Kenya for Christmas maybe ? Only four and a half hours away from Dubai, but avoid the beaches at this time as it’s so hot, try a quick trip out to Browns Cheese Factory in Nairobi, Kenya. Organised days out at Brown’s Cheese Factory are quite new, the owners Delia and Andy opened their home for cheese tastings and factory tours in March 2011 and currently run a maximum of 4 tours per week.
We were a party of 8, accompanied by a group of 12 Singaporeans visiting Kenya and 3 resident Austrians, kids are welcomed, there were a couple of toddlers and we had our two teenage girls with us.
While the tours are relatively new, Browns Cheeses have been around for almost 30 years. Delia’s parents pioneered the cheese making process in Kenya when Delia’s father wanted to eat Brie, a few trials later, the Brown brand was born…
Currently the factory produces 17 different kinds of artisan cheese, many of which have won awards in South Africa and Europe. The factory now provides employment to 45 local people who help look after the 25 Fresian cows, 2 pigs (Bacon and Mildred) their 10 newborn piglets, 2 rabbits, numerous chickens and some roving guinea fowl !
The tours start with a Welcome Drink which can be whatever you fancy from wine to fresh coffee, herbal tea or a much needed honey and lemon for someone with a sore throat in our party. The welcome drinks are accompanied by the first cheese of many eaten that day, a plump halloumi delicately flavoured with thyme and shallow fried till golden brown on the outside and almost melty in the middle. The fireside setting (July and August, Kenya’s wintery months) in the almost Tuscan rustic farmhouse completes the picture.
A brief cheese making demonstration by Andy follows and we’re told the main ingredients of any cheese are milk, bacteria, enzymes and salt. Next we put on our lab coats and head off with non slip footware to the factory floor. The factory really comprises of one large room where all the scientific processes required for making cheese happen, we went on to linger for a while in 2 maturing rooms where racks of cheeses sit in chilly temperatures. Some cheeses sit for a couple of months while others like the Parmesans stay put for almost 2 years. The Brie and other more mouldy cheeses are looked after by one person in an isolated area to minimize the risk of any contamination.
Returning to the main house for the cheese tasting is the highlight of the tour and places are already set out at the large farmhouse table. Guests are encouraged to sit anywhere they like to try their 10 types of cheese beautifully and professionally displayed from mild at one end to more mature at the other, going in an anticlockwise direction. Helpful information sheets explaining a little about each cheese and it’s main uses are laid out for guests who can also add their comments or favourites on the page as they taste. The cheeses ranged from plainish Provolone to full bodied Parmesans and creamy bries.
Homemade bread and an impressive selection of crackers accompanies the cheeses including an unusual (I found subsequently at Selfridges at £4.50 for a small packet) black charcoal cracker, apparently helpful for digestion.
There is also a sophisticated range of homemade organic chutneys to try with the cheeses, I had grape, mountain papaya jam, honey and caramelised onion in front of me.
The trick though is not to fill yourself up, as a sumptuous organic lunch follows after the cheese tasting, roasted duck salads, fresh tomato soup, fennel and cheddar cheese tart and spinach ravioli were just some of the things on the menu. Dessert was a fresh apple and mountain papaya pie with cream.
There is an obvious need to walk off all this food and Delia doesn’t disappoint with a fabulous walk around the organic farm and gardens next on the itinerary. This part of the tour is a delight and great hit with the children, I really think they forgot facebook, bbm etc for a short while at this point. The sheer variety of vegetables and fruits grown on the farm is very impressive and unusual, I particularly liked the cherry guava which we tasted as we went along learning about tomatillos, green beans, flowering courgette, sweet potato, cabbage and fennel.
While we traipsed around Hugh Fernley Whittingstall style, Andy was busy packaging up and invoicing guests for whatever cheeses they decided to take home with them. All in all this was a fabulous day out and although it’s not something you’d usually associate with Kenya, I’d say it was a must do activity for anyone visiting Nairobi.
About an hour’s drive outside Nairobi city past Village Market. You need to book before hand and it helps if it’s a nice day so you can enjoy the walk around the organic farm.
Prices are Kenya Shillings 2500 (AED 100) per adult and Kenya Shillings Dhs 1000 for children, toddlers are free of charge but welcomed.
Delia and Andy are very low key people who don’t aggressively promote the tours, you need to call them to book a tour or it may be easier to do via a travel agent who knows them.
He can organise all your Kenyan trip requirements.
Let me know if you’re inspired to go to Brown’s Cheese Factory by leaving a comment in the box below….and be sure to leave your email address in the subscription box to get the next post from DoinDubai.com and if you want to read about another great day out in Nairobi, this time a visit to the Sheldrik Elephant Orphanage, click here