When NYU sophomore, Alejandra Casillas is looking for cheese to add to her spaghetti she goes to Bedford Cheese Shop on Irving Place. As she scanned the cheese behind the glass counter, her eyes fixated on a crumbly cheese covered crushed red peppers. The ricotta pepperoncino is a raw sheep’s milk cheese sold at $41 per pound. “Mm, I love the spice that hits my palate towards the end,” said Casillas as she savored a sampling.

NYU students like Casillas love experimenting and trying new kinds of artisan cheese, especially to spice up their boring schedules during finals season.

The newest trend is flavored cheese. All kinds of novelty flavors are showing up on cheese counters including cheese infused with espresso, maple and even honey. NYU is right at the center of it.

From Bedford Cheese Shop to Murray’s and Whole Food’s Market, there are a plethora of specialty food stores if you’re looking to purchase some flavored cheese.

This flavor trend comes at a time when cheese consumption continues to rise in the U.S. The average American eats 23 pounds of cheese per year, that’s 15 more pounds of cheese consumed per capita since 1970.

Students love eating cheese because it acts as a comfort food and satisfies their gluten craving.

“I enjoy buying a small wedge of the smoked Gouda from Whole Food’s Market on Union Square,” said Pranati Wadhawan, a junior at NYU Steinhardt. “It makes for a great late night snack when I’m under pressure and have to pump out an assignment.”

Whole Food’s also offers other flavors. Some of its options include buffalo wing hot sauce cheddar, jalapeño infused monetary jack and Champagne flavored cheddar. The prices range from $6 per pound for the smoked cheeses and go up to $20 per pound for the Champagne-soaked cheeses.

Flavored cheese now accounts for over 9 percent of cheese sales in 2017 according to Rachel Kerr, director of events and public relations for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. This is the biggest growth since 2015 and Kerr predicts it is going to keep increasing.

“Done well, flavored cheeses can be incredibly complex and often capture a story of a particular place,” said Liz Thorpe, author of  “The Cheese Chronicles.” 

Murray’s cheese located in East Village offers flavored cheese from a multitude of different farms. Grafton garlic cheddar from Vermont, maple leaf Gouda from Wisconsin and even a goat cheese infused with wine from Murcia, Spain.

Even though most of the cheese mentioned comes from cow’s milk, cheese can also be made from sheep’s and goat’s milk.

“Honey goat cheese is my favorite,” said Shannon Sullivan, a junior at NYU. “For me, it’s about how the flavor and cheese work together.”

But some NYU students remain cheese classicists, meaning they prefer their cheese without any added flavor.  “Normally when I’m creating a cheese platter I tend to go with familiar cheeses,” said Erica Grace, a senior at NYU.

Thorpe believes it’s about getting away from the familiar; cheesemakers are introducing flavored cheese as a means of diversifying and offering something unique. But this is where the problem lies; it might lead to a creation of cheese that warrants merit, or cheese that is considered a gimmick.

“Cognac washed cheese results in something really revelatory,” said Thorpe. “Peppermint is, in my book, a gimmick.”

Though Thorpe is open to the idea of flavored cheese and thinks that it adds value to the cheese world, other experts disagree.

“To me, the flavor of cheese needs no embellishment,” said Neville McNaughton, founder of  Cheezsorce, a resource for cheesemakers and small businesses. “If you can’t taste the milk and the craft then no kudos.”

NYU students think differently, where some believe that adding flavor actually boosts the value of the cheese. Heena Kothari, a sophomore at NYU Stern loves using flavored cheese when she cooks.

“It adds a burst of flavor when I incorporate a good pepperoncino or herb-y cheddar in my pizza or while creating a cheese plate,” said Kothari. “It also adds a new dimension of creativity to my cheese plates.”

One of the most popular flavors of the moment amongst college-goers is truffle-flavored cheese. “When I spot a cheese label that says ‘truffle’ on it, I’m inclined to buy it,” said Carolyn Kam, a freshman at NYU. “It makes me feel like I’m eating a luxury item.”

But some products used to enhance truffle cheese might be artificial. “Truffle is a flavor of the moment, however, it may be a fad,” said McNaughton. “It is also of course highly controversial due to the fake products available.”

Other experts seem to disagree. “Truffle has mushroom-y, fungal aromatics that complement the tangy, yogurt-y notes of young pecorino,” said Thorpe when asked her opinion on truffle cheese.

The problem lies with truffle oil. Most commercial truffle oils are made from olive oil and 2,4-dithiapentane, a compound made in a laboratory that mimics the flavors of real truffles, albeit poorly.

Truffled cheeses like “Moliterno black truffle pecorino,” “truffle and salt cheddar” and “truffle tremor” all include shavings from black truffles and avoid truffle oil. Such cheeses with visible shavings of truffle are the real deal and taste delicious.

“Truffle flavored cheeses are my favorite because they taste earthy and nutty and go great with crackers,” said Shannon Buck, a junior at NYU Stern.

But there are some cheeses that both experts and cheese lovers shy away from. Stilton is the primary example. This classic, seminal blue cheese has been flavored with fruits like cranberry, ruining the pure flavor of the product. “Americans only know Stilton as a crumbly white cheese with dried fruit or even chocolate chips,” said Thorpe. “The cheese itself is mealy and tasteless and the eating is all about the sweetened fruit or cheap chocolate. If you want chocolate chips, eat a cookie.”

Sometimes, flavored cheese also falls outside of a students price range. “It’s so much cheaper to buy classic cheese like American cheddar slices,” said Katie Wingle, an NYU neuroscience major. “I’d rather spend money on a good plate of mac and cheese rather than buying really expensive flavored cheese.”