The one thing that people always talk about when I mention veganism is “…But I could NEVER give up cheese!”
As many of us know, dairy is full of hormones that bonds a baby calf to its mother. Milk, a growth food for baby cows, is high in sugar and calories and meant to turn a baby cow into a large bovine in a matter of months! Casein, the protein found in milk, becomes casomorphins once digested, which are opioids. This means that eating cheese creates chemicals in our brain that make us feel happy and calm. Eating dairy cheese itself is also both high in fat (mostly saturated) and sodium. All of these things add up to the fact that cheese can have addictive qualities and is extremely unhealthy, No wonder people have such a hard time giving it up.
Enter Moon Cheese — a creamery from Taipei that will make you wonder why you ever ate dairy in the first place.
Vegan founders Stephanie and James quit their corporate jobs to pursue their cheesemaking passions in Taipei, a very vegan-friendly city. They noticed, however, that there was a lack of quality dairy alternatives, like cheese and butter, in the Asian market. With James’ Dutch roots, and Stephanie’s creativity, they created Moon Cheese, a fully-vegan artisan creamery using cultured nut products.
At a vegan wine and cheese event in Hong Kong, I had the chance to try their amazing cheeses. There were two cream cheese flavours: a lemon dill and sweet cranberry. Both of the cream cheeses were incredibly creamy, tangy, and fresh. I could only imagine how great they would taste on a toasted bagel.
I also tried six of their artisan cheeses. The brie was mild, creamy, and light. The cheddar — close to a Dutch Edam — was sharp, fermented, and tangy. The sun-dried tomato and herbs — their bestseller — was fresh, savoury, and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The smoked gouda had an intense smokey flavour, and the truffle was full of flavour. The smoked paprika had a spicy burst of jalapeño.
The process of making cheese from cultured cashews is a laborious one. James and Stephanie described how not rushing the cheesemaking process is crucial because cashews can easily be turned into cashew butter if the oils separate!
Stephanie makes each wheel of cheese herself, which they explained is tailored for an Asian market. Although they’re fans of popular American cheese brands like Miyoko’s and Follow Your Heart, they revealed that American cheese is often super high in sodium. At Moon Cheese, however, they prefer using fresh herbs and spices to give their cheese flavour, instead of large amounts of salt.
They let their cheese ferment for 3 to 7 days, with the cheddar fermenting for much longer to give it a sharper flavour. They told us that Moon Cheese also stays fresh for several months in the fridge, unlike dairy cheese, if stored correctly.
We also had a chance to try different alcoholic beverages, such as prosecco, rosé, and strawberry fruit beer, which paired nicely with the different flavours of cheese. The drinks were all vegan, meaning that no animal products (usually eggs and fish bladders) were used in the filtration process. Justin, the wine master, revealed that vegan alcohol often uses pea protein instead of animal products. He explained, however, that most commercial alcohol is not vegan, since using a vegan alternative in the brewing/winemaking process takes more time.
I never liked eating strong cheese before going vegan, so a cheese and wine tasting was something I’d never done before, and never thought I’d enjoy. Let’s just say that I was blown away by how good the cheeses were. James and Stephanie were incredibly delightful, explaining the story of how they create all their cheeses and answering all of our questions. There was also some cheese available to purchase at the end of the tasting.
I’ve always appreciated the stories of people who quit their corporate jobs to pursue their passions — and James and Stephanie are no exception. Moon Cheese is a delicious product, handmade by vegans, that you need to try next time you’re in Taipei. It’s so gouda you won’t brie-lieve it!