About 150 kilometers east of Athens, in the middle of the Aegean Sea, Mykonos is perhaps the most famous of all the Greek islands.
While it’s best known for its beaches, shopping, and nightlife, the island has recently been revitalized Olive oil culture.
By design and knowing how to run it, you can practice olive oil tourism anywhere.
“People googled .‘Olive oil tourism in Mykonos, ” Anita Zachou, agronomist and founder of Mykonos Olive Oil Tasting, told Olive Oil Times. .“I realized that these tourists are in Greece and they know that Greece produces good olive oil. “
“They don’t know if Mykonos produces olive oil, but since they are here they want to try olive oil, ”she added.
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While Mykonos is home to around 30,000 olive trees, mostly Koroneiki, the island is not known for theirs Olive oil production.
This is mainly due to the lack of a local mill, which forces producers to ship their olives to other islands and wait days for them to be converted. As a result, the olive oil produced is usually not virgin.
This is about to change, however, as there are already plans to build a municipal mill on the island.
“There is also another person who wants to build a private mill that is also available for local producers, ”said Zachou. .“However, everything is still in the planning phase; Nothing is certain yet. “
Until then, Zachou will continue to focus on educating tourists visiting the island Olive oil tasting Promotion of olive oil tourism in the rest of Greece.
She founded Mykonos Olive Oil Tasting when she first moved to the island in 2018. Sensing that Mykonos was not having an authentic Greek dining experience, Zachou decided to fill that niche as a certified olive oil sommelier.
Photo: Anita Zachou
Before the start of the Covid-19 pandemicBusiness was booming. Zachou said she routinely arranges two tasting experiences a day with her mostly American clientele and tries five to six extra virgin olive oils from across the country.
“I try a lot of olive oils, more than 50 a year, to find the ones I like, ”she said. .“Mostly they are given out in international competitions and I choose different varieties. “
For example, last year their customers tried out Koroneiki and Tsounati Crete, Makris from Alexandropolous, Amfissis from Delphi, Kolovi from Mytilene, Manaki from Peloponnese and Lianolia from Corfu.
Mykonos is known as a playground for billionaires. Because of this, Zachou customized her experience to make her tastings a new kind of luxury event.
“I have a lot of private tastings based on the customer profile here, ”she said. .“I go to villas, private yachts, or even private beaches. The material I use is important because these people are used to a certain quality in their life. “
However, the experience of transporting all of their tasting equipment and olive oils around the island to serve their wealthier clientele proved invaluable. When Mykonos opened its doors to tourists last summer, many were reluctant to host group tastings, so private events became the norm.
Photo: Anita Zachou
The Mykonos tourism season usually runs from May to late October, but the pandemic has shortened its previous season. This has allowed Zachou to focus on promoting olive oil tourism in the rest of Greece.
“We have around five to six people across Greece trying to start olive oil tourism initiatives, ”she said, adding that some take the effort more seriously than others.
“Olive oil tourism is another business opportunity so you need to come up with a business plan, ”said Zachou. .“You have to study the market. You have to study the services. “
Too often, she warned, producers think they can open the doors of their mills for a tour, allow visitors to see the trees in their grove, and end up with an impromptu tasting.
Zachou said, however, that this model does a disservice to Greek olive oil by neglecting what she thinks visitors are most interested in: learning about the taste of olive oils.
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“This is not olive oil tourism, ”she said. .“They want to learn how to taste and research the aromas and flavors of Greek olive oil and how to use it in cooking. “
Zachou treats olive oil tourism more as a tasting course than anything else. This winter she is planning a seminar for other producers in Greece who are interested in this different kind of olive oil tourism, with the parallel aim of creating an informed consumer.
“We’re going to try five different varieties from different parts of Greece plus two faulty olive oils and one non-virgin olive oil, ”she said. .“In the end, they understand the differences. “
Although Greece is the second or third largest olive oil producer in the world (depending on the year), Zachou said Olive oil education strongly lacking in the country. She attributed much more developed initiatives to Italy and Spain.
“We are way behind Spain and Italy because we lack education, ”she said. .“In Greece we don’t have a public olive oil school. I’m an agronomist, but even at university they never taught us how to taste olive oil or how to make olive oil in the mill. “
Zachou hopes to reverse this trend with her seminar and make Greece a better known destination for olive oil tourism. Ultimately, she said, visitors to Greece want to try the best extra virgin olive oil the country has to offer.
“You don’t need a mill or a tree – and that’s what my experience taught me, ”she said. .“People want to be introduced to the world of Greek olive oil. Yes, by design and knowing how to run it, you can do olive oil tourism anywhere. “