Cornish Blue has been produced on the Stansfield’s farm on Bodmin Moor since 2001. At that time milk prices had collapsed and dairy farmers were facing a struggle to survive. In the search for a new revenue stream Phillip and Carol Stansfield starting thinking about making cheese and noticed that there was no blue cheese being made in Cornwall. Phillip enrolled on a cheesemaking course at Cheshire College of Agriculture, turned a former bottling plant at the end of the milking parlour into a cheese production facility and Cornish Blue was on its way.
“With milk prices down to around 15p per litre we had to find a way of generating a different income stream. We did about two years research through the MDC, British Cheese Board and DEFRA, and the first thing we noticed was that there was no blue cheese being made in Cornwall.
We decided we didn’t want to compete with Stilton and when we looked at softer, milder blue cheeses, we discovered they were all imported. It was clear that there was a gap in the market for a British made milder blue cheese and we already had a name for it – Cornish Blue”
Learning to make cheese
The grand plans for Cornish Blue had one slight snag. Neither Philip or his wife Carol knew anything about cheese making. Philip though when he was 19 had been to Cheshire College of Agriculture and was aware they had a cheesemaking faculty. He signed up for two courses.
“The day we started cheesemaking was probably the most terrifying day of my life,” Philip says. “A lady called Chris Ashby, who had taken the course, guided us through the day but from then on, we were on our own and had to learn from our mistakes. We had to pick other people’s brains on the way and keep going.”
Much of the first year was spent refining the cheese making process. Philip reckons that in year one they threw away about £40,000 of cheese that they could have sold but didn’t, so that when they did start selling Cornish Blue was just right.
Cornish Blue is a full fat cream cheese made from cows milk. The milk all comes from the herd on the family farm meaning that as soon as the cows are milked each day the milk immediately goes into the cheese production cycle.
Being just on the edge of Bodmin Moor the Stansfield farm is ideally placed for cheesemaking as the very moist climate makes for good pasture which is important for the milk. The combination of the farm, the cows, and the milk all make Cornish Blue an artisan cheese. Once the cheeses are made they enter the maturing room where they stay for 12 to 14 weeks to enable them to achieve their full character and flavour. They are checked daily and turned weekly to ensure moisture is evenly distributed throughout the cheese. Finally the cheese is cut and packed by hand ready for distribution across the UK and overseas.
In 2004 Cornish Blue won its first award – The Tesco Cheese Challenge followed soon afterwards with winning Supreme Champion at the Bath and West Show.
Then in 2010 Cornish Blue became the World Champion Cheese. An unbelievable moment for Philip, Carol and the team.
“Hundreds of cheeses take part and as the competition unfolds the judges reduce the field to 50. We were delighted to be in the top 50 and never dreamed of being world champion. Then as the field was whittled down even more we pinched ourselves as we got down to the last 10. When they announced Cornish Blue was the world champion we were completely stunned. It was just unbelievable. Suddenly we were well known and sales went up 40%.”
In 2011 Cornish Blue came within a whisker of retaining the title finishing runner up.
In 2015 the company completed its production facility expansion to cope with the rising demand for Cornish Blue from not only supermarkets but also deli’s, cafes and restaurants along with a growing online business.
Cornish Blue has become an ever increasingly popular unique and delicious choice for all occasions including as a birthday present and Christmas gift as well as serving a market who want to enjoy the cheese all year round. Online sales are growing significantly and orders come in from all over the UK.
Throughout the year Philip can be found at numerous shows and events promoting Cornish Blue to trade and retail customers.
“I love being at the shows. It’s a great way to meet people and introduce them to Cornish Blue and I’m always delighted when show visitors come up to the stand and tell us who much they enjoy Cornish Blue. That’s what makes it all worthwhile. Cheesemaking gets you out and about. You meet people and you gain a knowledge of other cheeses. It’s a fascinating environment to be in and it broadens your outlook on the whole farming operation.”
For details of all the shows that Cornish Blue Cheese will be attending please click here.