By Pinelopi Tsimourtou
Some say that people resemble the place they come from. In a way, it defines them and shapes them. The elements of nature, as well as the raw material, are quite determinative not only of the people’s character, but also of the culture that is developed among them. In order to discover the area, its beauty and specificities, the most suitable way is through a gastronomic adventure. The local products and producers are going to reveal surprising hidden treasures, by giving us a glimpse of the Saronic Gulf’s charm. In this article, we will be given the opportunity to get to know some of the local producers, who operate in the area of Trizinia, Methana and Poros and are involved in the cultivation of their homeland’s produce. These producers have never stopped creating and working with love and pride, promoting their gastronomic heritage in a qualitative and generous way.
In the beginning there was the vine!
Therefore, the first stop in the local products’ journey is the wine. Here, we encounter Andreou Winery. Since 1995, it has marked an exceptional course in winemaking, with vineyards in the region of Trizinia and Eastern Peloponnese. Nektarios Andreou, the son the founder of the winery Andreas, has taken over the business, which is setting higher and higher standards in the past few years. He is trying to highlight the originality of the local wine, by paying attention to the raw material and production process. It is very important that during the pandemic, Nektarios Andreou knows how to be adaptive and supple minded. “Acknowledging the difficulties we were facing with the collaborating restaurants due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we decided to better go into wine tourism and sell the wine right after its tasting at the winery.”
Porou Ampelos Wines
After that, we have Porou Ampelos Wines, which has a strong character and vision as a brand in the wine sector. Porou Ampelos is inextricably linked to the retsina production, a Greek white (or rosé) resinated wine. The brand aims to revive and upgrade the quality of retsina, while serving as a synonym for this specific type of wine. The way of production, of course, is closely related to Poros and the tradition of the island in retsina making. Typically, the resin used is collected from Poros’ pine forest -something that gives a special flavor to their products, creating a unique and fiery result.
“The grape and the olive are among the priceless benefactions of the soil, and were destined, each in its way, to promote the welfare of man.”
Tombazis Olive Grove
So, we are moving from the wine industry to that of the olive oil. The local producers in this field show admirable work, know-how and effort. We start with Tombazis Olive Grove. The history of the grove goes way back, to the Ottoman Empire era. Its commercial cultivation, though, has begun in 1870, with the cultivation of citrus trees. The estates of Tombazis family are located at the coastal area of Galata. The production has been gradually developing, and around 1872, the family founded the first industrial company for the production of essential oils, which has known great success. The citrus trees’ disease, however, forced the Tombazis family to put all their knowledge and experience into cultivating olive trees, instead.
The olive oil produced by Tombazis is well renowned to the Greek, as well as the international markets. The current owner Aristotelis Panagiotaros tells us: “Initially, I consider as a milestone of our company the decision to export our product, as well as the golden medal we won this year in the international ATHENA competition.” In addition, during the pandemic, a great deal of mastery and skills were needed, in order to make the right decisions for the company. “We immediately adapted to the new reality of the crisis and we standardized our product in more economic packages than the premium 500ml glass ones, managing to continue selling during the lockdown, even with a significantly lower profit.”
Theseus Extra Virgin Olive Oil
We move on to Theseus Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which takes us to the ancient Trizinia, the land of the ancient Greek mythology hero Theseus. The fertile land of king Theseus, in combination with the suitable for the production of olive trees climate, has made the Katsigkras’ family to cultivate olive trees with the same dedication and passion, since 1922. After a lot of studies and research by the founder Athanasios Katsigras, THESEUS EVOO was recently born. The olive oil satisfies the requirements of a high quality production. It is 100% natural, without chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial chemicals. By working longer hours during the harvest period and storing the olive oil in special stainless steel tanks connected with bottled nitrogen, an exquisite final result is ensured.
The agriculturalist Thanos Katsigras tells us: “The idea of establishing the THESEUS EVOO products started three years ago, when I was still studying. The initiation of the company, though, took place right before the lockdown. As a new enterprise, one could say that it grows within the financial crisis that COVID-19 has caused. Since the beginning, of course, with a steady pace, total honesty towards our clients about our products and the 100% extra virgin olive oil that we produce in Theseus land, we move towards achieving our goals. In other words, it’s our faith and vision that drives us!”
Bourlokas Olive Press
The local products continue with the Bourlokas Olive Press, headed by Mr. Antonis Bourlokas, in Galatas. For many consecutive years, they’ve been producing extra virgin olive oil from the local manaki olive variety, having their very own bottling process.
When life gives you lemons…
…get inspired by the Lemonodasos of Poros and turn lemons into sweets, like Vlachos family is doing with Lemonodasos Breathtaking Flavors. The famous picturesque Lemonodasos and the local lemon production is used as raw material by the family for their sweet creations. “A truck heading to Argos made a stop, filled with lemons headed to Argos to be juiced up for 0.07 per kilo, while, at the same time, we import lemons, which are way more expensive! That was the moment when the idea hit me”. The traditional pastry shop of the family, located in Galatas since 1976, was renowned locally for their signature Greek traditional desserts. In 2015, the steady course of this business gave strength and motive to Dimitris and Maria Vlachos to utilize the excellent local produce from Lemonodasos and keep the old homemade lemon juice family recipe alive, creating the Lemonodasos brand.
Another family business in the field of citrus, and specifically lemon, trees, is that of Klados family. Their production process is thorough and it ensures that high quality products reach the customer along with great safety and respect to the environmental protection. The family business also collaborates with large supermarket chains and wholesale companies both in Greece and abroad, ensuring the Klados’s quality and consistency.
One of the biggest steps that the company has taken is its transition from a primary production sector company to a “vertical integration” one, which means that it participates in all stages of production. Experiencing the pandemic and the lockdown was surely something unprecedented. However, the sales of the company showed an increase. “What I realized this period of time is that the food sector remains one of the most vital, along with the health sector. There is pleasure in doing something that is productive and necessary for the society.”
Sustainable Earth is a production, marketing and packaging company of organic goods, which collaborates with known supermarket chains, organic products stores and restaurants, while they also export to several European countries. The company aims to offer their customers organic products of the highest quality at the most competitive prices. Giannis Mellos told us that the last spring and the lockdown in Greece constituted a valuable lesson to all of us. “The consumers felt that the best way to protect themselves from COVID-19 was not only the protection and hygiene measures, but also a healthy diet. People thought in a simple manner that Vitamin C, found mainly in oranges, could be their protection. In general, the consumption of organic products has increased in the spring of 2020 and we have strived as a company to cover the demand.”
When innovation and creativity meets local products…
OLIVELAB NATURALS is a company that embodies all of the above, as love and respect for the raw material is transformed into an eco-friendly and innovative product. Their passion is creating homemade goods. They handcraft natural olive oil cosmetics, shaving accessories, handbags, artistic & deco items, utility products and eco-products for your bathroom or kitchen. They are all unique and environmentally sustainable. Handmade products ensure that traditional making skills are kept alive and create a demand for training in these skills. Their cosmetics are produced with 100% natural, certified materials, with their main ingredient being the extra virgin organic olive oil.
The OLIVELAB NATURALS owner shared that a milestone in the company’s history is the construction of the online shop as a first step that paved the way to the much needed, after all, openness and eventually, growth. “The extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic lead to hard decisions and reorganization. Luckily, a small business like OLIVELAB NATURALS is flexible and offers products that project a high quality of life for the customer. This image was enhanced in the company’s online presence. We are now living in times where e-commerce offers sustainable growth prospects and therefore, I had to turn to more effective digital entrepreneurial strategies.”
Local products are not limited to wine, olive oil and citrus fruits. Beekeeping is also a flourishing industry in the Galatas region. The Trizinian beekeeping company Bakas Honey is another family business, that passionately produces honey and other products from their beehives. This honey stands out for the unique aromas and flavors of the Lemonodasos flowers, which lends it a strong identity. Creativity, however, doesn’t stop here. The company tries to utilize its raw material in every possible way. So, among their collection, one can find cosmetics, like lip balms based on bee wax and oil in many different flavors (vanilla, bubble gum, caramel, strawberry, etc). Quite imaginatively, the bee wax is also used in making Easter candles in various designs and sizes.
Pastry shop Glykisma
On Ermou Street, the quaint alley behind the municipal market, you can find the traditional pastry shop “Glykisma”, owned by Giorgos Kanatsidis. For thirty years, it combines ingredients of excellent quality and creative imagination to offer a wide variety of delicious desserts. From fresh tarts and traditional “amigdaloto” (pastry made of almond paste) to many types of syrupy baked sweets, cakes and homemade ice cream. From various wraps to choux and eclairs. A favorite is the unique “baklavadaki” (small baklavas). A secret recipe loved by many.
Giorgos Kanatsidis studied Cooking and Confectionary at the School of Tourist Professions of Parnitha in 1983. After working for several years at the “Delise” Great Britain and Pendelikon hotels patisseries, he returned to Poros in 1991 and opened his own business.
Daglis Pastry Shop
Of course, our gastronomic journey does not end here. One of Poros’ trademarks is its famous amygdalota (a Greek almond pastry like a macaroon). These local delicacies as well as many others can be found at Daglis Patry Shop. Another family business, which has been involved in manufacturing and selling traditional pastry goods, like the unforgettable amygdalota, for over thirty years. It is truly a shame for someone not to try their traditional ice-cream recipe, the special walnut sweets (“karydata”), their “kourampiedes”, “pastelia” and other sweets and liqueurs.
Antonis Daglis, the son of the founder, told us: “I first decided to take over the pastry shop for sentimental reasons. I didn’t want the effort that my father put in the business to go to waste. Because he made a name for himself and his shop that is deeply associated with Poros. But then, when people congratulated me for keeping the shop’s quality standards high, I got a sense of deep satisfaction knowing that the taste of my products satisfies my customers. So I said to myself that I will continue honoring the tradition of Poros Daglis’s amygdalota.”
For the end, we left a sweet taste from of Th. Vessala patisserie. This sweet story started in 1970, when the father of Theodora Vessala first opened his pastry workshop in Galatas, specializing in syrup-soaked pastries, amygdalota and kourampiedes. In 1994, Theodora Vessala opened another Patisserie in Poros, offering not only her father’s recipes, but also other more modern desserts. In 2011, her daughter Sotiria Aroni decides to enter the business and continue serving the family legacy. With all the knowledge and skills that her pastry studies rendered her, she developed the existing recipes, but also boldly created new ones, like her very own chocolate bars, infused with herbs, tea, spices, superfoods and nuts.
In her own words: “The inspiration for creating the chocolate bars came after a trip to Paris, where I met a Japanese chef who combined classic French pastries with Japanese ingredients, combining flavors from two cultures. Thus, I thought why not create something, which will be a combination of a product that I know really well how to use, namely the chocolate, and materials that we have here in Greece in abundance, like spices and herbs.” The combination of traditional and modern pastry allows the business to be flexible and adaptive, rendering it capable of facing crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Katheti’s mission is to galvanize the deep expertise and creativity already resident in the local community and to provide the additional resources that encourage sustainable growth. This article includes only local brands, i.e. labeled local products. The content of the article will be constantly enriched.