The Brief History of Feta Cheese

This tangy, salty brine cheese has captured the taste buds of cheese lovers all over the world. Let us explore today the story of the fabulous feta cheese, this incredibly versatile Greek delicacy that can be served in salads, traybakes, pies, or whatever your heart desires. 

Cheese has been enjoyed for centuries, probably as long as humans have been herding animals. Scholars estimate that cheese production must have begun roughly 8,000 years ago. Humans likely developed the first versions of this delicious comfort food by accident, as a result of storing and transporting milk in skin bags made of ruminants’ stomachs, as the animals’ inherent supply of rennet would encourage curdling. The technology of cheese making has fortunately evolved a lot since those early ages. The modern feta cheese goes through specific elaborate processes, including the mixture of goat and sheep milk, until it gets its distinctive flavor and mouthwateringly crumbly and creamy texture. 

feta cheese

According to Greek mythology, the gods sent Apollo’s son, Aristaeus to teach the mortals the art of cheese making. The name of the rustic god of shepherds and cheesemaking derives from the Greek word aristos which translates to ‘most useful’. This choice also demonstrates well how highly-valued staple cheese was in the everyday diet of ancient Greeks. In antiquity, there were numerous records made by Aristoteles, Pythagoras, and ancient comedy writers that mentioned cheese production and consumption. The earliest reference to the ancestor of Feta is found in Homer’s Odyssey, written in the 8th century BC:

“We entered the cave, but he wasn’t there, only his plump sheep grazed in the meadow. The woven baskets were full of cheese, the folds were full of sheep and goats and all his pots, tubs and churns where he drew the milk were full of whey. When half of the snow-white milk curdled he collected it, put it in the woven baskets and kept the other half in a tub to drink. Why my good ram are you the last to leave the fold? You have never been left behind by the flock before. You were always first walking ahead to graze the tender sheets of grass.”

In Byzantine times, feta cheese was brought up in association with Crete and was called ‘prosphatos’, which means fresh or recent. However, it was in the 17th century that locals started calling it feta, which literally translates to ‘slice’. In the 20th century, the mass immigration of Greeks brought feta to every corner of the world, resulting in the Greek cheese’s international success. Today, this flavorsome starter is available in every restaurant and tavern all over the country, either perched on the top of a colorful Greek salad or incorporated into various traditional dishes. We recommend you have a panoramic seaside dinner at Sunset Tavern in Amoudi Bay one day during your stay and try the famous PDO feta cheese flavored with oregano and extra virgin olive oil or their hearty shrimp saganaki prepared with fresh cherry tomatoes and ouzo. Happy cheesing!

feta cheese Ammoudi bay sunset tavern

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