Produced in Co. Cork in Southern Ireland, Coolea is the creation of Helene and Dick Willems, both natives of the Netherlands, who created Coolea based on a Dutch gouda recipe
Having moved to a small farm in Southern Ireland, they decided to start making cheese in 1979, using the milk from their own herd of cows. The cheese is named after a local village near Macroom.
Production of Coolea closely follows that of traditional gouda. Milk is heated and a starter culture and rennet are added. After coagulation, the curd is cut and the whey is drained off, at which point the curds are washed, (water is added to the cheese vat) to slow down the acidification of the cheese, and reheated to expel more moisture. The curds are then packed into molds and pressed for six hours. Approximately ten cheeses are made each day.
Over the years, demand and production have grown steadily, and in 1987 a completely new and expanded cheese plant was built that allowed them to expand capacity considerably. Their son, also called Dick, joined the cheesemaking team in 1991, becoming the main cheesemaker in 1993. This allowed both Helene and Dick Sr. to retire in 1999.