Crete has an ancient tradition of making outstanding and word class cheese and dairy products. The quality of Cretan cheese is world class and all though mostly know and consumed on Crete Island and all over Greece, its is less know internationally (but only due to the fact its poorly marketed, while the taste and quality of the Cretan cheese and dairy products is incomparable...)
Crete is world leader in cheese consumption and Cretans adore cheese & dairies and use them in all their meals, alone or used inside their food recipes, in traditional Cretan pastries and also as appetizers and as a snack anytime of the day.
The enormous biodiversity and unique micro-climate of Crete combined with old traditional processes help create amazing Cretan cheese and dairies, of excellent taste and quality. In the recent decades, due to tourism mainly, the visitors of the island of Crete have had the opportunity to try the Cretan cheese and the awareness for Cretan dairy products and request has emerged, worldwide.
On Crete there are produced several cheese products (14), among them 4 types of Cretan cheese are renowned and protected by EU quality certifications, as PDO and PGI cheeses. Traditionally Cretan cheeses were produced by the shepherds right on the spot where their sheep's and goats milk was collected, in their "mitato" (shepherds shelters), mainly for own use, but now the majority of Cretan cheese is produced (still in the traditional way) on organised, high standards, certified artisan dairy producers all over the island.
Lately the Cretan cheeses, as well cheeses and dairy products from mainland Greece, are starting to get properly marketed internationally and their value, quality and taste is greatly appreciated worldwide as they habitually earn prestigious awards in world's most reputable food contests and fairs. In Greece, the annual consumption of cheese per capita is higher (by far) than in any other European country and is the highest worldwide. Soft cheese, creamy, firm cheese, white or yellow cheese, fresh or ripe, long aged cheeses, sweet or salty – Crete and the rest of Greece offer a vast list of cheese and dairy products each of them unique in taste and quality, backed by the old tradition and knowledge, the unique climate and the huge biodiversity of flora.
All Cretan cheese and dairy products are made off sheep's and/or goat milk, no cow milk is used for the production of cheese on Crete. Only in mainland Greece some cheeses are made of cow milk.
Chania cheese producers
Rethymno cheese producers
Heraklion cheese producers
Lassithi cheese producers
Crete has an extremely rich biodiversity. You get a good idea of how rich the biodiversity of Crete is by considering that Crete has about 300 more species and subspecies of plants (1.750 in total) as the whole of Britain that has about 1.450, all though Crete is 35 times smaller. The biodiversity of Crete is reflected - beside the total number of species - also in the number of endemic species (species that grow only in Crete and nowhere else in the world). On Crete there are about 160 endemic species and subspecies, which means that 9% of the plant species of Crete do not exist elsewhere in world.
The Cretan flora has adapted itself so as to resist the free grazing (a traditional practice in Crete for thousands of years) and human interventions. The plants have developed ways to resist grazing, like thorns or bad taste. There no large forest areas, like for example those in the region of Macedonia in north Greece or Epirus. Partly because of the grazing on Crete and also its climate. Thus Crete has some of the rarest bio-habitats in Europe, like e.g. those of the palm trees (Phoenix theophrasti).
The nature of Crete's flora with so many species that are endemic can be explained by the fact Crete is relative isolated broken away from mainland Greece and also the mountainous nature and overall morphology/geology, that creates many isolated habitats.