Tête de Moine is a Swiss cheese. Its name, which means "Monk's Head", is derived from its invention and initially production by the monks of the abbey of Bellelay, located in the community of Saicourt, district of Moutier, in the mountaineous zone of the Bernese Jura, the French-speaking area of canton of Bern.
The cheese is eaten in an unusual way: it must be carefully scraped with a knife in order to develop its scented flavours.
Tête de Moine is currently produced by fewer than 10 cheese dairies of the Jura Mountains area of Porrentruy, District of Franches-Montagnes, both situated in the Canton of Jura, as well as in Moutier and Courtelary, in the Bernese Jura.
The monks started to manufacture this cheese more than eight centuries ago. Writings from 1292 attest that the cheese of the abbots of Bellelay had acquired such a reputation that it was used to pay the royalties of the stockbreeders to the farms' owners, to regulate litigations, being offered as presents to the prince-bishops of Basel or even as currency. The cheese was named Tête de Moine two centuries ago by soldiers of French Revolution, who, having expelled the monks, discovered cheese coins stored at the bottom of the large cellars. They adopted the manner of scraping cheese to consume it with the tonsure of a monk.
The cheese contains cow milk vintage and entirety, i.e. a cheese with half-cooked or half-hard pressed paste. Its average weight is 850 grams, but some can go up to 2,5 kg. It is characterized by a cylindrical form of which the height accounts for 70 to 100% of the diameter. It is excellent with dry white wine, after being matured for a minimum of 2.5 months on small plank of spruce.
Since May 2001, it has enjoyed an "Appellation d'origine contrôlée" (AOC). Exported throughout the world, it is the name card of the cheese-making tradition of Swiss Jura.
In 1982 the girolle was invented, an apparatus which makes it possible to make “rivet washers of Tête de Moine” by turning a scraper on an axle planted in the center of the cheese. This apparatus gave an additional impulse to the consumption of this cheese.