Latteria: Say ‘Healthy Cheese!’
WELL-BEING - Mylene Mendoza-Dayrit (The Philippine Star) - November 9, 2015 - 9:00am

I love white cheese or kesong puti! But I didn’t expect to be overwhelmed by all other artisan cheese products that can be locally done using fresh water buffalo or carabao’s milk when I got an invitation to troop down Bulacan one lazy Saturday morning.

“Creamy Italian-style mozzarella di bufala (or buffalo mozzarella) is cheese made from water buffalo milk. Despite a higher butterfat content, water buffalo milk is healthier compared to traditional cow’s milk. Water buffalo milk has 11 percent higher protein than cow’s milk, as well as nine percent more calcium and 37 percent more iron. Water buffalo milk is also lower in cholesterol,” American dairy entrepreneur Marshall Mays told us.

While buffalo milk is common in Italy where it’s mostly made into mozzarella cheese, the water buffalo actually originated in Southeast Asia. So why didn’t we go beyond  kesong puti? We lacked the passion, expertise, and quality control.

Luckily for us, Mays first visited the country in the late ‘70s and fell in love with the country. His dairy business started five years ago and while it took some time to train and retrain dairy farmers and factory workers, he proudly presented to us the fruits of his passion — his artisan cheeses branded La Latteria d’Ischia.

“Quality control at the source is part of our strength as a trusted, top-quality producer. Through our training and controlled buying, we are building up the capacity of scattered, otherwise unsupported dairy farmers to produce at global standards. This boosts income to lift rural families from poverty and educate them to properly produce organic food. And this is the key to fine products and strong communities,” he explained.

After sampling the wonderful cheeses, he gave us a tour of his modest but clean and highly efficient modern factory. Mays explained that they buy fresh milk from dairy farmers in Nueva Ecija daily. They had to provide a lot of training and support, such as proper feeding programs, to increase milk yields.

“Our Artisanal Natural Yogurt is 100 percent pure buffalo milk. We cultivate a live culture and allow its vital flora of probiotics to develop to full potential before packing it off to you. Often, yogurt is mixed with fruit, jam or honey or put into muesli, but our thick, creamy dream can also light up pesto, tomato, and other savory or salty partners,” Mays quipped.

“Mozzarella di Bufala, the great shiny pearl of cheeses, should be eaten within a few days of creation when still soft and succulent. So the imports from Italy or Australia become chewy in transit and usually lose their distinctive, subtle, buttery taste. We make ours by hand several times a week, under the eye of an experienced Italian chef andformaggiao,” he added.

“Burrata is made alongside mozzarella and shares its subtle, buttery flavor and soft texture. But like a chocolate cordial, it holds a surprise inside and its skin is more fragile. The moist sweetness at its center has made this Asia’s most sought-after cheese. We fill ours with drops of golden whey, doccie d’oro, to remind Italians of what they miss from home. This is usually eaten with bread slices as an appetizer, but savory sauces, such as pesto or garlic, can be added, as can fresh-cut fruit.”

“Mascarpone Superiore is a sweet, light cream cheese that goes into a range of desserts. Primo Sale resembles feta with its firm, crumbly texture, but it has a bit less salt than proper Greek feta. Ricotta comes after the making of mozzarella or burrata and is just as fragile. Many people confuse it with cottage cheese because they can’t get it freshly made.”

“We began selling our cheese and yogurt in Metro Manila in March 2015 to the most discerning restaurants and consumers and continue building our presence with international and resort hotels. Trial sales in HK began recently and discussions are underway with potential customers in Singapore, Taiwan, and Japan for exports in early 2016.”

“Cheese and yogurt from the water buffalo provide more of all those than other dairy sources — and with much less cholesterol. So, our cheeses and live-culture yogurt offer parents a delicious way to boost brain and bone development in one step,” Mays pointed out.

“But it is not just children who need properly made dairy products. Our digestive tract is the key to nourishing our bodies and we have learned recently how important proper bacteria cultures are in that process. In fact, without those bacteria, it is impossible to digest most of what we eat.”

“Probiotic cultures in yogurt are an important element for the flora of our gut and are designed to aid digestion. Regular servings will help our body maintain a useful flora. And live-culture fermented yogurt has a larger amount of these selected bacteria than fresh yogurt – and a hundred times more than pasteurized yogurt. It can help unblock the gut when overdosing of antibiotics, overcooked meat or lack of roughage cause problems.”







“While some people have a low tolerance for cow’s milk lactose, the natural sugar in milk and yogurt, very few have the same problem with goat’s or buffalo’s milk. In addition, buffalo milk has twice the fat level or more of cow’s milk but lower cholesterol. So, the lift it gives an athlete is bigger and lasts longer than carbohydrate-based training meals,” Mays shared.

* * *

To inquire about La Latteria d’Ischia, contact 0915-1164534 or 0916-7763747.

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