The Citeaux abbey just south of Dijon, birthplace of the Cistercian Catholic order, usually sells its raw-milk, semi-soft discs only to restaurants or visitors who make the trek 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 cheeses too many — the equivalent of 2.8 tonnes.
“We tried explaining to our 75 cows that they needed to produce less milk but they don’t seem to have understood,” brother Jean-Claude, in charge of marketing at the monastery founded in 1098, told AFP.
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“Our sales are down nearly 50 percent,” he said, with French restaurants still closed since October 30 as authorities try to curb a third wave of cases. “We need to clear out our stock.”
It’s a sin for fans of a cheese made by the monks since 1925, which won the silver medal at last year’s international food and drink competition in Lyon, a bastion of France’s culinary heritage.
The monks teamed with the internet start-up Divine Box, which sells products made by abbeys in France and elsewhere, with a goal of selling at least a tonne of cheese by Tuesday.
The minimum order is two wheels at €23 each, plus shipping.
“We’re going to make it,” Jean-Claude said, with more than 700 kilogrammes already ordered according to the site.