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The Surprising Origins of Brie: Debunking the French Connection

Why Brie May Not Even Be French

Of all the French cheeses, Brie is perhaps the most recognizable. With its waxy, papery rind and creamy interior that melts on the tongue like butter, this cheese is a favorite for many. Brie is a very mild, soft-ripened cheese with a delicate, sweet flavor. Its iconic bloomy rind consists of an edible mold called Penicillium candidum (via Whole Foods Market). According to Pong Cheese, the soft-ripened cheese gets its name from the region of France where it’s made, Ile-de-France, east of Paris.

Middle Eastern origins?

While the taste, smell, and variety of a cheese depend on a variety of factors, such as the animal milk used to make the cheese and the bacteria used in the making process, most cheeses use rennet to intentionally curdle the milk, according to The Washington Post. Rennet is often derived from calves (via The Spruce Eats). This may be how an early ancestor of brie was created, quite by accident.
Legend has it that a Middle Eastern nomad filled a saddlebag made from an animal carcass with milk and set out on horseback. During the journey, the rennet from the carcass curdled the milk in the nomad’s saddlebag, creating curds and whey and producing what may have been the earliest ancestor of brie, some distance from France (via Delishably). While this origin story is speculative at best, brie does have a concrete, recorded history in France and beyond.

The cheese of kings

Brie has very humble beginnings, having been created by monks near Meaux and Melun (via Musco Food). But despite its humble origins, the soft cheese was a delicacy loved by kings, most notably the French Emperor Charlemange, perhaps better known as Charles the Great. According to Musco Food, Charlemagne first tasted the cheese in 774 and fell head over heels in love with Brie, saying after his first bite that he had “just discovered the most delicious thing.”
Charlemagne wasn’t the only royal to fall in love with the cheese. In the 16th century, Brie became the favorite cheese of King Henry IV after his wife, Queen Margot, introduced him to it. Margot would often order it to keep her husband happy and with her rather than with his mistress, Gabrielle d’ Estrées (via Pong Cheese). But Brie isn’t just a cheese loved by kings, it’s the king of cheeses.

The king of cheeses

One of the most famous international conferences in history was the Congress of Vienna in the 19th century. The French diplomat Tallyrand called for a break in the official proceedings to hold a competition to see which country produced the best cheese. The Congress tasted more than 60 cheeses during the competition. The nations present presented their best curdled milk, including the Italian diplomat promoting Gruyere and the English representative presenting Stilton as their cheese of choice. But it was Brie de Meaux that won the day. After a vote and much praise, Brie earned the title of “Le Roi des Fromages,” the king of cheeses (via Delishably).
While its exact origins may not lie in France, it’s hard to argue with the idea that Brie is a globally recognized cheese and one of France’s most important cheese exports (via World Atlas). With such a rich history and flavor all its own, Brie has certainly earned its reputation and title as the king of cheeses.
In conclusion, with its creamy texture, delicate flavor, and iconic bloomy rind, Brie is a cheese that has captured the hearts and palates of cheese lovers around the world. While its Middle Eastern origins and popularity among royalty may be intriguing, Brie’s association with France and its status as the king of cheeses cannot be denied. Whether enjoyed on its own or incorporated into a variety of dishes, Brie continues to be a beloved and celebrated cheese that crosses borders and delights taste buds wherever it goes.


1. Is Brie cheese originally from France?

Brie has a long history in France and is commonly associated with the country. However, its exact origins may date back to the Middle East, where a similar cheese may have been created by accident.

2. How did Brie get its name?

Brie is named after the region in France where it is traditionally made, Ile-de-France, located east of Paris.

3. What is the historical significance of Brie?

Brie has been enjoyed by royalty throughout history, including the French Emperor Charlemagne and King Henry IV. It gained fame as the “King of Cheeses” after winning a competition at the Congress of Vienna in the 19th century.

4. How is Brie made?

Brie is made by coagulating milk with rennet, which causes it to coagulate and form curds. The curds are then drained, shaped into wheels, and aged until they develop their characteristic creamy texture and flavor.

5. Is Brie a globally recognized cheese?

Yes, Brie is widely recognized and appreciated around the world as a delicious cheese. It is one of France’s most important cheese exports and is enjoyed in various culinary traditions around the world.

6. What makes Brie unique?

Brie is known for its creamy interior, delicate flavor, and edible, flowery rind. Its rich history, association with royalty, and international acclaim contribute to its unique status as a beloved and iconic cheese.

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