Discover the World of Cheese: 20 Fascinating Facts


The culinary world boasts a vast array of flavors, textures, and aromas, but few foods have captivated the global palate quite like cheese. A timeless delicacy, cheese transcends cultures, adding depth to dishes and elevating the mundane to the memorable. As we delve into the rich tapestry of cheese’s history, variety, and quirks, let us appreciate the marvel that is this dairy wonder.

  • Diversity in Varieties: There are over 2,000 types of cheese, showcasing its versatile nature in culinary arts.
  • Historical Significance: Cheese boasts a rich history, dating back over 4,000 years, with ancient civilizations valuing it enough to use as currency.
  • A Living Food: Cheese undergoes continuous transformation, owing to the living bacteria and molds within, leading to varying flavors and intensities with age.
  • Global Phenomenon: Different regions, especially France, have their unique cheese varieties, establishing them as cheese hubs in the global landscape.
  • Beyond Taste: Cheese offers benefits such as preventing tooth decay, inducing sleep, and even potential space-related innovations.

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1. There are over 2,000 varieties of cheese.

varieties of cheese.

The world of cheese is vast, intricate, and brimming with delightful surprises. With over 2,000 known varieties, cheese is a testament to the diverse tastes, cultures, and traditions that span the globe. Each type tells a story of its origin, the craftsmanship involved, and the unique processes and ingredients that give it its distinct character.

  • Cheddar: Originating from the English village of Cheddar, this cheese has a firm texture and can range from mild to extra sharp. Its aging process, sometimes spanning several years, deepens its flavor, giving it notes that can be rich, nutty, and sometimes slightly sweet. Its popularity has led to various adaptations worldwide, with regions infusing their unique spin on this classic.
  • Swiss: Known for its iconic holes or “eyes,” Swiss cheese is a product of specific bacterial action during fermentation. Native to Switzerland, it has a nutty, mild flavor and is often used in sandwiches and fondue. Its smooth and creamy texture, combined with its distinct appearance, makes it easily recognizable among cheese varieties.
  • Parmesan: A hard, granular cheese hailing from Italy, Parmesan (or Parmigiano-Reggiano, as it’s authentically known) is often aged for several years. Its rich, umami-packed flavor makes it an ideal cheese for grating over dishes, especially Italian classics like pasta and risotto. The dedication to maintaining its traditional production methods has kept its reputation as the “King of Cheeses.”
  • Brie: Often referred to as the “Queen of Cheeses,” Brie is a soft, creamy cheese with a distinctive white, edible rind. Originating from the Île-de-France region of France, its buttery flavor and creamy texture make it a favorite for cheese boards and baked dishes. When left at room temperature, Brie becomes beautifully soft and spreadable, enhancing its rich and creamy attributes.
  • Blue Cheese: Characterized by its striking marbled appearance and bold, tangy flavors, blue cheese is intentionally inoculated with mold cultures. This results in the signature blue or green veins running through it. While its origins are debated, regions like Roquefort in France, Gorgonzola in Italy, and Stilton in England have become synonymous with high-quality blue cheeses. Its boldness can be polarizing, but enthusiasts savor its complex flavor profile, often pairing it with sweet accompaniments like honey or figs to balance its intensity

2. Cheese is over 4,000 years old.


The legacy of cheese is as old as some of the earliest civilizations. Its inception around 2000 BC in ancient Egypt is not merely a testament to the culinary prowess of our ancestors but also their innovative spirit. These ancient cheese-makers, using rudimentary tools and techniques, transformed perishable milk into a product that could be stored and consumed over extended periods. Fragments of cheese have been found in Egyptian tombs, suggesting its importance in their diet and perhaps even in ritualistic offerings.

As trade routes developed and cultures mingled, the art of cheese-making journeyed across lands and found its way to the heart of Europe and the Middle East. Here, it was refined and diversified. The Greeks sang its praises; Homer’s Odyssey mentions the Cyclops making cheese.

The Romans, known for their extensive culinary expertise, had specialized kitchens – “caseales” – dedicated solely to cheese-making. Their empire’s vastness meant that they played a pivotal role in disseminating the knowledge of cheese production, ensuring that this delectable dairy product became deeply entrenched in the gastronomic traditions of regions far and wide.

3. Cheese is living.


Cheese, unlike many other foods, is dynamic. It’s an ever-evolving entity, breathing and maturing with time. The microorganisms – bacteria, and molds – responsible for its creation continue to influence its character throughout its life. These microscopic artisans, gifted to us by nature, work tirelessly, breaking down the fats and proteins in milk, thereby sculpting the texture and flavor profile of the cheese.

As cheese ages, it undergoes a series of transformations. Young cheeses, like fresh mozzarella or ricotta, have a gentle, delicate flavor. However, as time progresses and the cheese matures, these flavors evolve, becoming more profound and intense. This ripening process can lead to cheeses that are bold and pungent, with complex notes that intrigue the palate. Consider Parmigiano-Reggiano, which after years of aging, offers a symphony of flavors – nutty, and savory, with hints of caramel and a crystalline texture.

The fact that cheese is living is not just a culinary curiosity but a reminder of the magic of nature. It showcases how simple ingredients, when combined with time and microscopic life, can be elevated to something that dances on the taste buds and lingers in memory.

4. Cheese can be made from the milk of various animals.


While cow’s milk may be the default choice for many when thinking of cheese, the world of dairy stretches far beyond bovine pastures. Different animals produce milk with varying fat content, proteins, and flavors, which in turn influence the taste, texture, and aroma of the cheese derived from them.

  • Goat: Goat cheese, often recognized by its tangy and earthy flavor profile, is lighter in texture and can range from creamy to crumbly. Not only does it carry a distinct taste, but its easier digestibility makes it a favorite among many. Its flavor can vary based on the diet of the goats, reflecting the terroir of where they graze.
  • Sheep: Cheese from sheep’s milk, like the famed Pecorino or Manchego, is rich and often has a slightly sweet, nutty profile. Sheep’s milk contains more fat than cow’s or goat’s milk, resulting in creamier, richer cheeses.
  • Buffalo: Perhaps most famous for its role in producing authentic Italian Mozzarella di Bufala, buffalo milk cheese is prized for its richness and creamy consistency. It has a subtle, sweet undertone that distinguishes it from cow’s milk counterparts.
  • Reindeer: While less common, reindeer milk cheese, especially in parts of Scandinavia, is a delicacy. The milk is rich in fat and solids, resulting in a dense cheese with a distinct, robust flavor.

Each milk source, with its unique chemical makeup and flavor, tells a story of the animal’s habitat, diet, and traditions of the regions where they are from.

5. France produces over 1,600 types of cheese.

Cheese on a French market
Cheese on a French market

Cheese and France are almost synonymous. With a whopping 1,600 varieties, France showcases an astounding spectrum of flavors, textures, and aging techniques. Each region, from Normandy to Provence, boasts its signature cheeses that reflect its history, climate, and culture.

Brie, Camembert, Roquefort, and Munster are just a few jewels in France’s cheese crown. The French don’t just eat cheese; they celebrate it. With dedicated courses in meals, paired meticulously with wines, cheese in France is more than food; it’s an experience.

6. Mozzarella is the most popular cheese in America.

Mozzarella Cheese
Mozzarella Cheese

When one thinks of mozzarella, images of gooey, melted cheese stretching from a slice of pizza might come to mind. And it’s no wonder, given its status as America’s favorite cheese. The versatility of mozzarella, from being the star in caprese salads to its integral role in lasagnas and sandwiches, has secured its spot in the hearts of many.

Its mild flavor profile and exceptional melting properties make it a staple in countless dishes. Following closely behind in the American cheese race is cheddar, with its sharpness and crumbliness making it a versatile choice for snacking, cooking, and baking alike.

7. Wisconsin produces the most cheese in the U.S.

Tucked away in the Midwest, the state of Wisconsin proudly wears the crown as the top cheese producer in the United States. With its lush pastures and a long-standing dairy farming tradition, Wisconsin has earned the moniker “America’s Dairyland.”

Producing over a quarter of the nation’s cheese, this state is a haven for cheese lovers. From artisanal small-batch productions to large-scale operations, the state is renowned for its high-quality cheeses, with cheddar and mozzarella reigning supreme. The commitment to quality and innovation has also seen Wisconsin cheeses winning numerous national and international awards, solidifying its place in the global cheese arena.

8. The holes in Swiss cheese are caused by gas bubbles.

Piece of Swiss cheese, cherry tomatoes and olives on wooden boar
Piece of Swiss cheese, cherry tomatoes and olives on wooden boar

Swiss cheese, with its iconic holes or “eyes,” has intrigued many a cheese enthusiast. These characteristic holes are a result of a fascinating microbial process. As the cheese matures, specific bacteria involved in its fermentation process release carbon dioxide gas. This gas, trapped within the solidifying cheese, forms bubbles which eventually become the holes we see. Cheeses like Emmental and Gruyère exhibit this phenomenon prominently. Not just a visual spectacle, these holes also influence the texture and flavor of the cheese, making it all the more cherished.

9. Cheese can help prevent tooth decay.

Beyond its gustatory delights, cheese brings with it some dental benefits. Consuming cheese stimulates saliva production in the mouth. This increased salivary flow helps in neutralizing the acids that contribute to enamel erosion, a precursor to cavities. Additionally, the saliva helps in rinsing away lingering food particles, reducing the risk of decay. So, while it’s no substitute for regular dental hygiene practices, indulging in some cheese might give your teeth a little extra protection.

10. Cheese contains a small amount of addictive proteins.

Ever found yourself reaching out for just one more slice of cheese, even when you’re full? There’s some science behind that insatiable craving. Cheese contains proteins called casomorphins. As these proteins are digested, they release opiates that bind to the brain’s opioid receptors, the same receptors that respond to drugs like morphine and heroin. This binding induces feelings of pleasure and can lead to cravings. While the effect is mild compared to strong narcotics, it does explain why cheese is often considered irresistibly delicious by many.

11. Cheese was once used as currency.

The multifaceted utility of cheese is exemplified in its historical role as a currency. In ancient Rome, cheese wasn’t just a dietary staple, but a valued commodity. Its long shelf-life, especially in the case of harder cheeses, and nutritional value made it a reliable and coveted trade item.

Romans viewed cheese as an asset, a tangible form of wealth. It was so esteemed that people frequently used it to settle debts, pay their taxes, and even cover their rent. This speaks volumes about the significance of cheese in ancient economies and societies.

12. A cheese sommelier is called a fromager.

Homemade sandwich with fromage cheese and tomatoes
Homemade sandwich with fromage cheese and tomatoes

Much like wine sommeliers, fromagers are experts in the nuanced world of cheese. Their depth of knowledge encompasses the science of cheese-making, the art of aging, and the intricacies of flavor profiles.

They guide enthusiasts and novices alike through cheese pairings, ensuring that each cheese is complemented perfectly, whether by wine, bread, or accompaniments like fruits and jams. Their expertise ensures that every cheese tasting becomes an enlightening and delightful experience.

13. The world’s most expensive cheese is Pule.

While cheese in itself is a delight, Pule cheese from Serbia stands on a pedestal of its own. Crafted exclusively at the Zasavica Special Nature Reserve in Serbia from the milk of Balkan donkeys, Pule is a crumbly, white cheese celebrated for its unique taste and rarity.

What makes it so expensive is the labor-intensive process of hand-milking the donkeys, combined with the fact that these animals produce a very limited quantity of milk. Approximately 25 liters of milk are needed to produce just one kilogram of Pule cheese, making it one of the most labor and resource-intensive cheeses in the world.

14. The moon is not made of cheese.

moone cheese

The whimsical notion that the moon is made of green cheese has tickled imaginations for generations. Though scientifically we know that the moon is a mix of rocks and dust, the playful idea speaks to humanity’s penchant for storytelling.

Interestingly, cheese did touch the lunar surface when astronauts aboard Apollo 11, the first manned mission to land on the moon, brought with them a small wheel of cheese. While it was a symbolic gesture rather than a scientific experiment, it adds a delightful footnote to the rich tapestry of cheese’s history.

15. Cheese can help you sleep.

Beyond its delightful taste, certain cheeses come with a surprising benefit: aiding in relaxation and sleep. Tryptophan, an essential amino acid found in many cheeses, plays a role in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, appetite, and sleep. An elevated serotonin level can lead to increased production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep cycles.

So, incorporating a moderate serving of cheese into your evening routine could be a tasty way to promote restful slumber. But as with everything, moderation is key; it’s essential to balance the intake and choose cheeses that are lower in fat and sodium for nighttime consumption.

16. Mice don’t actually like cheese.


Pop culture, especially cartoons, has created a lasting image of mice ardently chasing after cheese. However, this portrayal isn’t entirely accurate. Mice, being natural grain eaters, have a dietary preference for foods rich in carbohydrates, such as grains, fruits, and seeds.

While they wouldn’t necessarily refuse a nibble of cheese if it’s available, given a choice, they’d likely opt for their carb-rich favorites. The myth might have originated from ancient times when cheese was stored in barns or cellars, and mice would nibble on it as a readily available food source.

17. Cheese can be frozen.

Freezing is a practical method to extend the shelf life of many foods, and cheese is no exception. While most cheeses can be frozen, the texture of some may change upon thawing. Hard cheeses, like cheddar and parmesan, fare better in the freezer and maintain much of their original texture and flavor. In contrast, softer cheeses, such as mozzarella or brie, might become a bit crumbly or grainy after thawing.

To ensure the best quality post-freezing, it’s advisable to wrap the cheese tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, and then store it in an airtight container or freezer bag. When you’re ready to enjoy, thawing in the refrigerator ensures a more even and gentle return to its original state.

18. Cheese can be made into a powder.

The art of transforming cheese into powder is a testament to its versatility and the innovation surrounding this beloved dairy product. The dehydration process not only concentrates the flavors but also extends the cheese’s shelf life.

This powdered form has become a popular choice in packaged foods, especially in snacks like cheese-flavored popcorn, chips, and the iconic macaroni and cheese packets. Additionally, it serves as a convenient seasoning, adding a burst of cheesy flavor to dishes without the moisture of traditional cheese, making it a favorite among chefs and home cooks alike.

19. The world’s largest cheese weighed over 5,000 pounds.

Wisconsin’s reputation as a leading cheese-producing state is not just about quantity but also about grandeur. In 1993, the state showcased its dairy prowess by creating a colossal cheddar cheese wheel weighing over 5,000 pounds, earning a spot in the Guinness World Records.

This monumental cheese wheel became a symbol of Wisconsin’s dedication to the craft and artistry of cheese-making, drawing attention and admiration from cheese lovers around the globe. Events like this serve as a reminder of the lengths to which humans will go in their passion for food, especially something as universally loved as cheese.

20. The moon may be made of green cheese after all.

The adage “the moon is made of green cheese” took on an exciting twist in 2019 when scientists embarked on an experiment to produce cheese using bacteria and yeast in simulated lunar and Martian soils. While the moon isn’t made of cheese, this innovative research suggests that future space travelers might not have to miss out on their favorite dairy delight.

As we look to a future where humans might establish colonies on other planets, understanding how to produce familiar and comforting foods like cheese in alien environments becomes crucial. The thought of astronauts enjoying a slice of space cheese on a Martian base showcases the timeless appeal and adaptability of this ancient food.

Cheese maker at the cheese storage
Cheese maker at the cheese storage


Cheese stands as a testament to mankind’s ability to harness nature’s bounty in delectable ways. Its evolution from ancient eras to futuristic space endeavors exemplifies its enduring appeal. As diverse as the cultures that cherish it, cheese remains a delightful journey for the palate, urging us to explore and savor its countless avatars. So, whether you’re a connoisseur or a casual nibbler, remember that with cheese, every bite is a story waiting to be told.

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