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Nordic Champion


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Photographed by Per Kvalvik, Tommy Rustad and Hanne Stensvold

It seems an unlikely setting for the world’s best cheese: far north among Norway’s fjords, in a dairy built a decade ago, after a journalist and a farmer fell in love and began experimenting with cheesemaking in their bathroom. 

But here you’ll find Kraftkar. Among 3,000 cheeses from 31 countries entered into last year’s World Cheese Awards, this natural-rind, one-year-aged blue was named World Champion. The wheel came out on top again the following day when judged against every top World Cheese Awards winner from the past 28 years—effectively earning the title of “best cheese ever”. A big honor for Tingvollost, a tiny creamery run by members of four family generations and just a few employees.

Small-scale, careful production is one of Tingvollost’s hallmarks—and that’s unlikely to change. The company doesn’t export, so experiencing Kraftkar’s perfectly distributed mold and mouth-coating creaminess is but a dream for most of us. For now, a peek inside the creamery will suffice—and perhaps inspire a journey. “The rest of the world will have to come to Norway,” says dairy manager Egil Smith-Meyer.

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The Waagen family (from left to right: Gunnar Waagen, Solovor Waagen, Egil Smith-Meyer, and Kristin Waagen). Kristin and Egil founded the dairy in 2006, and still run it today with the help of Solvor, Gunnar, and their two children. Tingvollost is located on Saghaug Gård, a farm that dates to the 14th century.

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Wheels age at Tingvollost.

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Kristin Waagen poses with the dairy’s many awards.

Made from pasteurized cow’s milk and cream, Kraftkar is beloved for its soft mouthfeel and complex flavor.

Molly McDonough

Associate Editor Molly McDonough worked for cheesemakers in Switzerland and the US before earning a Master's degree in Agriculture and Food Science at the Ecole Supérieure d'Agriculture in Angers, France. After spending a year in Romania working on rural development projects with Heifer International, she returned home to Boston and joined the culture team in 2015.

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