Halloumi, like many of the finer things in life such as San Marzano tomatoes, Parmesan-Reggiano, and Champagne, isn’t real unless if comes from one very specific place, in this case the Mediterranean island of Cyprus where, for generations, women have been transforming sheep and goat milk into this deliciously squeaky and grillable cheese. But now, The Guardian tells us, halloumi has become such a thing—blame the peri-peri chicken chain Nando’s and also McDonald’s and Burger King—that between 2013 and 2017, per the Cyprus Trade Center, exports of halloumi more than doubled, from $85.5 million to $180.3 million, and Cypriots can no longer keep up. For some reason, they recently decided to start exporting to China, which has recently discovered its own love of dairy, anyway.
There’s the added wrinkle that, thanks to a bureaucratic snafu earlier this year, Cyprus lost its trademark on the name halloumi which means that inferior products made with—gasp!—cow’s milk can be sold under the same name. The Guardian describes this as “a feat of incompetence which prompted an investigation by the Cypriot Ministry of Energy, Commerce and Tourism, still ongoing.” Traditionalists are concerned that growing demand coupled with the loss of the trademark will lead to a lot of inferior-quality halloumi.
In the meantime, what are halloumi-deprived non-Cypriots to do? The Guardian doesn’t know, but the struggle is real.