A Delicious Local Cheese and its Passionate Local Cheesemaker
I recently shared the fact that, when possible, I try to eat locally sourced foods. I like buying regional produce and take an interest in knowing where my meat and fish comes from too. In addition to the environmental benefits, I also enjoy supporting local businesses, in hopes that on some small level I’m helping repair the broken economy.
One of the best things about buying local products is the possibility to meet the people behind them. In Amherst I loved talking to the local farmers about their produce. My Sunday mornings turned into quick lessons on topics like heirloom tomato varietals, Native American corn flours, and how to tell if a wild mushroom is okay to eat. These individuals treat their goods as so much more than simple commodities; they are their passion and their life.
With these conversations in mind, I was thrilled when my friend Lauren (who writes at Sobremesa In Spain) and I were invited to tour La Cabezuela, one of Madrid’s small local cheese factories, with a private tour by its owner, Juan Luis Royuela.
On a bright Sunday morning we headed into Madrid’s countryside, making our way up the mountains to the small town of Fresnedillas de la Oliva. There we met Juan Luis, a lively man passionate about his project: producing an excellent product and optimizing his business.
Juan Luis had worked in marketing and advertising for many years when he decided to take his first cheese making class. He quickly followed with a professional training course in Santander, Spain. When he heard of the Cabezuela cheese factory in Fresnedillas de la Oliva he thought it would be a great place to practice his skills, and was surprised when the owners proposed selling him the brand.
In 2010 he took ownership of the company, now Royuela Cheese Co. (but still marketed as La Cabezuela). His hard work has already lead to success, as the brand’s semicurado (semi-hard cheese) won a bronze medal at the prestigious World Cheese Awards.
While touring the factory Juan Luis’s enthusiasm was contagious—I just about signed up for a cheese making class when I got home! He also appreciates the importance of branding and realizes that, for better or worse, it takes more than a great product to be recognized in today’s competitive market.
As we toured the small cheese factory and listened to Juan Luis passionately explain the cheese making process, I couldn’t help but look forward to the tasting. After all, I’d never tried something quite like La Cabezuela’s cheeses before. They are currently made using pasteurized goats’ milk from goats indigenous to the Guadarrama mountain region. The exclusivity of these goats’ milk gives Juan Luis’s cheeses a uniqueness that is difficult to imitate.
The company currently offers three delicious cheeses to choose from. They have a curado (hard cheese), the award winning semicurado (semi-hard cheese), and the unique lingote (a creamy cheese reminiscent of French brie). We also tasted their thick, natural yogurt, also made from goats’ milk. Each sample was heavenly. We joked about skipping lunch for a baguette and more cheese—perhaps if it hadn’t been so cold we would have picnicked in the Guadarrama mountains!
We left La Cabezuela in a cloud of creamy, cheesy bliss, looking forward to enjoying our purchases throughout the week. Juan Luis was a gracious host, and gave us a wonderful tour. I’d recommend contacting him for a tour and tasting if you plan on visiting the area (the town is only about 15 minutes from the popular tourist destination El Escorial).
For more information about the La Cabezuela cheese factory and its products please check out La Cabezuela’s website. You can also inquire about upcoming cheese making classes, tours, tastings, and online ordering!
Check out Lauren’s article on Sobremesa In Spain for more information about the cheese making process and the details of our wonderful tour.
Thanks again to Juan Luis and the employees of Royuela Cheese Co. for a wonderful Sunday afternoon. We’ll be back soon!