Cheddar made in the classical way tends to have a sharp, pungent flavor, often slightly earthy. Its texture is firm, with farmhouse traditional cheddar being slightly crumbly; it should also, if mature, contain large cheese crystals consisting of calcium lactate – often precipitated when matured for times longer than six months.
Cheddar is usually a deep to pale yellow (off-white) color, but food colorings are sometimes used in industrial varieties of cheddar-style cheeses. One commonly used example is annatto, extracted from seeds of the tropicalachiote tree. The largest producer of industrial cheddar-style cheese in the United States, Kraft, uses a combination of annatto and oleoresin paprika, an extract of the lipophilic (oily) portion of paprika. Colored cheddar cheese has long been sold, but even as early as 1860, the real reason for this was unclear: Joseph Harding stated “to the cheese
consumers of London who prefer an adulterated food to that which is pure I have to announce an improvement in the annatto with which they compel the cheese makers to color the cheese.” According to David Feldman, an author of trivia books, “The only reason why cheese makers color their product is because consumers seem to prefer it.”