Kaffeost

by Vanessa Chiasson for USA TODAY 10Best

This Swedish cheese is best served in a cup of coffee

"Just think of it as mocha-flavored cream cheese," my friend urged as I stared doubtfully at the saturated, oily, brown blobs floating in my coffee. I’m no stranger to mocha cheesecake, so I took my first taste of kaffeost.

Kaffeost, or "coffee cheese," is a firm, flexible cheese that hails from Swedish Lapland – the arctic north of the country – and is most at home marinating in a steaming cup of java.

It's a traditional food of the Sami. The Sami are the Indigenous people of Sápmi, a region that extends across northern Scandinavia and Russia, and overlaps much of Swedish Lapland.

Customarily made with reindeer milk (though cow’s milk is often substituted), kaffeost has a neutral taste and a smooth, slightly dry texture. It also has a high melting point and is baked to achieve a glossy, golden exterior.

In Swedish Lapland, more often than not, that cup is a beautiful guksi, a hand-carved wooden mug made from a birch burl. Tradition dictates that the coffee is always boiled, never brewed. Ideally, it is prepared over an open air fire.

And a few cubes of kaffeost are always a welcomed addition. Combining cheese and coffee sounds odd, but the two ingredients are a natural fit.

When served alongside smoked reindeer and kaffebrod, a sweetened bread, it’s an ideal blend of sharp, smooth, salty, sweet, and savory – and perfect for sharing.

Image courtesy of Vanessa Chiasson

Kaffeost is not a commonplace flavor or texture. In the cheese world, it’s often compared to halloumi, but I was reminded of Canadian cheese curds.

Kaffeost squeaks when you bite it, just like cheese curds, and their mild flavors are similar. I didn’t taste any flavors of mocha cream cheese in my cup, like my friend insisted, but it was delicious, rich and peculiar all at once.

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