Holy cow: French monks with too much cheese find salvation online

The Citeaux abbey just south of Dijon is the birthplace of the Cistercian Catholic order. — AFP pic
The Citeaux abbey just south of Dijon is the birthplace of the Cistercian Catholic order. — AFP pic

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DIJON, March 28 — A French monastery in the heart of Burgundy launched an emergency online sale Friday to get rid of thousands of its prized artisanal cheeses, which are languishing in its cellars as Covid-19 keeps buyers away.

It seemed their prayers were answered as orders came in quickly.

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 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.

“Our sales are down nearly 50 per cent,” 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 was 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 was two wheels at €23 euros (RM113) each, plus shipping.

“We’re going to make it,” Jean-Claude said.

It seemed he was right: By late Friday, a message was posted to the Divine Box website saying “operation completed — 2006.9kg pre-ordered in 24h!” — AFP

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