Unlike France, Italy, the Netherlands, or even England, Indonesia may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking of cheese excellence. However, that perception is about to change, thanks to Mazaraat Cheese. Founded by the visionary duo of Muhammad Najmi and Nieta Pricilia Puspitasari, Mazaraat is making waves in the world of cheese, impressing global experts and renowned chefs with its artisanal offerings. These cheeses, known for their delightful variety of flavours, textures, and aromas, are perfect for pleasing the palates of food enthusiasts. More than just a culinary triumph, Mazaraat’s story is one of love for cheese, passion, and a commitment to preserving Indonesia’s dairy ecosystem.
While there are over 2,000 types of cheeses worldwide, some countries stand out for their rich cheese traditions. France boasts an impressive 440 varieties, Italy has 180, England 84 to 87, and the Netherlands offers 10 distinct types. In contrast, Indonesia, despite having access to fresh, high-quality milk from local farmers, only has three traditional cheeses ingrained in its national food heritage. In Enrekang regency, South Sulawesi, locals savour dangke, a hard cheese made from buffalo or cow’s milk, stored in coconut shells, covered with banana leaves, and infused with the sap of young papaya leaves for separation and solid texture. West Sumatra takes pride in dadih, fermented buffalo milk in bamboo, covered with banana leaves, often served with a dash of palm sugar or as a side dish. Meanwhile, the Tapanuli people in North Sumatra create dali ni horbo, a softer cheese boiled with cow’s milk and fermented using pineapple juice and papaya leaf water.
Although cheese remains a less common food in Indonesia, the founders of Yogyakarta-based Mazaraat Artisan Cheese, Muhammad Najmi (also known as Jamie) and Nieta Pricilia Puspitasari, share their journey of how cheese became a significant part of their family. In 2011, facing their daughter’s diagnosis of a leaky heart at just 1.5 months old, the couple embarked on a journey to learn and create their own fermented foods and beverages. Opting for a natural approach to care for their daughter, they delved into the world of fermented foods, including cheese, known for its immune-boosting properties. The results were remarkable, with their daughter’s heart defects closing completely by the age of 1.5 years. The couple attributes this success to the nutritional benefits of fermented products like kefir and cheese, which are also known for skin cell regeneration.
The story continued in 2015 when Janti Wignjopranoto, founder of Kamisan Organic Market and a cancer survivor, tasted Jamie’s halloumi. Noticing no adverse reactions, she invited Jamie to showcase his cheese at the market. This marked the inception of Mazaraat, named after the Arabic word for farm, signifying its roots in natural and organic processes. Starting from scratch at the Kamisan Organic Market, Mazaraat’s products gained popularity among customers with special dietary needs, including cancer survivors, individuals with autism, Down syndrome, lupus, and immune disorders.
Responding to the positive reception, Jamie and Nieta expanded their cheese business, establishing factories in Pasuruan, East Java, Solok, West Sumatra, Kudus, and Central Java, and maintaining their home in Yogyakarta as a hub for artisanal cheese production. Their Yogyakarta kitchen has crafted 15 to 20 types of cheese, such as Khayya, Athan, Ibra, and Wild Eclipse, showcasing their dedication to diverse flavours and textures.
Aiming for sustainability and growth, Mazaraat is not merely a cheese story anymore but an upstream/downstream ecosystem, encompassing animal feed farmers, cattle and dairy goat farmers, cheese processing, distribution traders, and logistics. Highlighting the integral role of good milk, Jamie emphasises their commitment to the nutritional needs of Indonesian children, promoting natural cheese, derived 100% from Indonesian soil and cultivated by Indonesian farmers.
As Mazaraat’s products gained traction in new markets, Jamie and Nieta took steps to ensure their cheeses met international standards. In 2017, entering the Bali market prompted a journey to New Zealand for a cheese masterclass, while penetration into the Singapore market required them to attain a European Union standard Cheese Master’s degree in France. Rooted in traditional natural cheese making, Mazaraat remains committed to providing products free from additives and preservatives, especially crucial for the health-conscious choices they make for their own children.
From its humble beginnings as a household-scale artisan cheese maker, Mazaraat has evolved into a company with a monthly production capacity of 9 tons of cheese. For Jamie and Nieta, the journey is not just about a passion for cheese but also a profound determination and commitment, extending to educating the domestic market about the value of natural and artisanal cheese.
In essence, Mazaraat is not merely a cheese brand; it’s a narrative of passion, commitment, and a thriving ecosystem that embraces its customers as an integral part of the Mazaraat family.