Starting a new business is a brave move in this time of economic crisis. It’s almost a heroic act when the business is traditional cheese making, and the location is the party island of Mykonos.
When Giorgos Syrianos and Thanasis Kousathanas, two friends hailing from the island, made the decision to get into business together, they armed themselves with courage and patience. They took on the bureaucracy and paperwork head on, and this year entered the market with their first cheeses made under the brand “Mykonos Farmers”.
Their workshop in Aghio Lazaro is brand new and open to the public. We visited and tried one of the first batches of Kopanisti, Tyrovolia, fresh Kopanisti, and Xinotyro, or “sour cheese”. We were thoroughly impressed.
The two friends own a herd of 250 sheep that graze in the areas of Pyrgi, Foumia, and Diles. For the additional sheep’s and cow’s milk they need, they cooperate with other Mykonos farmers. They need about a tonne of milk every day.
The modern equipment in their workshop has been adjusted and added to as needed to make the local cheeses. For example, there’s a northern wind simulator, used for drying the sour cheese hanging in net “cages” from the ceiling inside the maturing chamber. Every step has been analyzed, recorded, and perfected.
Some steps are still done the traditional way. “We use natural straining methods. We produce our own milk, and although it is time-consuming to strain the milk this way, we do it because it’s how our mother’s did it. We also don’t use preservatives or artificial ingredients.”
These are fine deli products, and the prices reflect it. We purchase small quantities of everything.
Their cheeses are wonderfully fragrant from the fresh milk. The “Kopanisti”, which is Mykonos’ most famous cheese, awarded with PDO status (protected designation of origin), is perfectly matured and sharp. There is also a younger version, lighter in flavor; fresher, not as sharp, and better suited for cooking.
The xinotyro which has been aged for 5-12 days, is fantastic. So is the tyrovolia; a soft spread locals frequently enjoy with pita bread. The local version of graviera cheese, and the thick, 100% cow’s milk yogurt are also wonderful products. These are authentic, traditional flavors at their best.
Where to find cheese by Mykonos Farmers:
At their workshop and store at Aghios Lazaros, Mykonos, Τel. +30.22890.23970, where you can enjoy a guided tour and a tasting, as well as purchase the products. You can also find Mykonos Farmers cheeses at supermarkets around the island, at Agora Deli Fresh in Naxos, or order it at Karamanlidika in Athens.