It is a cold February afternoon and I am watching wheels of cheese the size of small footstools being turned and gently brushed by the world’s first and only cheddar-turning robot. “Tina the Turner”, as the robot is affectionately called, is at the frontline of cheddar innovation in the UK. Despite the cutting-edge technology, however, this is not an industrial food factory but Westcombe, a small family-run dairy located deep in the Somerset countryside, some 100 miles west of London.
Hours before sunrise, I was driven out of the city accompanied by a trio of cheese aficionados from Neal’s Yard Dairy. We were embarking on a “cheddar run”, primed to select cheese from the Montgomery and Westcombe dairies. Our expedition leader was Owen Bailey, “senior cheese maturer” at Neal’s Yard in London, where he has worked for more than 20 years.