Will restaurants soon hire ‘Milk Sommeliers?’

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

When entrepreneurs are given start-up advice, they’re almost always told to do something they love. Bas de Groot is one such entrepreneur. He loves milk.  And his business is being an international “Milk Sommelier.”

In this Great Big Story video, de Groot – a trained organic grower who admits to sometimes drinking four liters of milk a day – shares his love of milk and why it’s a “liquid of serious complexity akin to a fine wine.” De Groot travels the world advising farmers, particular organic farmers like John Bucher, who owns the 60-year-old Bucher Farms, a Sonoma County, California family ranch that consists of 700 milk cows, 700 replacement heifers, and 40 acres of Pinot Noir wine grapes. The farm is currently transitioning most of its herd to organic milk production.

Enter de Groot, the Milk Sommelier. This is a serious business, and when you think about it, the practice of knowing all about milk isn’t so unrelated to knowing all about wine.

“Milk and wine are both made from living products,” explains de Groot in the video. “One is made by soil in the plants. The other is also made by the soil…with the cow in between.” Just like wine, de Groot contends that the taste and quality of milk depends on the soil, the region, the farmer and let’s not forget about the cow producing it.  He’s able to discern the sweetness and the smell of a glass with just a quick taste. His preference is full-fat, of course.

For a businessman like Bucher, whose farm produces 5,000 gallons of milk a day, de Groot offers a service that may set his products apart from the competition. He also wants to produce a quality, healthy, organic product that can be enjoyed by his customers. “Those of us that farm have a tremendous responsibility,” Bucher says.  For John, the milk is “his identity.”

So, in his first visit to Sonoma Valley, California, what does de Groot think of the region’s famous and delicious product? “It’s good milk!” he says.


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