Hooked On Cheese: International Artisan Cheeses: First Stop, India

The vast majority of artisan cheese is made in Europe and the United States; last year, the two regions produced 81.7% of the world's cheese. But while the rest of the world may contribute less in terms of quantity, some unexpected countries are currently playing a crucial role in the global artisan cheese renaissance. This series profiles a few of these nations and celebrates the dairies that are putting their countries on the (cheese) map.

When one thinks of "Indian cheese," paneer is the first (and only) thing that comes to mind. This traditional cheese is mild, doesn't melt, and tastes amazing when grilled. Paneer has dominated the Indian cheese market for so long because India's hot climate makes it incredibly tough to store most cheeses properly; in addition, importing cheese from Europe or the US is very expensive.

However, over the past 15-20 years, artisan creameries have begun to spring up across India as dedicated cheesemakers confront these obstacles for the love of cheese.

For example, Flanders Dairy Products was founded in 1994 by Sunil Bhu, who was so passionate about Belgian cheeses that he took up an apprenticeship with a master cheesemaker in Diksmuide, Flanders, then went on to train in Italy. His factory, located near Delhi in Bahadurgarh, now produces renowned European-style cheeses.

Then there's Acres Wild, a 22-acre Organic farm and dairy in the hills of Coonoor where visitors can participate in a "farmstay" while learning how to make cheese during a two-day course. Owner Mansoor Khan has been crafting cheese there with his family since 2004. He makes everything from ricotta to halloumi to mozzarella from the milk of his Jersey and Holstein-Friesian hybrid herd.

In Mumbai, you can find newcomers The Spotted Cow Fromagerie, founded by brothers Agnay and Prateeksh Mehra in 2014, and The Cheese Collective, founded by ex-Murray's cheesemonger Mansi Jasani in 2013. This new generation of cheesemakers is committed to bringing artisan cheese to the forefront of Indian food culture by putting an Indian twist on European classics.

And just last year, friends Anuradha Krishnamurthy & Namrata Sundaresan founded Käse cheese company in the coastal city of Chennai. Käse (which means "cheese" in German) produces twenty varieties of affordable fresh cheese and employs people with disabilities as cheesemakers.

While their innovative cheeses are not yet available outside of India, for the time being, these producers are making a huge impact by inspiring a nation of new cheese lovers.

You can follow Raymond's cheese adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and his website. Additional reporting by Madeleine James.