Over the Moon Dairy, Putaruru, New Zealand.JPG

Waikato Cheese Makers

Fertile soils and a long-standing farming heritage have made the Hamilton & Waikato region renowned for its dairy industry, so it should come as no surprise that it’s also home to some of the best New Zealand cheese makers.

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.

Cheese makers

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.

Visitors to the Kaimai Cheese Company, located at the foot of the Kaimai ranges in Waharoa near Matamata, shouldn’t miss their heavenly Kaimai feta, and those after great Gouda will enjoy Hamilton-based Meyer Gouda Cheese – whose focus is on producing world-class Gouda.

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

Over the Moon Dairy, Putaruru, New Zealand.JPG

Over the Moon Dairy Company, Putaruru

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 Gouda Cheese received the Supreme Award at the very first Champions of Cheese Awards in 1994 and have since gone on to win many more. In 2013, they picked up the prestigious Champion of Champions Award for their Meyer Vintage Gouda for the second year running and in 2015 they won the Champion Cheese Maker Award.

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.

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.

Cheese experiences

Both Over the Moon Dairy Company and Kaimai Cheese Company have on-site shops and viewing windows to allow interested visitors to watch the cheese making process.

The Kaimai Cheese Factory is housed in a replica of a 1920s New Zealand butter factory and visitors can watch the cheese makers at work from behind glass windows or sample their cheeses in dishes from the café menu. 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.