The word ‘Tongola’ roughly translates as ‘hut in the mountains’ which is a very apt name for the steep block with the little house and cheese production facility perched at the top we visited recently. Tongola Goat Products, situated near Wattle Grove in the Huon Valley, revolves around a herd of about thirty organically reared Toggenburg goats. Swiss expats’ Hans Stutz and Esther Haeusermann produce four very different and wonderful goat’s milk cheeses here and you’ll find them all on the plates at Ethos at one time or another.
The Ethos team arrived at Tongola and were treated to a step-by-step run down of the Tongola cheese making process. Hans and Esther believe in minimal intervention cheese making and that the quality of the milk determines the ultimate quality of the final cheese so they put a lot of love into their goats. Hans explained that they use fairly simplistic instruments in their cheese making process, relying on experience and feel to judge perfectly when the next step needs to happen to get the perfect goat’s cheese – true artisanal cheese making.
Nothing at Tongola is wasted; even the whey (the watery byproduct form cheese making) is fed to four plump and friendly Berkshire pigs, keeping the entire process in house as ethical as possible. The team was then introduced to the herd and shown through the milking facility which is situated in a little hand built weatherboard shed overlooking the distant Huon River.
The beautiful and curious caramel coloured Toggenburg goats in the Tongola herd must have a wonderful life. The oldest known dairy goat, they originate in Switzerland, just like Hans and Esther and seem to love their new home. Hills to climb and lots of land to forage on with all the love and care lavished on them that they could want. The oldest of the herd is 11 years old and still marches up the gangways to the milking shed twice a day.
It was a pleasure to see the tiny Tongola operation meet the animals and people involved in producing such a wonderful and unique Tasmanian product, made with all the ethics and passion we hold dear at Ethos.