In 22 May 2007 we made our first Ashmore Farmhouse cheddars. The first batch of these rather small, naked pale yellow cheeses looked pretty lonely on the maturing room shelves.
Jane Bowyer recalls: “We started with Ashmore and watched them every night to see if that first fine fuzz of mould was going to grow on them because we never knew if it actually would. And then on the 10th night they were covered in what I can only call bum fluff!
If, six months later, they ripened into fine cheeses we had a business. If they didn’t, we didn’t.”
Thankfully they did! Today emails and texts and tweets like this are no longer rare:
I bought a couple of Canterbury Cobbler (sic) cheeses from The Goods Shed last week. I have just started the first one and am thoroughly enjoying real cheese.
This is what you would expect I am sure, but since I am in China enjoying your cheese, it is especially welcome. I feel very privileged to be eating cheese with such flavour and texture. A unique experience. Thank you.
We never, ever expected this kind, or range, of recognition!
We began with Ashmore, and, as demand for a wider choice gathered, we added more and more. Today we produce our cheeses, cow’s, goat’s and sheep’s cheese in 14 varieties.
They are still handmade, still using milk from our original suppliers, Debden Court Farm, Petham, and Ellie’s Dairy, Wychling, and with most of the original team of “blessed cheesemakers”.
We have had our fair share of recognition. International, national and Kentish awards have come our way. We have given up bragging about how far our cheeses journey home with their buyers after noting the Antarctic, Siberia and China as final addresses.
Jane Bowyer was determined when she founded Cheesemakers of Canterbury to bring the art of cheesemaking to Kent. She now mentors a cheesemaker in Bhutan.
Kent Crisps produce, among other flavours, Ashmore Cheese and Onion, spotted by one customer being served in First Class on British Airways from Switzerland.
Our Chaucer’s camembert sold for many years to a deli in French-speaking Belgium, who preferred the Kentish camembert to the French.
All very flattering, but it is all the small shops, the pubs, cafes and restaurants in and around Kent that took up our cheeses and introduced them to all their customers that helped launch us, and have kept our cheeses under the noses of both returning and new customers in the years since.
These are hand made cheeses. You cannot scale up production to conquer the world. No one is going to get rich from such methods.
But we get the immense satisfaction of bringing a few moments of pure joy and relish as people taste our cheeses. If it’s only five minutes of quiet indulgence, once a week, that is achievement enough.
We can stand proud and confidently in front of our cheeses knowing you love them.
Who can honestly ask for more?
Here’s to the next decade!