BUSINESS
Tushetian Guda Cheese sold in California and New York – Young Entrepreneur revives Georgian cheese making traditions
09 October, 2017
It has already been two years since Giorgi Abulidze began to produce the Tushetian cheese together with his brother. In Tusheti Region’s (northeastern Georgia) Gometsari Gorge, at the elevation of 2100 meters above sea level, in very complicated conditions, they began their enterprise by adhering to the oldest traditions. As a result, thebusiness proved to be very successful. At present Tushetian cheese produced by Abulidze brothers is already available not only in Georgia, but in other countries as well.

- My
family, as well as all the other families in Tusheti, have been producing traditional Guda cheese. So we decided to revive the old traditions with absolutely clean products. In 2015, within the EU Rural Development Program, we received funding and set up a cooperative Alaznistavi. We have built modern factory for producing the traditional Tushetian Guda cheese at 2100 meters above sea level, because the environment gives special taste to the cheese.
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In the factory we produce Guda cheese in a traditional way, which means that the cheese is matured in the leather bag (Guda means ‘leather bag’ in Georgian), in compliance with food safety standards, which is very important for dairy products.

- How many types of cheese do you produce?

- We produce four kinds of Guda cheese:Svilobi is bred in the sheep’s skin; Lartusho - in cow’s skin; "Dovna" – in the mixed skin of sheep and cow and "Chogi" is a melted Guda cheese. They differ from each other with falvour and texture. The names have their meanings, Svilobi is a mountain in Tusheti; Lartusho and Dovna are geographical names too, while Chogi is the local name for Guda cheese.
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- How is the Guda cheese made?

- The process starts in mid-May and continues till the end of August.

Milk is filtered in a blanket where the healing herbs are put, namely nettle and feather grass.. Then the rennet is added for fermentation and it is kept warm for one hour, underneath a felt cloak. The fermented mass is then well mixed and kept for half an hour more.

After that, the liquid is removed from the vessel and the remaining cheese is cut and put in a canvas bag specially made for the cheese, which allows the cheese to take its round shape. The cheese is then put on a pad and covered with a felt cloak for a few hours and after that, the cheese is placed in guda (sheepskin bag). 4-5 heads of cheese are put in one Guda before adding salt. Guda is then transported into a specially designed room and is covered with felt cloak again. It has to be turned around three times a day to change the shape. So the cheese begins to ripen in guda this process takles at least 60 days, after which it is ready for sale.

- At the farm we have 500 sheep and 50 cows. It is really difficult to produce guda cheese and that is why young people are less interested in this activity. To begin with, it is important to take care of the sheep. In addition, the shepherds have to change the pastures during different seasons, which is very difficult in these conditions. Moreover, the morning of the shepherds starts at 4 o'clock and lasts until late at night.
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- How many people work in the enterprise?

There are currently 11 members in the cooperative. Only local people are employed here. The number of workmanship is changing seasonally and their number ranges 4 to 6.

- Where do you sell your products?


- Our product has been introduced in several markets. For the second year already, we have exported a large amount of cheese to the US through one of the mediator exporter companies. Our cheese is sold in California and New York. The best thing is that every year the demand increases more and more. The price of one kg cheese ranges from 22 to 26 Gel.

- Recently, your cheese was presented at the Cheese Festival in Italy and won the first place.

- It was in September. A festival of cheese was organized by the International Organization SLOW FOOD and it was held in the city of Bari. Around 1000 species of cheeses from different countries were presented, 6 of them were awarded and among them was Tushetian cheese. Guda cheese won the nomination of The best cheese made in high mountainous regions in family conditions.

- Could you share your future plans?


- First of all, we are going to expand our production. It would be nice for more people to know about the Guda cheese. It is important to understand that this cheese is made from absolutely natural products and does not contain harmful ingredients.

Author:
Nino Chikovani

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