Farmhouse and artisan cheesemakers are in crisis because of the Covid-19 pandemic, with many losing up to 90% of their business overnight when restaurants were closed down.
The result is that small producers have been left with maturing rooms full of cheeses, which by their nature have limited shelf lives.
To fight back, many cheesemakers and cheesemongers have turned to the internet to offer their produce for home delivery.
Catherine Mead, of the Specialist Cheesemakers Association, says, ‘The good news is that it’s never been easier to buy good cheese, either online or direct.
The specialist cheese industry has mobilised almost overnight, often teaming up with other small food producers, to get good food to people in their local areas.’
BBC Good Food Magazines Editor Keith Kendrick, judge for the British Cheese Awards, World Cheese Awards and Academy of Cheese, reviews some of the best cheese boxes available for online delivery.
15 of the best cheese delivery boxes and subscriptions
The Cheese Collective – The Usual Box (£30)
Best cheese delivery for supporting food banks
The Cheese Collective is partnered with The Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest network of food banks, and for every cheese box purchased, the company will donate a meal to a local food bank.
The owners work with a range of award-winning British artisan cheese makers, including Alsop & Walker, High Weald Dairy and Appleby Creamery.
What they say: ‘Our premise is simple; we find the best cheeses and deliver them freshly cut and chilled to your door the next day, and for every cheese box bought, we’ll donate a meal to a food bank.’
About the cheesemongers: when the pandemic struck, cheesemakers were forced to pour hundreds of litres of milk down the drain.
Another consequence was the huge impact the lockdown had on UK food banks. The Trussell Trust, the UK’s biggest food bank network, reported an 89% increase in demand in May compared to April, while the Independent Food Aid Network recorded a 175% increase over the same period.
Despite this surge in demand, individual donations fell, and many food banks were forced to function with minimal volunteers.
That’s when cheese lovers Sam Elsdon and Shivali Best created The Cheese Collective, out of a desire to help support the UK’s best artisan cheese makers, and support struggling food banks.
What was in our Cheese Collective The Usual box:
Each box contains a mix of hard, semi-hard, soft and blue cheeses, although customers can customise their box based on their personal preferences, with options for no blue cheese, no goat’s cheese, or vegetarian only. Our box contained the following (each cheese weighed approx. 150-180g)
Sussex camembert: British take on the French classic from Alsop & Walker in Sussex. Creamy in texture with an earthy, mushroomy flavour.
Beauvale: melt-in-the-mouth, lusciously creamy soft blue cheese from the Cropwell Bishop Creamery in Nottingham. A great soft cheese for Stilton fans.
Organic St Giles: semi-soft, buttery-textured cheese from High Weald Dairy in Sussex. Similar in style to French Port Salut with an edible orange rind. Vegetarian.
Duckett’s Caerphilly: a fresh, clean, crumbly cheese made by the Westcombe Dairy in Somerset. It has an earthy, yogurty flavour.
Connage Dunlop: traditional cloth-bound cheese from the Connage Highland Dairy in Inverness, based on a recipe dating back to 1600s. It has a moist, creamy texture and a nutty taste. Vegetarian.
Information included: each cheese comes with a collectable card, describing the cheese, the cheesemaker, its history, flavour profile and awards.
Courtyard Dairy – Award Winners box (£30.40)
Best cheese delivery for trying something different
If you have an experimental and open-minded approach to cheese – and like an element of exclusivity – you’ll love this delivery. These are the cheese world’s best kept secrets.
What they say: ‘A selection of four amazing cheeses, all top of their class and recent award winners, sourced from the British Isles and Europe. Most are unpasteurised cheeses, all are still traditionally made by artisans and small farmers. Each cheese has been personally selected, aged to perfection and then is hand-cut fresh, each day, at the shop.’
About the cheesemongers: Andy and Kathy Swinscoe own the specialist cheese shop, maturation rooms and farmhouse cheese museum near Lancaster. After working in hospitality and various cheese businesses, the couple opened the Courtyard Dairy in 2012, winning many accolades since.
What’s in The Courtyard Dairy box:
Killeen Goats’ Gouda (250g): aged at the Courtyard Dairy for 11 months, this sweet, floral, hazelnutty hard cheese is made by Marion Roeleveld in Ballyshrule, Galway, Ireland.
Leeds Blue (250g): adapted from a gorgonzola recipe, this pungent, rich and creamy cheese is made with sheep’s milk from Harrogate and cultures imported from Italy by Sardinia-born Mario Olianas.
Old Winchester (250g): a cross between gouda, parmesan and cheddar, Old Winchester packs a powerful punch, with notes of caramel and smoke with crystalline crunches. It’s a good vegetarian substitute for parmesan. It is made by Mike and Judie Smales in Landford, Wiltshire. Vegetarian.
Tunworth (250g): rich, creamy and vegetal, this is Britain’s answer to French camembert. Made by Stacey Hedges and Charlotte Spruce in Herriard, Hampshire.
Information included: a leaflet explains the ethos of The Courtyard Dairy and how to look after your cheese. Tasting notes are available on the website.
Fen Farm Dairy – A Cheese Journey (£35)
Best for cheese to rival your favourite restaurant
Baron Bigod is revered by chefs so here’s your chance to find out what the fuss is about.
What they say: ‘Every 3 months, you will receive our own perfectly ripe Baron Bigod cheese, alongside a carefully chosen selection of guest cheeses, all from small British farmhouse cheesemakers, both fine classics and newcomers.’
About the cheesemakers: Jonny and Dulcie Crickmore are the third generation of farmers at Fen Farm in Suffolk. They and their team make raw milk Baron Bigod cheese and butter, with milk from their herd of Montbeliarde cows which graze the marshlands of the Waveney River Valley. Baron Bigod is loved by chefs across the UK for its smooth silky texture and a golden curd, with long lasting warm earth, farmyard and mushroom flavours, using a traditional recipe passed on to the Crickmores by a French cheese maker.
What’s in the Fen Farm Dairy box:
Baron Bigod (250g): a creamy, white bloomy-rind handmade cheese with grassy and herby flavours, influenced by the diet of the cows grazing land of Stow Fen.
St Jude (95g): a small soft raw cow’s milk cheese with a rich buttery, savoury flavour. The texture is luxuriously light, fluffy and mousse-like. The cheese intentionally has a very thin mould rind.
Stichelton (270g): creamy and nutty with a pleasing blue tang that is sweet and spicy, this unpasteurised cheese is based on a stilton recipe but cannot be called stilton because it’s made with raw milk.
Lincolnshire poacher (230g): a cross between a traditional West Country cheddar and a continental alpine cheese such as comte, with some small technical differences that give the cheese its unique texture and flavour. It has long, sweet pineapple flavour, but is also rich and savoury.
Information included: extensive tasting notes detailing the cheesemaker, history, process, characteristics and flavour profile of each cheese.
Pong Cheese – Ultimate Pong box (£34)
Best cheese delivery for the brave
The clue’s in the name. Some of these cheeses are seriously stinky, so open the windows!
What they say: ‘Our Ultimate Pong box is an awesome selection of our most revered and most feared cheeses. These rogues are not only among our best sellers, they are also our strongest, smelliest and most oozy creations, designed to create the ‘ultimate pong’. This wonderful box of cheese ‘superstars of smell’ makes a great gift idea but would also be more than suitable to send as an act of revenge!’
About the cheesemongers: Pong was created by two friends from Bath, the capital of the ‘Napa Valley’ of cheese: Somerset. They aim to bring you some of the very best cheeses produced by the leading independent and artisan producers in the UK, complemented with some classics from Europe.
What’s in the Pong box:
Bix (100g): made by the Nettlebed Creamery, Oxfordshire, Bix is a luxurious triple-cream cheese, made with pasteurised organic cow’s milk cheese with added double cream. It has a white bloomy mould coating and a smooth cream paste.
Perl Las Blue (200g): a truckle of blue cheese with a pale gold natural rind and a pale yellow paste with blue/green veining made by Caws Cenarth at Glyneithinog farm in West Wales. It has a strong, lingering flavour. Vegetarian.
Epoisses de Bourgogne AOC (250g): one of the stinkiest cheeses you’ll ever encounter, Epoisses is ‘an awesomely pungent monster’. Made from unpasteurised cow’s milk in Burgundy, the wooden box-cased semi-soft cheese is washed in Marc de Bourgogne brandy to create a powerful, spicy, almost meaty, flavour.
Selles Sur Cher AOC (150g): a young and fresh unpasteurised French goat’s cheese with sweet, sour and salty notes that melts in the mouth. Made within certain regions of the departments of Cher, Indre and Loir-et-Cher, it has a distinctive ash-coating and pure white, fondant-like creamy paste.
Information included: flavour profiles of each of the cheeses, plus general advice about caring for your cheese, serving, eating, garnishes and food pairing.
Homage2 Fromage (from £40)
Best cheese box for fun factor
This interactive taste-and-guess is a cheese board game that helps you learn as you laugh.
What they say: ‘The perfect cheese tasting experience Everything you need to have a fabulous Homage2Fromage experience – in the comfort of your own home! The box includes eight generous portions of cheese – numbered 1-8 so you don’t know what you’re eating until afterwards. The emphasis is on discovering the best quality and variety of cheese produced in the UK and Europe, in a fun and interactive way. To help turn a tasting into a fun, informal but informative home experience, the box includes everything you need to become a mini master of cheese for the night.’
About the cheesemongers: Homage2Fromage is a unique cheese club without formalities or pretensions. It was created in 2011 by Nick Copland and Vickie Rogerson who are both obsessed with cheese. It grew in popularity over the years with cheese clubs in cities across the UK – London, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, York, Shipley, Bradford and Harrogate.
What’s in the Homage 2 Fromage box:
Guide to types of cheese
Homage2Fromage paper plates
2 wooden knives
2 small pots of chutney
Box of crackers
H2F badges to award to winners
Keen’s cheddar (80g): dense, rich and creamy in texture, Keen’s has a soil-like flavour, with lots of layers that range from savoury and mustardy to juicy and bright with a sharp acidity.
Colston Bassett stilton (80g): stilton is one of Britain’s best known cheeses. Smooth and tangy with an intensely rich, creamy texture and long, lingering, complex flavours, with that famous web of blue veins running throughout.
Taleggio (80g): a strong-smelling smear-ripened Italian cheese named after the caves of Val Taleggio. To prevent it from mould infestation, the cheese is washed with seawater once a week.
Gubbeen (80g): a semi-soft, washed-rind cheese. Made using pasteurised cow’s milk, it has a pinkish white rind with a white bloom. A young Gubbeen has a buttery, milky, hazelnutty taste but as it matures, it develops notes of mushrooms.
Le Rustique camembert (80g): a popular brand of French cheese, created in 1975 in Normandy. A fresh camembert is bland, hard and crumbly in texture but as it matures it forms a smooth, runny interior and a white bloomy rind with a rich, buttery flavour.
Villa Truffo (80g): a rich farmhouse cheese that is made luxurious by the addition of black Italian truffles.
Wookey Hole goats cheddar (80g): a mild, savoury, firm cheese which is similar to a traditional cheddar in texture but with a distinctive yet subtle ‘goat’ flavour. The Cave environment adds yet another dimension to the ageing process.
Windyridge Chip Shop Curry cheese (80g): traditional cheddar flavoured with chip shop curry sauce. A bit bonkers! Vegetarian.
Information included: tasting notes are hidden in an envelope for the big reveal at the end of your tasting game. Each cheese is described, along with a potted history of the cheesemaker. Informative and educational.
Quicke’s – Cheddar tasting box (£30)
Best cheese delivery for cheddar lovers
Whether you like strong, mild or smoked (or all!), this box has a cheddar for you.
What they say: ‘Get to know our award-winning range of clothbound cheddar with our indulgent cheddar tasting box. Celebrate the diversity of flavours and complexities in each Quicke’s clothbound cheddar. Perfect for curd nerds everywhere, this box also contains tasting notes and a flavour profile wheel to help identify the unique Quicke’s flavours and aromas.’
About the cheesemakers: Mary Quicke is a legend in the cheese community. As well as being the founder of Quicke’s cheese – based at Home Farm, Newston St Cyres, near Exeter, which has been in the family for 14 generations – she is also the inspiration behind the Academy of Cheese. Quicke’s uses traditional recipes, time-honoured techniques and heritage starters passed down through the generations to create outstanding clothbound cheddar.
What’s in the Quicke’s box:
Vintage clothbound cheddar (200g): handcrafted using milk from grass-fed cows, clothbound and naturally matured, typically for 24 months. The oldest in the Quicke’s range, it’s a rich, intense cheese with a delightfully crumbly texture and huge depth of flavour.
Buttery clothbound (200g): matured, typically for 3 months. An intensely buttery cheddar with a subtle, clean aroma, full of the smooth richness of Devonshire milk.
Oak smoked cheddar (200g): matured, typically for 9-12 months. The cheese is smoked using oak chips from trees grown on the Quicke’s estate for a smoky, buttery flavour.
Mature clothbound (200g): matured, typically for 12-15 months. A rich and buttery cheddar that offers outstanding depth of flavour, which develops as it reaches the back of the palate.
Extra mature clothbound (200g): matured, typically for 18 months. A rich, rounded cheddar with a deep, complex balance of flavours.
Information included: tasting notes for each cheddar, plus a useful and fun flavour wheel, to help you identify the individual characteristics in each cheese, ranging from freshly cut grass to animal sweat!
Fine Cheese Company – monthly cheese subscription (from £108)
Best cheese subscription for people who like surprises
This subscription is ideal for turophiles who like to expect the unexpected. Every month you’ll receive a different cheese selection.
What they say: ‘Cheese needn’t be a mystery; our monthly cheese subscription is a guide for the most wonderful of journeys. It’s perfect as a cheese lover’s gift or self-indulgent treat. Every month we hand-select three cheeses and a partner, from seasonal favourites to those that we’ve ripened to perfection. For each cheese, there are tasting notes that will make a connoisseur of anyone.’
About the cheesemongers: The Fine Cheese Co only offers ‘artisan’ cheeses, some of which may only be bought through them. By ‘artisan’ they mean cheeses made predominantly by small producers using traditional methods, and often making only one cheese and with the milk from their own herd. The company has direct relationships with the cheese-makers (and affineurs), specifying and agreeing on age, condition and flavour profile.
What’s in The Fine Cheese Co box:
Stichelton (270g): creamy and nutty with a pleasing blue tang that is sweet and spicy, this unpasteurised cheese is based on a stilton recipe.
Golden Cross (225g): a sweet, soft and delicately ‘goaty’ and grassy cheese with an ice-cream like texture. The young cheese is rolled in ash, and then matured for a couple of weeks to allow the growth of a natural rind and the development of a more complex flavour. Vegetarian.
Coolea (400g): a gouda-style hard cheese from Ireland with a sweet, honey and toffee flavour that has been likened to butterscotch.
Toast for cheese: Apricots, pistachios and sunflower seeds: thin, light and crisp toast (baked twice like biscotti) and studded with fruits, nuts and seeds.
Information included: A beautifully designed pamphlet with the stories of the cheesemakers and flavour profiles of the cheeses.
The Ethical Cheese Company – A Cheesy Night In (£32)
Best cheese delivery for accompaniments
As it says on the box, this is ideal for a cosy evening of wine and cheese. Oatcakes and accompaniments are included.
What they say: ‘A bundle of cheese and cheeseboard favourites. Our four core cheeses – Rainton Tomme, Carrick, Laganory and Fleet Valley Blue – bundled with small jars of beautiful preserves from our neighbours, Galloway Lodge Preserves and lots of lovely artisan oatcakes. Everything you need to enjoy a cheesy night in – just add wine!’
About the cheesemakers: Farmers David and Wilma Finlay make traditional cheeses and ice cream with organic milk from their own dairy herd, where they keep the calves with their mothers to suckle – the first commercial dairy in the UK to do so.
What’s in The Ethical Cheese Company box:
Fleet Valley Blue (130g): rich, ripened, semi-hard raw milk blue cheese with sweet and savoury characteristics. It has a buttery, mellow and savoury flavour with steely blue vein notes and a faint sweetness. The aroma is earthy and the texture firm and supple with a creamy finish. Vegetarian.
Carrick (140g): a traditional handmade raw milk farmhouse cheese with a deep, nutty and earthy flavour. The texture is firm and with a creamy finish. Vegetarian.
Rainton Tomme (135g): a mellow golden Alpine-style raw milk cheese in a 500g wedge. Rainton Tomme is semi-hard cheese with a sweet, grassy and nutty flavour. The aroma is also sweet and nutty and the texture is firm with a creamy finish. Vegetarian.
Laganory (114g): young, hard raw milk cheese, ripened for 2-6 months, with a fresh, sharp and tangy flavour, and a savoury body. The aroma is sharp with pickled notes and the texture is firm with a slight crumble. With age it will become drier and more crumbly. Vegetarian.
Poacher’s pickle chutney, Galloway mustard and locally made artisan oatcakes.
Information included: a leaflet about the ethos of The Ethical Dairy and how the milk is produced. Tasting notes for each individual cheese are on the website.
Cheese + Mystery cheese box (£32)
Best cheese box for the adventurous
This box contains some wonderful British classics that you may not have come across before.
What they say: ‘A mystery box consists of five unique specialist artisan cheeses, lovingly aged in our maturation room here at Cheese+. Enjoy on your own or why not make a fun evening of it? Connect over live video and share your unique cheeseboard experience together. Compare notes and argue for your favourite cheese! You will receive tasting notes and care instructions to get the best out of your board.’
About the cheesemongers: World Cheese Awards judge Perry James Wakeman hand-selects each cheese. Many of the products are locally sourced from small independent producers in the Cambridge region to ensure food miles are minimised and local producers and their employees can benefit from their mutual relationship.
What’s in the Cheese + box:
Montgomery cheddar (210g): made with unpasteurised milk from Friesian cows on the Montgomery family’s 500-year old farm, Montgomery’s mature cheddar is aged for 12 months wrapped in Muslin cloth on wooden shelves.
Sussex brie (260g: made by Arthur Alsop and Nic Walker in Sussex, this brie is unctuous and creamy with grassy notes and hints of mushroom. Vegetarian.
Cornish yarg (270g): modern, farmhouse, vegetarian, hard cheese. The natural rind is covered in fresh nettles. Cornish Yarg is a hand-made cheese produced from a traditional 17th Century recipe. Moist but crumbly, it is not unlike caerphilly. Vegetarian.
Sparkenhoe Shropshire blue (230g): lightly laced with blue, this creamy pale orange cheese is made with unpasteurised milk and coloured with annato, showing off the beautiful lacy blue veins.
Berkswell (230g): sweet and nutty with hints of caramel, Berkswell is a hard sheep’s cheese, made in the West Midlands, reminiscent of Spanish manchego or Italian pecorino, with a distinctive shape, like a flattened rugby ball, created by the way it naturally drains in a colander.
1 box wheat wafers
Information included: a sheet of tasting notes, covering the origin, style, cheesemaker and flavour profiles for each cheese, plus advice about storing, tasting and food pairing.
The Cheese Geek – The Lionel (£35)
Best delivery for cheese nerds
Enthusiasts will love getting stuck into this adventurous cheese box. The numbered cheeses come with notes where you can score individual cheeses out of 10.
What they say: ‘Hello, is it cheese you’re looking for? Look no further than Lionel. He’s a balanced selection of our all-time favourites alongside equally exciting, but lesser-known, beauties. You’ll always receive around 600g of cheese – that’s enough for four people to enjoy as a cheese fest or up to 8 responsible adults.’
About the cheesemonger: founder Edward Hancock describes himself as a ‘geek on a journey, a cheese escapade or pilgrimage’. The company’s mission is ‘to make eating and exploring cheese easier and more fun. We are stripping away the intimidating cheese experts and overwhelmingly massive choices so you can just be carefree and enjoy great cheeses.’
What’s in The Cheese Geek box:
Mrs Kirkham’s lancashire (114g): buttery and crumbly with a sharp yogurt tang, lancashire is one of the great ‘territorial’ cheese of the UK, with a history going back as far as the 13th century. Made from raw cow’s milk, it’s aged for between three-to-six months. It’s meltingly smooth, perfect for cheese on toast and pies.
Spenwood (135g): a British take on Italian pecorino. A hard sheep’s cheese with a sweet, milky flavour made by Anne Wigmore in Berkshire, who was inspired to make it after a trip to Sardinia. Vegetarian.
Lincolnshire Poacher (109g): A cross between a traditional West Country cheddar and a continental alpine cheese such as comte, with some small technical differences that give the cheese its unique texture and flavour.
Baron Bigod (146g): a creamy, white bloomy-rind handmade cheese with grassy and herby flavours, influenced by the diet of the cows grazing land of Stow Fen.
Blue Monday (145g): made by Blur bass guitarist Alex James, this sweet and spicy cow’s blue is aged for 8 weeks. It has a rich, creamy texture with boozy, fruity notes and a satisfying crunch.Vegetarian.
Information included: detailed tasting notes covered the origins, age, strength, hardness, milk type, dietary info, flavour profile and food matches for each cheese – plus a scoring card to rate your own experience. There was also a quiz to test your cheesy knowledge.
The Cheese Bar – Veggie Home Boy (£28)
Best cheese box for vegetarians
Many cheeses aren’t suitable for vegetarians because they are made with animal rennet, so this box is for everyone.
What they say: ‘The cheeses will change regularly, depending on the types that are available, and which cheesemakers need the most help to prevent their stock going to waste! We also want to select cheeses that will be at their absolute best when they arrive with you. Rest assured you’ll have a balance of something hard, something soft and something blue (or we will tailor it to your tastes).’
About the cheesemongers: The Cheese Bar started as The Cheese Truck in 2014, selling grilled cheese sandwiches to celebrate British cheese. Founder Matthew Carver made a name on the UK festival circuit selling from three classic Bedford vans. The Cheese Bar was opened in 2017, culminating two years later with the the launch of Pick & Cheese – the world’s first cheese conveyor belt restaurant. The company recently re-focused on home deliveries, first in London and now nationwide.
What’s in the Veggie Home Boy box:
Driftwood (215g): this ash coated raw milk goats’ cheese log from White Lake, Somerset, has a wrinkly rind and a soft, creamy texture, with citrus notes and earthy undertones. Vegetarian.
Baronet (170g): oozing washed-rind cheese made from rich, buttery Jersey Cow’s milk at The Old Cheese Room in Wiltshire. Vegetarian.
Morn Dew (170g): semi-hard, springy cheese from White Lake reminiscent of a meaty Morbier. The name derives from an Only Fools and Horses Del Boy: Morn Dew Rodney – Mon Dieu! A nod to the French style origin of the cheese. Vegetarian.
Devon Blue Tickelmore (160g): a crumbly, buttery textured cheese from Ticklemore Dairy in Devon. It has a sweet, creamy flavour which develops a bit of spice with age. Vegetarian.
Miller’s Damsel Crackers and a jar of Rosebud Preserves.
Information included: each cheese is clearly labelled with milk treatment and provenance. More info and online tasting masterclasses available on the Cheese Bar website and Instagram.
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Thanks to Tracey Colley, director of the Academy of Cheese for help in compiling this article.
This page was last updated in December 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.