A food blog from everywhere!

Cheese Factory Visit in Thônes

A few weeks ago, my community health class took a field trip to a fromagerie in Thônes, a city near Annecy in the Savoie region. The full name of the establishment is Cooperative du Reblochon de Thônes, or the Reblochon Cooperative of Thônes, and it’s usually referred to as Le Farto. It’s called a cooperative because it’s where several nearby farmers sell their milk and cheeses for cheese-making and aging. Apparently it’s one of the largest cooperatives in the region and stores & restaurants all around source their cheeses from here.

Upon arriving, the first thing we noticed was the milk vending machine outside! How often does one come across 24-hr fresh milk?

Milk vending machine!

After lots of ohhing and ahhing, we made our way into the building. Actually, the Cooperative looks a lot like any cheese shop upfront. They have lots of (of course) cheeses lined up, in addition to other dairy-related items and non-dairy related foodstuffs such as saucissons, jams and preserves, and candies.

Confections and sweets

Hanging saucissons! They have interesting names according to their shapes (e.g. ibex horns & bottoms)


Because we had signed up for a tour, we were lead to an adjacent section of the shop where glass windows allowed us to peer into the cheese-making activity that take place downstairs at the Coop everyday.

Centrifuge of cheese curds!

Cheese-making instruments

Separated curds

The lady/tour guide gave us a speel about the cheese-making process (in French) and how the Coop works. After a film showing the farms where the milk is produced, we were led downstairs to see the caves for cheese aging.

One of the aging rooms

The smell down there was from quite a different world, to say the least, and as you can see from the photos it was quite damp. Not the most pleasant place to hang around, but interesting for sure. The cheeses are arranged according to their type and age.

Stacks of cheesy goodness. I think these are tomme but I'm not sure

Cheese wheels on crates

The Coop makes and ages reblochon and tomme de Savoie and stores/ages several other types of cheese, including comte, emmantel, and other types of tomme for sale. After our basement visit we headed back upstairs and they handed out reblochon and tomme de Savoie samples. The tomme had a salty, nutty favour and the reblochon was soft and mild. I can’t say that I was crazy about either of the cheeses just as a matter of personal taste, but I can definitely understand where their virtues stand.

Tomme de Savoie cubes


One interesting thing to note about reblochon is the derivation of its name. Apparently, in times long pass, farmers had to pay their lords taxes in the form of milk. Wanting to keep some milk for themselves, these Savoyard farmers would purposely only partially milk their cows and pay that milk as tax. Afterwards, they would remilk, reblocher, their cattle and the cheese from that milk is thus called reblochon. Curious!

Afterwards some of us did some food purchasing and then we headed out to again marvel at the milk vending machine. Lots of students actually got some fresh milk and I had a taste of it as well. It wasn’t anything exceedingly special, just whole milk, creamy and cool. I can’t really taste the rawness, whatever that tastes like. Someday I’ll have to consume raw and pasteurized milk side by side to figure out first hand what all the fuss is about.

Another thing that I wonder about is cheese rinds. Do people eat them? I usually do for soft cheeses but is it ever unrecommended? Especially for those moldy rinded cheeses?

Confections and sweets

June 27, 2011 - Posted by | Lake Annecy, Travels, Uncategorized

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