Friday, January 20, 2012

Product Review: Emmi Tête de Moine Cheese

Tête de Moine cheese was originally developed by Catholic monks in Switzerland, nearly 1000 years ago, in the Norbertine monastery of Bellelay, Switzerland.[1] When soldiers from the French Revolution took over the monastery in the late 1700s, they found wheels of the cheese and named them tête de moine—i.e. "monk's head cheese".[2]

The proper way to eat Tête de Moine is to scrape the cheese with a knife and eat the resulting flakes with fresh fruit. This method of eating the cheese has since taken on symbolic importance, representing the tonsure (mouse over for definition) of the monks. A special adjustable, rotating knife, called a girolle, was invented to facilitate this specialized method for eating the cheese.[3] Since I wasn't sure whether or not I would like the cheese, I didn't feel it was worth it to invest in a girolle. To improvise, I just used a vegetable peeler and then, when that was taking too long, a cheese slicer.[4]

My verdict: This cheese tasted a lot like Morbier [5], but not as intense. It was also a bit harder and not as creamy as the Morbier. That means it tasted like a barnyard. In fact, Leann smelled and then (after making a gagging sound) said that it smelled like hoof thrush.[6] I'm guessing the rind of Tête de Moine is formed by the bacterium Brevibacterium linens, which would explain the odor [7], the orangish color, and the gooeyness. Some people must really like that kind of flavor in their cheese. I am not one of them.


[1] See

[2] See They also mention an alternative source for the name.

[3] See knife#Girolle.

[4] This probably produced slices that were too thick. I really should've just scraped the cheese with a sharp knife, like was done before the invention of the girolle.

[5] Read my review of Morbier cheese here.

[6] See

[7] Brevibacterium linens is the same bacterium that is responsible for foot and armpit odor.

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