A French monastery in the heart of Burgundy has launched an emergency online sale to get rid of thousands of its artisanal cheeses, which languish in its cellars as Covid-19 keeps shoppers away.
The Cîteaux Abbey, just south of Dijon, cradle of the Cistercian Catholic order, generally sells its semi-flexible raw milk discs only to restaurants or to visitors to its on-site shop. But a drop in demand since the coronavirus crisis erupted last year has left the abbey’s 19 Trappist monks with 4,000 too many cheeses, a 2.8-tonne problem.
“We tried to explain to our 75 cows that they needed to produce less milk, but they didn’t seem to have understood,” says Brother Jean-Claude, marketing manager at the monastery founded in 1098.
“Our sales are down nearly 50%,” he said, with French restaurants still closed since October 30 as authorities tried to quell a third wave of cases. “We have to empty our stock.”
Monks’ cheese won the silver medal at last year’s international food and drink competition in Lyon, a bastion of French culinary heritage.
The monks have teamed up with Internet startup Divine Box, which sells products made by abbeys in France and elsewhere, with the aim of selling at least a ton of cheese by Tuesday. The minimum order is two wheels at 23 euros (£ 20) each, plus postage.
According to the site, 700 kg have already been ordered. “We’re going to get there,” Jean-Claude said.