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It's official: only cheese made in Cyprus can be called halloumi

The Mediterranean island nation's top export is set to get protected designation of origin status from the EU

15 April 2021 - 10:27 By hilary biller
It's best to grill halloumi cheese over the coals, say Cypriots, who invented the stuff.
It's best to grill halloumi cheese over the coals, say Cypriots, who invented the stuff.
Image: 123RF/Elena Shashkina

Halloumi used to be one of those exotic cheeses you rarely saw on the shelf in SA, and when you did, you weren’t sure how to eat the hard white rubbery cheese that was seemingly so tasteless.

With the upsurge in vegetarian lifestyles, halloumi has come of age. Coated in crumbs, deep-fried and served with a dipping sauce, it’s delish. Melted over roasted veg or topping a salad, it’s a complete meal.

Best, say the Cypriots, is to grill it over the coals, that’s when it really comes to life — and they should know, halloumi was first made on the Mediterranean island in the 1500s. Today it’s the country’s most valuable export.

Halloumi was first made on the Mediterranean Island of Cyprus in the 1500s. Today it’s the country’s most valuable export.

That’s why, after much lobbying, Cyprus is set to get this traditional cheese into the EU's register of protected designations of origin. This means that only halloumi made in Cyprus will have the right to carry the name halloumi.

No sweat for artisanal cheesemaker Danie Crowther of Noah’s Cheese close to Clarens in the Free State. “We call our halloumi 'halloumi-style' or 'South African halloumi',” he said, adding that a recent circular they’d received from Milk SA, the dairy industry mouthpiece, indicated the restriction on using the name.

Traditionally halloumi is made with a combo of goat, sheep and cow’s milk, the exact ratios of which are a thorny issue in its country of origin, and are expected to be finalised by 2024.

Noah’s Cheese uses cow’s milk to make their four different types of halloumi-style cheese: the traditional, which is their biggest seller, and is sold mainly to restaurants; a very popular and delicious halloumi-style cheese made with toasted sesame seeds; one with chilli for those who like a bit of heat; and one with rosemary.


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