Formaje writes a new chapter in the art of cheese making
Artisanal cheeses take on a new language when you talk to Clara Diez, who along with her husband founded FORMAJE a unique cheesemonger in Madrid that focuses on the organic cheesemaking style rather than regular diary.
In addition to buying the tastiest and purest cheeses in town, their web shop offers everything related to the joy of cheese, which the couple regularly represents in cheese workshops and tastings. We had a chat with Clara.
IRMA: You call yourself a cheese activist, which is clearly understandable when you visit formaje.com, digital or in store. Can you explain a little bit how your concept differentiates from other cheese vendors?
CLARA DIEZ: We don’t really focus on what makes us different from the others, but in creating a solid philosophy that represents us as a company and which includes the ideals we believe in, regarding the reasons why a cheese can be considered a cultural asset. The principles that we embrace when it comes to selecting the producers (and the cheeses) we work with are really specific and are based on the personal acknowledgement we have about both the producer and the product and the basis behind every cheese we sell. Apart from that, I guess that Formaje is different because we’ve developed a very personal language to communicate cheese and to add value within our industry. We talk about artisan cheese using a language that feels so new for the customers, it reminds to fashion or other industries. I feel that Formaje is not only about the product, but it also involves a lifestyle, a way of understanding food, natural environments and consumption.
IRMA: How important is authenticity and transparency when it comes to food?
CLARA DIEZ: That’s all that actually matters in food, but it needs to be sustained by a final product that is actually differential and that has a clear value by itself, what it means: if the product has been produced under the right standards (animal care, raw milk, grazing livestock, hygiene standards, manual processes that add value, etc), the result needs to stand by itself. Everything that matters when it comes to food production needs to sustain a product that is excellent as the consequence.
IRMA: We are thrilled by your story telling and about how you present cheese, how did you come up with this concept?
CLARA DIEZ: For us it’s natural to develop a concept based on the beauty of the product because we consider that it has a high value that needs to be considered and that this must be reflected in all the actions and areas of the company. For us, it makes sense to invest time in finding a communication language (image, texts, etc.) that allows us to convey to the consumer the fundamental idea that cheese is a product that has a value linked to the territories, to the culture of craftsmanship, to natural environments, and of course a very important gastronomic value. In our minds, we have always seen cheese as something beautiful and also groundbreaking, modern, innovative: for all these reasons, Formaje has a powerful image that reflects all these feelings.
IRMA: Tell us something about your packaging?
CLARA DIEZ: The packaging and logo has been designed by Ana Mirats. We are developing new bags and packaging to go beyond the product to the consumer experience. For example, our cloth bag, designed by Basalto Studio, just like the uniform, so as the bag is not something casual: it has a reinforced base so you can carry your cheeses without one resting on top of the other and this can be detrimental to their conservation. In addition, you can put it directly into the fridge and protect the cheeses from the cold that can cause them to dry out.
IRMA: Can you order your cheeses worldwide?
CLARA DIEZ: At the moment, we cannot ship cheeses to all of Europe, and we only ship to Spain (mainland and Balearic Islands) and Portugal, due to the refrigeration conditions that are necessary to keep the cheeses in perfect condition. However, it is one of our long-term projects. We do ship everywhere in our accessories section, a section where you can find all the ideal complements that add to the experience of the world of cheese. An opportunity to embellish the – already beautiful per sé – experience around a cheese table.
IRMA: What makes you think out of the box?
CLARA DIEZ: It feels natural to me trying to find new and unknown ways of doing things. I feel connected with myself when trying hard to find new ways of communicating. I love pushing harder and finding new paths of personal and professional development. And I’ve a big vocation for what I do, I really enjoy it. I suppose that helps.
IRMA: The ideal combination of cheeses for a cheese party with friends in spring, would be?
CLARA DIEZ: For that party where your selection of cheeses has to be the winner… A crazy selection of five cheeses that will not leave any of those present indifferent. A bit of hardcore (Puigpedros), Moluengo for those who enjoy the ”most listened to of the month” playlist (this cheese from Albacete will shake your idea of what a cheese made in La Mancha is), a Manchego for those who dance holding on to their waists, Roquefort for the melancholic who enjoy a good French 80’s tune and Blossom Hornkäse, a ”teenager” from Bavaria covered with flowers (picked from the hillside where the cows graze the milk from which the cheese is made) that will become the guest that everyone will want to have at their party again.
IRMA: The best and the most unusual company with cheese would be?
CLARA DIEZ: I love tea, though it is not that unusual… but I feel the rituals of tea and cheese have a lot in common.
IRMA: The book on your bedside table?
CLARA DIEZ: Right now: The artisan (Richard Sennet), Agua y Jabón (Marta D Riezu) and This Too Shall Pass, by Julia Samuel.