As the region’s farmers have begun to diversify and enter new markets, goat and sheep milk has become more readily available, adding a whole new dimension to cheese making in New Zealand.
Mercer Cheese and Meyer Gouda Cheese are main-stayers and award winner on the national cheese scene, while Over the Moon Dairy Company has received both national and international recognition for their range of boutique cheeses produced at their factory in Putaruru.
Farmers’ markets in the region are another great place to find great other Waikato cheese makers. Don’t miss local favourites including Pukeatua Peak, Cilantro and Aroha Organic Goat Cheese.
Award winning cheeses
The New Zealand Champions of Cheese Awards recognise the best of the best when it comes to cheese making in New Zealand and cheese makers of the Waikato region have done particularly well at the awards in recent times.
Meyer Cheese received the very first Champions of Cheese Awards in 1994 and have since gone on to win many more. In 2020, they picked up the prestigious NZ Champions of Cheese 2020 Supreme Award for their Goat’s Milk Gouda.
Over the Moon Dairy Company has been recognised at the awards every year since 2008. They also received international acclaim with their Double Delight Brie – a cow and goat milk blend - at the 2010 World Champion Cheese Contest as well as the 'Best New Zealand Cheese' for their Black Truffle Brie in the 2017 International Cheese Awards.
Mercer Cheese was also awarded the Chefs’ Choice Special Award in 2020 for their Mercer Fifty Fifty cheese.
It’s not only the artisan cheese makers dominating these awards either. The Fonterra Cheese Factory in Lichfield near Tokoroa has scooped a suite of medals over the years.
Over the Moon Dairy Company has an on-site shop and viewing windows to allow interested visitors to watch the cheese making process. Over the Moon Dairy Company features a special climate controlled cheese tasting room where staff provide information and advice on the various cheeses and encourage visitors to try before they buy.
The success of Over the Moon Dairy Company has also seen them open the New Zealand Cheese School, to nurture the next generation of New Zealand cheese makers. Take a day course to learn all you need to know about making great cheeses in your own kitchen.
You can visit other local cheese makers such as Mercer Cheese at their retail shops or by appointment at their premises. The Gouda Cheese Shop in Hamilton is a great option for those looking for a range of artisan cheeses, including Meyer Cheese, while Over The Moon have also just opened a store in Cambridge as well.