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Classes at this Indy creamery will have you saying cheese

Tulip Tree Class
Cheese inside Tulip Tree Creamery
Cheese in a grid at Tulip Tree
Cheeses at Tulip Tree Creamery
Posted at 7:40 PM, Mar 05, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-05 19:40:40-05

INDIANAPOLIS — It may sound cheesy, but coworkers Laura Davenport and Fons Smits were looking for a change.

“We wanted to work at a place where we can make our own decisions about the types of cheeses that we made [and] where we sourced our milk,” Davenport said.

The duo decided to leave the organic dairy farm they worked at in Illinois to start Tulip Tree Creamery in Indianapolis. Davenport handles sales and marketing and Smits focuses on the art of cheesemaking, which for a native of the Netherlands, shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

“Where I grew up, it was all dairy country,” Smits said. “I was always fascinated by dairy.”

It was a fascination that led Smits to travel the world learning about dairy through various cultures.

“It's a food product, and although you might not always speak the same language, everybody needs to eat,” Smits said. “It's a very easy way to communicate, even if you're dealing with different cultures.”

Those cultures shaping Smits’ cheesemaking right here in central Indiana.

Cheese in a grid at Tulip Tree

“People don't always think about Indiana as a dairy state,” Smits said. “Typically, people start thinking about Vermont [and] Wisconsin. But we make some quite amazing products right here in Indiana.”

Tulip Tree Creamery has the awards to prove it.

“We have about 15 different cheeses,” Davenport said. “From fresh cheeses to soft ripened cheeses, even all the way up to hard long-aged cheese.”

Cheese inside Tulip Tree Creamery
Cheese sits on a rack inside Tulip Tree Creamery.

But for Tulip Tree, one cheese reigns supreme.

“Our Trillium cheese is our number-one selling cheese,” Davenport said. “It has won awards, not only in the United States, but in Italy and in Spain. Probably 40 to 50% of the cheese that we make is our Trillium.”

Making all that cheese requires a lot of milk. The folks at Tulip Tree travel to Country Meadows Farm in Hudson, Indiana, twice a week to get that milk.

"They're just lovely to work with," Davenport said.

And the cows seem pretty lovely too.

"If cows are happy, they automatically start producing better milk," Smits said. "We want cows to be, as much as possible, outside on the pasture because when the cows are out there and they eat those nice herbs which are naturally growing, it puts so much different flavor in that milk. Then we get the chance to play with that milk and create these products and get those flavors into our cheeses."

And if you want to try your hand at making cheese, Tulip Tree Creamery offers five different classes.

Making cheese at Tulip Tree Creamery

From the basic fresh mozzarella to an advanced Gouda class, there’s a cheese to suit everyone’s palate. Oh, and a butter class too.

Cheeses at Tulip Tree Creamery
Tulip Tree Creamery sells a variety of cheeses.

“I think it's important to know where your food comes from,” Davenport said. “You can start at the basic level and move up and become more advanced. It's not a simple process, although we lay it out simply, it definitely takes some time and some skill.”

You can sign up for classes at Tulip Tree Creamery here.

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