As Christmas approaches newbie cheesemaker Clare Jones can reflect on a vintage year for her award-winning Trefaldwyn Blue cheese.
It has been a whirlwind few months for the Montgomery teacher-turned cheesemaker who only a few weeks ago took home the award for the best Welsh cheese at the World Cheese Awards, held in Spain.
The world award is the pinnacle of a fantastic six months, during which Trefaldwyn Blue has also received two stars at the Great Taste Awards and tasted success at the Artisan Cheese Awards in Melton Mowbray.
Clare said, “After the surprise of winning two stars at the Great Taste Awards, I thought I’d give the World Cheese Awards a go. To send it to Spain took a lot of documentation, and I really didn’t think I’d get anywhere in the competition. So, when I heard I’d won a gold award and then the best Welsh cheese award, I was blown away!”
Launched two years ago at Montgomery Christmas Market, production of the Trefaldwyn Blue was halted by the Covid-19 pandemic, with Clare only able to re-start making the artisan cheese in May 2021.
Since then, it has been somewhat of a whirlwind for cheesemaking-newcomer Clare, whose cheese is named in honour of her home town.
The cheese is made with milk from Welsh dairy farmers’ co-operative Llaeth Cymraeg. Trefaldwyn Blue is served in fine restaurants and sold in a host of farm shops, delis and grocers across Mid Wales and The Marches.
Her new career as a cheesemaker is far removed from the nearly two decades working in a primary school classroom and has unleashed her entrepreneurial side.
Clare said, “After 18 years of teaching, I wanted to have a better work-life balance, and I’d always fancied running my own business. While on holiday, my husband and I talked about Montgomery and how it has become quite a foodie area. Still, no one appeared to be making cheese. So, I booked myself on a cheesemaking course and went from there.”
Armed with basic cheesemaking skills, Clare began developing the now award-winning blue cheese recipe, initially sharing it with friends and family.
Encouraged by their feedback, Clare decided to take her venture further and discovered the state of the art cheese making facilities at Food Centre Wales, based in Horeb, Ceredigion. Utilising Project HELIX funding she began working with an award-winning cheese expert who helped her to develop her cheese making skills further through the Knowledge Transfer Programme.
Clare said, “I went to an open day at the Food Centre Wales and found they have such amazing facilities, especially for someone like me who does not have a background in food. As such, it has enabled me to start my business without investing lots of money.”
Clare met Cywain’s micro business team leader Lowri Davies early on her cheesemaking journey. The Cywain project works with food and drink producers across Wales, helping them grow and develop their business, with support in a range of areas, including marketing, brand development and finance.
Through Cywain Clare has taken part in various courses and workshops, gaining skills and confidence.
Clare said, “Cywain have been brilliant; they have given me lots of support – including branding and mentoring. They understand the hoops I have to jump through and have pointed me in the right direction and put me in touch with the right people with the expertise to help me grow my business.”
Cywain Micro Team Leader, Lowri Davies said, “When I first met Clare and tasted her cheese I knew she was on to a winner. I’ve enjoyed working with her, and I’m delighted that all her hard work has paid off and that Trefaldwyn Blue is getting the recognition it deserves.”
With Cywain’s support, Clare is now ready to take her business to the next level, and she is looking for premises near Montgomery.
She said, “The support and help I’ve had from the team at the Food Centre Wales has been fantastic, but I now want to expand my business and move my production closer to home.”
Food Centre Wales Dairy Specialist, Mark Jones said, “It has been a pleasure assisting Clare with the development of her cheese recipe into a successful, award winning product. I’m looking forward to supporting her future projects and site design of her new premises to help her business grow even more.”
Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd, said:
“Clare’s innovation and passion to succeed coupled with support from Food Centre Wales and Cywain have resulted in a real success story and Wales adding yet another world-class cheese to its name.
“This is a great example of what can be achieved by working together. A huge congratulations to Clare and I wish her all the best now and for the future.”