I have always been intrigued by Beehive Cheese, a company out of Utah that produces a cheese called “Barely Buzzed.” It’s rubbed with espresso grounds and lavender. Occasionally, a wheel appears in cheese cases, but somehow I’m never quick enough to score a wedge.
To my great delight, Beehive sent me a box of samples recently. So, I took them to work. Who better to share coffee-laced cheese with than a group of college students?
My Fiction Workshop this term is a splendid little posse, so one day, instead of giving them a quiz over Flannery O’Connor, I tested their palates. In a blind tasting, could they name the flavors of this curious cheese? Had they truly become skilled observers?
Here were the Beehive cheeses on offer:
Big John’s Cajun
I jotted down the students' comments on a white board. They smelled each cheese, then tasted, and their faces shifted from surprise to awe to explosive delight (with a few frowns in between).
Barely Buzzed tasted like smoky bubble bath to some, while others found the experience profoundly exciting. “I’ve never tasted anything like it,” one said. “I definitely want to try this again.” I agree – it’s a curious blend of flavors layered onto a mellow, buttery cheese. No wonder it won 1st place three times at the American Cheese Society in the category of Flavored Cheddar.
Big John’s Cajun was a “party” in the mouth. I found the spices a little overpowering and the texture a little grainy, but my student S., who always wears a Guinness shirt to class, loved discovering a cheese that tasted like pepperoni.
Butter Bound was the least complex but also the richest in taste. The whole class loved the ultra-creamy texture of this cheese, which is bound in cloth and rubbed with organic cultured butter.
Was there a winner? No. The class was split three ways, with factions advocating for each selection. As a group, we loved the imagination behind this company.
When I told my students that Beehive Cheese is owned by a pair of computer guys who dropped their day jobs to become cheesemakers, one student got very excited. He confessed that he hoped to become an Australian sheep herder, and he wondered if he might make some sheep cheese!
I tried not to look too excited. My students filed out of the classroom, taking every last morsel with them. And so, the semester came to an end -- with cheese and espresso and lavender. And many good stories to remember.