Founded in 1951, The Union of Agricultural Cooperatives changed its name to the Agricultural Cooperative of Tinos in 2012 and today numbers about 500 members.
We met with the director of the cooperative, Manthos Villas, at the cooperative’s cheese plant at Tripotamo, and after he had given us a guided tour of the production and ageing areas dedicated to the island’s famous graviera, he told us the following:
“The wonderful taste of our cheeses is due both to the quality of the milk, which is rich in nutrients, since our cows are allowed to graze freely and to their feed, which includes native herbs, as well as our production process. Every year we receive about 850 tonnes of milk, from which we make 60 tonnes of graviera, 15 tonnes of kopanisti, 60 tonnes of fresh milk, 2 tonnes of butter and 10 tonnes of petroma – which is used mainly by local pastry shops in their sweets and cheese pies – and 12 tonnes of other cheese”.
The Cooperative’s shop on the main road to the Cathedral in the port, sells agricultural goods made by small producers and housewives in addition to their own milk and dairy products. Here you will find: honey made from thyme, heather, flower blossoms; wines (white, red, organic), tsipouro, raki, vinegar, ouzo, homemade liqueurs, petimezi (grape must syrup), homemade pastas and rusks, pickles, capers, samphire, sundried tomatoes, herbs, jams, spoon sweets, artichokes, pasteli (sesame brittle), and more.
The Agricultural Cooperative of Tinos is the heart of the animal raising and dairy business on the island. It would therefore be unthinkable for visitors to leave Tinos without tasting and enjoying its two stellar cheeses: graviera – mild, sweet, full, buttery, becoming peppery as it ages; and kopanisti, a spicy cheese but milder than the Mykonos version. The island’s tradition in cheese making is long and, in fact, it was even mentioned in a French book of 1809 that the Tinians consumed a piquant cheese similar to Roquefort, none other than kopanisti.