Making Cheese and Drinking Wine

So today, I left behind my guide and driver and joined a small, six person “Cyprus Taste Tours” group tour, and I can say without hesitation that the tour was fantastic.  The tour was billed as a halloumi cheese making and mountain village tour, but it was really a halloumi cheese making, brunch eating and wine drinking tour.  Seriously.  Not sure if I need to eat or drink any time soon.

Stirring and breaking up the cheese

Anyway, I was picked up in a small van by Christina, our tour guide for the day, and was joined on the tour by a fellow from Austria, a couple from the UK and a father and daughter from Australia.  By 9:30 we had driven a short distance into the hills above Paphos to the town of Koeli where a family had been hand making halloumi cheese for decades.  The original proprietor, Aleni, was resting for the day so we had the pleasure of meeting Paragati, Aleni’s grandson, who took us through the process of making halloumi cheese.

Draining the cheese

Once we donned aprons and hair nets, our cheese making education began.  The first thing we learned is that true, authentic Cypriot halloumi cheese is only made with goat and sheep’s milk and must follow a particular process in order to be sanctioned as halloumi cheese.

Removing the cheese to the table

Now the process is pretty simple.  Sheep and goats milk are mixed together in a steel container and heated to a modest temperature.  A starter called renant is added to the mixture and left to cook on low heat for a short period of time.  The starter causes the milk mixture to thicken and before you know it lumpy, watery cheese is forming.

Cheese draining
Cheese in the sieve cups

The next step is to stir the mixture to break up the lumps and then the cheese is piled into a sieve, removed from the milk and dumped on a stainless steel table that slopes at an angle so the milk that drains from the cheese flows into a hole where the milk is collected.  Once the milk has drained from the cheese, the cheese is piled into sieve-like  containers and left to rest for a couple minutes.  Then the cheese is removed from the containers, turned upside down and returned to the containers.  And this is where our labour came in.  Each of us were able to gather up the gobs of cheese, pile the cheese into containers wait a couple minutes and then turn the containers upside down, remove the cheese and then pile the cheese back into the containers.  Great fun!

The next step was for Paragati to remove the cheese from each container and place each lump of cheese into a see through bag and return the cheese to a higher heat to cook for one hour.

Removing anari cheese from milk

While Paragati stuffed the bags, we had a coffee and lemonade break before returning to the cooking area where Paragati showed us that the higher heat had caused a different type of cheese, anari cheese to form in the in the cooking milk.  Paragati then showed us how he removed the anari cheese from the milk following a similar process he used for making the halloumi cheese.

After the anari cheese demonstration, Christina had us pile back in the van and drove us a short distance to the Kamanterena winery where would do our first wine tasting of the day while the halloumi cheese cooked.

Old vat for stomping grapes
Kamanterena Winery

Now the Kamanterena winery, is a large industrial winery with large scale production.  The winery was housed in a not so attractive building (which Christina warned us about), but she insisted that the woman who gave tastings was so funny she liked to bring folks to the winery for the show.  Unfortunately, I have to say that the Kamanterena wines did absolutely nothing for me.  We were offered tastings from eight or nine different wines and of the lot,  I only enjoyed the second wine, a white blend of Semillion grapes and a local grape by the name of Xynisteri.  The wine was actually quite good and very light.  Other than that, I actually tossed all the other wines after a sip.

We also were given a taste of Commanderia, a local wine, that is very sweet and is what I would consider a dessert wine.  I enjoyed a couple sips, but found it a bit too sweet for my palate.


The last tasting we were given was a shot of zivania, the national drink of Cyprus and all I can say is mother of God!!!  This stuff could remove paint from walls and perhaps start cars.  According to the bottle it was 43% alcohol.  Yes, that’s right.  43% ALCOHOL!  Yikes.  I took two sips and tossed the rest.  (And you know its rough when the Aussies agree with you.)  I would have been sleeping on the floor in the winery if had any more.  Good grief.

Removing the halloumi cheese from the bag
Folding the halloumi cheese

Anyway, after the last tasting, we piled in the van and headed back to Koeli to see about that halloumi cheese.  We arrived right on time as Paragati was beginning to take the cheese out of the hot milk.  Now the last step involved Paragati taking the lump of cheese out of the bag, flattening the cheese, sprinkling sea salt on the cheese and placing rosemary in the middle of the cheese and the folding the cheese into a half circle.  And viola … halloumi cheese.

Slicing the halloumi cheese
Our brunch

With the cheese making behind us, we all sat down for brunch, which consisted of the warm halloumi cheese that was just made (FANTASTIC!), the anari cheese and one other cheese made from the same milk mixture called Easter cheese (a harder cheese that has been aged and was much stronger than the other two cheeses – also fantastic).  In addition to the cheese, we had bread, olive oil, olives, eggs, olive stuffed pastry, spinach stuffed pastry, yoghurt, meat and cucumbers.  For dessert, there were pastries.  The meal was wonderful.  And to top it off, the fellow from the UK, Robert, was having a birthday so Christina brought out a lovely cake to celebrate while Paragati played happy birthday and a couple other songs on his bouzouki.  Seriously.  It was awesome.

After a wonderful few hours in Paragati’s company, we moved on to our next destination: a brief stop at Chryssorrogiatissa Monastery.  The intention was for us to take in some apparently magnificent views.  Unfortunately, there was a little hiccup….

View at monastery

As we drove higher into the mountains, past a dam and huge thickets of pine trees, we could see storm clouds on the horizon and while we were still driving through the windy road in sunshine, we all knew it was only a matter of time until we ran into the storm.  And sure enough, as we approached the monastery, it began to spit rain.  Then it came down harder so by the time we turned into the monastery gates, it was more than just a drizzle.

Chryssorrogiatissa Monastery
Fresco at monastery








Storm at the monastery

And of course, we started to hear the rumble of thunder.  As we wandered around the monastery, the thunder grew louder and by the time we were trying to take pictures of the views, it was a full on hail, rain, thunder and lightening display.  Fortunately, I actually managed to get in a couple pics “before the really heavy stuff” started coming down.  It was quite the adventure.

Driving to Amargeti Village

We returned to the van, and as luck would have it, we only drove 5 minutes down the road where the road was dry and the sun began to shine.  Classic.  Anyway, we wound our way down the hill out of the pine trees and back to the vineyards and the little town of Amargeti Village where we stopped at a little taverna by the name of Spring of Life, where the proprietor makes three wines, olive oil, carob syrup and four liquors.  And yes, we were going to try them all.

Spring of Life Taverna
Awesome liquors

First up was the olive oil and carob syrup with freshly baked bread.  Terrific.  Then we tried a white wine, a rose and a red wine.  I enjoyed the white and the red wines, but as usual the rose was “meh” for me.

Deck of Spring of Life Taverna

However, the coupe de grace was the four liquors and in particular the “donkey milk liquor” made with donkey milk, lemon and vanilla.  Now I don’t know how the liquor was actually made, but it was absolutely out of sight terrific.  So good in fact that I bought 2 bottles.  There was no milk flavour at all and instead tasted a bit like a milder version of lemoncello.  I could have sat there all day on the terrace, starring out at the scenery and enjoying the liquor.  Brilliant!

By now it was well after 4:00, but Christina told us we had one more winery stop down the hill to the Tsangarides Winery.  So back in the van we went and 15 minutes later we were walking across the road and up the stairs to the winery, much to the chagrin of the young girls working the tasting room, which apparently closed at 5:00 p.m.

Unloading grapes at Tsangarides Winery

We had a quick tour of the winery where we saw where the grapes were being brought in by trucks (it is harvest season), dumped into a separator where the stems and leaves were removed after which the grapes were pushed into a compressor where the liquid flows into a pipe that connects to a huge, stainless steel vat.  Once the vat is full, yeast is added and the temperature of the vat is raised to begin the fermentation process.  The wine is then left for a period of time (depending on the type of wine) and can also be filtered (again depending on the type of wine).

So after the winery tour, we sat down for six tastings: two whites, two rose and two reds.  And without a doubt, the second white, a 2022 Vasillisa organic wine made of a local grape, was my favourite.  The wine was light, crisp and super delicious.  I would give honorable mention to the first red, a 2021 Ayios Efrem, which had good “legs” and was definitely what they would call a bold red.  It was yummy.

Tsangarides Winery

Now the only down side of this last winery visit is that we were really rushed and the gals did not bring out any bread for palate cleansing.  Clearly they were irritated we arrived so late, which is unfortunate because the winery setting was gorgeous and the weather was beautiful.

Anyway, after the last winery it was time to head back to Paphos.  The trip was a quick 30 minute ride through some small little hillside villages and then down into Paphos town.  It had been an absolutely terrific day, with good company  and a wonderful guide.  Next up, north to Limassol tomorrow and Roman ruins!!

Author: lawyerchick92

I am a lawyer by trade, but long to be a full time traveller. My life changed for the better when my brother donated a kidney to me on October 14, 2002.

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