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Photo: Per Kvalvik

Norway is now home to the best cheese in the world

Tiny cheesery beats world elite.

This Wednesday, the World Cheese Awards were held in San Sebastian, Spain, where the world’s best cheese was once again voted on by a panel of judges.

And the winner is neither Roqueforth nor Camembert or Stilton.

Its name is Kraftkar (a Norwegian term for a powerfully built man) and its origin is the tiny cheesery Tingvollost in Fjord Norway.

Event organizer The Guild of Fine Food describe the finale as “surprising and emotional”, with wild celebrations following immediately on the heels of the cheesy underdog’s victory, having racked up the most points from the judges and thereby snatching victory in front of two local spanish contenders.

Kraftkar is a blue cheese, and the recipient of much flattery from Canadian judge Nick Trioros.

“The mould in this cheese is developed really nicely. It’s very evenly distributed. On top of that, the texture is great: when it crumbles you get a soft creaminess. And on the finish, it coats your tongue with a real soft landing.”

According to the Guild of Fine Food website, Tingvollost-chairman Gunnar Waagen was teary-eyed as he accepted the accolade.

“I don’t believe it. We’ve made cheese for about 10 years. We are a little family in the middle of Norway trying to do our best every day. We get up early and sleep late.”

Dairy director Egil Smith-Meyer is no less surprised. Talking to Norwegian broadcaster NRK, he said:

“I thought this was impossible. We’re up against the big cheeses, the ones everyone has heard of. Winning against that is surreal. You always look up to those in the top of your class. All of a sudden that’s us, and we’ve trounced the world elite.”

Gunnar Waage
Gunnar Waage.
Photo: Tingvollost

The way Meyer (who himself was putting children to bed back home in Norway as Kraftkar was having its moment of glory) describes it to the paper Tidens Krav, the victory came almost by accident.

Chairman Gunnar Waagen was on a study trip in Spain together with a delegation from Norwegian cheese organization Norsk Gardsost, and decided to drop by the contest.

“And then they announced Gunnar as the supreme champion.”

As if winning the world championships was not enough, Kraftkar had another ace up its sleeve the following day. As Gunnar Waagens daughter, cheese farmer Kristin Waagen, tells it:

“Today, Kraftkar was also chosen as the Champion of Champions. That means it is the best cheese of all time. So this just gets better and better.”

It looks like Kraftkar is truly living up to its name, which according to Matmerk is pulled from the myths surrounding the Norwegian farm boy Tore Nordbø.

His strength is said to have been so extreme as to seem supernatural. The “kraftkar” is also said to have been so huge that he had to walk sideways through the doors of people’s houses.

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