Day two in Basque Country was just as memorable as the first. My fellow Basque Stage, Clifton was working at a bakery called TPT in Beasain. We decided I would meet him at TPT that afternoon to meet Alazne, the owner, and join them on a trip to a nearby dairy farm. After a bit of a commute by bus and train and only slightly drenched, I arrived at TPT.
It’s the cutest little cafe/bakery ever, run by the sweetest woman in the world. My tour of the small yet cozy kitchen was followed by an amazing cafe con leche and a jamon and cheese sandwich on chorizo bread that Cliff baked that morning. Feeling full and satisfied we headed out to Iztueta dairy farm in Lazkaomendi.
Perched up on the misty hill top, with beautiful views despite the gloomy weather, is Iztueta Behi Esnea, a 9 generation farm, founded in 1740, dedicated solely to dairy for the last 4 generations.
We walked into the cow shed were all the cows stood sheltered from the rain, eating away at their delicious mix of barley, hay, oats, and wheat. When grazing, they also enjoy fresh grasses and legumes. Ainitze, the owner’s daughter, explained to us that when indoors they group the cows in different areas. They have the pregnant cows here, the babies there, the ones ready to be milked there etc. This way they can control what they eat, based on their specific nutritional needs. My favorite were the babies. So cute! Because there are only female cows on the farm, they must be artificially inseminated.
She went on to explain that they usually have about 40 cows at once. This is the absolute maximum they’re willing to have relative to the amount of grazing land, in order to run the farm in the most sustainable manner. It ensures optimum conditions for the welfare of the cows, the quality of the milk, and maintenance of the land.
She showed us the room where the cows are milked. I was secretly hoping they milked their cows by hand and I could witness it or even try it myself. But of course with 40 cows that’s not realistic. They are hooked up to a machine that does all the work. The milk goes directly through tubes into a large steel tub in another room. From that tub they go through a pasteurizer, then to the dispensing machine for packaging.
Iztueta sells their grassy, sweet milk directly to local stores and bakeries and has vending machines around town and in train stations in Beasain and Ordizia. Yes you heard me right. Milk vending machines! They’re pretty awesome. For one Euro you get one liter of fresh milk. Unfortunately they don’t sell cream to the public because it isn’t pasteurized, but lucky for us we’ve got the connect. Because Alazne is good friends with them we scored ourselves some top-secret Iztueta cream! It was so thick you have to squeeze the bottle to get it out. So rich and flavorful.
We also got a tour of their gorgeous home right across from the cow shed. It’s seriously my dream home (after my house in Italy on the cliff overlooking the ocean of course). Beautiful high ceilings, stone, brick and dark wood accents, a warming fireplace…sigh.