When buying cheese there's nothing like going into a proper cheese shop, packed to the rafters with cheese and informed and friendly cheesemongers guiding you through the cheeses, offering a taste of each and giving you a little information about each cheese. It can be a wonderful experience and something your cheesemonger will enjoy too, but sometimes this just isn't possible. There are times when buying cheese online will be the best option, the most convenient option or sometimes the only option so we think it's important to help you get the best experience when you buy cheese online.
There are some important things to look out for when buying cheese online to ensure that your purchase is of the highest quality and your experience is a good one. These are in no particular order but we feel that they are all important and contribute to your overall online cheese buying experience.
1. Have a look around the website first to find out what you can about the business overall. Most reputable online cheese businesses should be passionate about cheese and be happy to let you know this. Check and see if they have an actual shop as well as a website, as this will mean that they will need to have experienced cheesemongers working for them, which points towards quality cheese that is properly looked after. For example, we have our online shop and also an actual shop, Froth & Rind in Walthamstow, London and our cheesemongers purchase and prepare cheese for both.
2. Each cheese should have a good level of description with particular attention to detail being paid to whether the milk used was pasteurised or unpasteurised, whether the cheese is suitable for vegetarians and what type of milk is used, e.g. cow, sheep, goat, etc. Also look for information about the cheesemakers, the history of the cheese or how it's made as this shows that the business has made the effort to find out about the cheese so that they can provide further advice on what is the best cheese for their customers.
3. Pairings or serving suggestions are also good, especially if they are a bit unusual as this is further evidence that the cheesemongers, owners, chefs, etc. have gone to the effort of trying new things in an effort to get innovative and interesting pairings. For example, our suggestion for the wonderful Batty goats cheese by Ribblesdale Cheese Company is the sort of thing we're talking about.
4. We think a good range of cheese should be available to buy online, as this is also a positive sign. Being able to stock a wide variety of cheese shows that the business has suitable storage capacity and is 'serious' about cheese. Buying and storing cheese is not inexpensive, so being able to offer a wide range is a commitment to their business and also the customer.
5. Social media is also a good resource when buying cheese online, as you may be able to see how often the business gets new cheese, what their weekly offers are (if any), what cheese is particularly good at that point of time and loads more. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are particularly useful at the time of writing.
6. A little information on the cheese buyers or cheesemongers is a good sign too. This helps bring buying cheese online a little closer to going into an actual cheesemonger to buy cheese. You can find out a little more about what cheese they like, what they look for when choosing cheese, and other nice little snippets of information that make the whole experience a little nicer.
7. Some information on cheese care and storage is useful too. Once your cheese arrives you'll need to look after it if you're not eating it straight away and to do so properly you'll need some useful information on where to store it, how to wrap it, what to do if there is any cheese leftover, etc. and some resource on this is invaluable in keeping your cheese in the best possible condition.
The above are all things that your local cheesemonger would likely share with you any time you're in buying cheese, so we see no reason why you shouldn't receive this information if you're buying cheese online.
We'd love to hear your cheese buying experiences both online and offline so please feel free to let us know via the comments section below.