is very small and are obsessed with ewes' and goats' milk cheese. The conditions in the London cheese maturing rooms have been created to try to replicate those found in the dairies of the Spanish cheesemakers.
The culture of cheese making is unique; not only can it keep us in touch with the land and the seasons but it is a constant reminder of the determination, dedication and often courage required of the small-scale farmer or artisan.
Nurturing cheese with real personality and quality is ‘muy sacrificado’, a challenge that demands daily uncompromising commitment and often an extended family network.
Rupert and his colleuge Roi look after the cheese that arrive from Spain in a specially designed cheese room at the Brindisa warehouse in London. By storing the cheese that arrives in the UK here, Rupert and his team can ensure that the quality of the cheese is always at it's best.
"One of the things about Spanish cheese is that when you compare it to say French, Italian or even British cheese, Spanish cheese is known for its bold flavours."
"Spanish cheese is known for its bold flavours" Rupert Linton
Head of Cheese at Brindisa
The history of cheese in Spain varies depending on who you talk to. The Basque country makes the oldest claim, dating it as far back as 8000 BC. Some give credit to Moorish technology; others insist that the real knowledge of cheese-making was spread across the country by monks. What is certain is that by Roman times, the process was already well understood.
Spain boasts hundreds of varieties of cheeses make from sheep’s, goat’s and cow’s milk. Since it is a country of vastly diverse ecological conditions, these often determine both the animal and the breed which can best adapt to a particular area. The local climate and the type of micro-organisms which act on the curds will also traditionally have an effect on the style, appearance or cheese produced and the kind of maturing process it undergoes. Many of the shapes and patterns that pertain to a particular cheese were originally formed by whatever local material was available for making moulds, such as the ceramic bowls typical of the Levante coastline, or the carved wood and sycamore leaves often used in the mountains.
Until the eighties, the majority of cheeses were not known or valued beyond the immediate vicinity in which they were produced, let alone in the UK and abroad. After 1975, when Spain opened up to foreign trade following Franco’s death, local produce tended to be looked down on in flavour of imported, often industrially made foods promoted for their consistency, milder flavours, smooth textures and their improved hygiene. So processed cheese began appearing on shop counters, along with the likes of imported sunflower and soya oils, marketed as superior to olive oil. The first official listing of Spain’s cheeses by the Ministry of Agriculture was printed in 1969 and included forty-eight varieties, but the government’s food safety authorities continually closed down unregistered or illegal dairies and insisted that any new ones must use only pasteurized milk.
As a result, many of the famous cheeses of northern Spain disappeared almost entirely, and indigenous breeds of cows were replaced by Friesian herds which produced higher volumes of milk, but with little of the character needed to maintain the quality of traditional Spanish cheese.
In spite of this repression, however, unpasteurized artisan cheeses continued to be sold in small village markets in rural areas such as Asturias, Andalucia, Galicia and the Canaries, where local authorities would turn a blind eye so long as there were no outbreaks of food poisoning or disease in the herds. Then, after years of totalitarian government, the early eighties heralded a resurgence of traditional culture, reflected in the formation of the first association of artisan cheese-makers. In 1981 Roncal cheese from the Navarran Pyrenees became the first Spanish cheese to be awarded the status of PDO, the EU scheme which protects particular, distinctive regional and traditional foods, and by 1989 a total of eight-one cheese had been officially discovered, 27 of which achieved PDO status.
Both of the Brindisa shops are in London. In Balham, there is our local deli in Hildreth street which has an amazing range of Spanish cheese. The most well-known location is in the famous foodie hot spot of Borough Market. Here, cheese is served by people who love and have extensive knowledge about Spanish cheese. This knowledge is so incredibly important as being able to share the story and origin of any of our cheese, and it's unique qualities, is what Brindisa is all about
(All ingredients available from Brindisa.com)
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