Say Cheese! | Sunday Observer
Maia Cheese opens its flagship store

Say Cheese!

6 November, 2022

Crafting high-quality handmade artisanal cheese is not an easy task. Heating a lot of milk, draining it, salting it, and letting it ferment and age is the basic process of making preservative-free artisanal cheese.

This process demands endless strenuous hours and obsessive cleaning to make sure it’s sanitary and quality final product.

Does this sound like a job you would enjoy? Undeniably for Maia Donadze. Artisanal cheese making is her passion in life. “I’ve been born to make cheese and make people happy!” That is Maia’s motto in life.


Hailing from Georgia, the master cheese-maker Maia Donadze’s Maia cheese is a synonym for authentic artisanal cheese and has gained popularity in Sri Lanka. She grew up in picturesque Tbilisi, studying and majoring in classical music at the Georgian Musical Conservatoire, Maia started making cheese and wine at a very young age for her family, gaining hands-on experience working on the land and with animals.

Before settling down in Sri Lanka years ago, Maia’s wanderlust did not permit her to stay long in one place. While travelling in the US, UK, Europe, and Asia, she realised that good quality cheese in Asia was being well received and offered a great potential, not only in helping people to secure jobs but more importantly connecting the European culture of Cheese to Asian fusion and palate.

At the opening of the flagship store at Cinnamon Lakeside, speaking to the Sunday Observer, the Co-Founder, Director and CEO, Maia Cheese, Maia Donadze recalled that in 2005 when she first came to Goa, she never thought that she’d be spending six years experimenting the process of cheese making. It took her two decades to master the craft of cheese making. Throughout her strenuous journey of cheese-making she mastered 40 types of cheese.

She presented her first plate of cheese at a random restaurant in Goa and she went around the restaurant, offering the guests a taste of her cheese. “Some looked at me as though I was crazy and of course, there was a little positive feedback as well,” she said.

“Cheese is alive. Processed cheese available in supermarkets is dead cheese. That cheese doesn’t breathe anymore. Cheese cannot be made overnight, some recipes take six months to process. But with natural cheese or artisanal cheese, it’s a living organism. When it’s in the fridge, day-by-day, it matures.” Maia said.

Being obsessed with cheese-making since her childhood, Maia says like for many other types of food, there is no accurate standard for cheese-making recipes to follow as Maia spent her first few years learning through trial and error. “No two people make the same kind of cheese,” she said.

Although music is still her first love, she committed to establish her own cheese brand, Maia Cheese in 2005 in Goa, India and later moved to Sri Lanka with her life partner Sheriozha Anthony Wijekoon who is also a co-founder and managing director of Mai Cheese. Starting from scratch and with years of hard work and commitment, they established Maia Cheese in Sri Lanka while preserving local the landscape, generating jobs for locals and the traditional way of life.

“I am very thankful to the wonderful people of Sri Lanka for embracing me and my cheese. The journey so far has been a challenging yet fulfilling one. We plan to keep experimenting and expanding our catalogue as we aspire to be the one-stop-shop for handmade European cheese locally and regionally.” Maia said with gratitude.

Operating for nearly a decade, Maia cheese is exceptional in Sri Lanka as they are made with only full-fat milk and no culture or preservatives are used. Maia uses only vegetable rennet allowing the cheeses to develop its own flavour.


Maia Cheese, which makes the widest range of artisanal cheese in Sri Lanka, produces Cheddar, fresh, smoked, and grated mozzarella, queen blue, brie, goat cream, goat feta cheese, Halloumi, and Caciocavallo.

Explaining more about the specialty of each variety, Maia said, “So far Maia cheese has crafted twenty varieties, each variety has a different characteristic such as Cheddar cheese which contains no artificial flavours or preservatives and can be eaten cold or melted, Fresh Mozzarella is refreshing and supple, Smoked mozzarella is smoked to enhance the milky flavour, Grated mozzarella is ideal as topping for Italian cuisine, Queen Blue is a specialty cheese characterised by its white colour and fine blue veins, Brie is a white, soft and ripened cheese, Goat Cream and Feta cheese is a healthier alternative for salads, Halloumi is with a local twist on the cheese variety originating from Cyprus and Caciocavallo is a type of stretched curd cheese.” Maia also has three types of delectable gourmet butter such as salted, unsalted and garlic-infused.

Today she makes 3,000 kg of cheese a month and has generated job opportunities for dozens of people in Matale. Although she’s producing 20 different types of cheese she hopes to expand her production further and double the varieties.

Goal for 2024

Taking part in the World Championship Cheese Contest in Wisconsin, USA is Maia’s immediate goal for next year. This contest has been held since 1957. “I want to bring this win to Sri Lanka as it will be a great honour to the country as well as it will mark this beautiful country as a paradise for cheese manufacturing,” Maia added.

Maia thanked co-founder Sheriozha Anthony Wijekoon for all the support and guidance offered in elevating Maia Cheese to its current position as a household name within a short period.

“I’m so glad that he offered to take me to Sri Lanka decades ago and show me this beautiful country,” Maia added.


Recently, Maia Cheese partnered with Barista Cafe, the John Keells Group and Jetwing Hotels and Resorts as a supplier. Maia Cheese’s other partners include Softlogic Glomark, Good Market, Saaraketha Organics and Aitken Spence PLC GPD (Global Parcel Delivery)