Not just "an Olive Oil" -  "An Ally of Your Health"

                                                           2 September 2017
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   "The First Olive Oil in Greece"

Beyond taste and flavor, it's time to focus in our Health!

Writing a newsletter, for us is far more than  a step to communicate with You.
It's a mentally challenge, to put in a letter everything we 're learning every day, through "trial and error" sometimes.
It's a footprint of the events and experiences we 've been through, from our short and long journeys in our region.
 And from lonely wonderings on the mountains and rare conversations with authentic people with wisdom and big heart.
Strong, Spicy, Bitter, very rich in Polyphenols.

   Life lessons.

Those priceless meetings and conversations with these "rare birds" as we use to call them, are our guidance in most of our steps.
When You visit Laconia region and Sparta, if You devote some time to travel beyond the classic tourist routes, into small villages, tiny spots on the map, You 'll discover the real treasures.
If You remember our newsletter about "A Forgotten olive oil" last October, then it's time to spend few minutes and read the following text. If You don't remember or have missed it, please spend a few more and read it (again).



Olive Tree back in time

Official recognition of the benefits of olive oil by the European Community

In 2012 the European Authority and food safety, known as “EFSA”,  released a report on the Regulation 432/2012. According to this, every olive oil with a polyphenols concentration of at least 250 mg/kg  can carry the “Health claim”.
Page 136/22
"Olive oil polyphenols contribute to the protection of blood lipids from oxidative stress.
The claim may be used only for olive oil which contains at least 5 mg of hydroxytyrosol and its derivatives (e.g. oleuropein complex and tyrosol) per 20 g of olive oil.
In order to bear the claim information shall be given to the consumer that the beneficial effect is obtained with a daily intake of 20 g of olive oil

Olive oil comprises mainly of the monounsaturated fatty acid oleic acid (C18:1).
There is also an EFSA approved health claim on the unsaturated fatty acids (Commission Regulation (EU) 432/2012) as follow:
Page 136/21
"Replacing saturated fats in the diet with unsaturated fats contributes to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels. Oleic acid is an unsaturated fat.
The claim may be used only for food which is high in unsaturated fatty acids, as referred to in the claim HIGH UNSATURATED FAT as listed in the Annex to Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006

This significant discovery and recognition were supposed to spread fast to the consumers. 

In an ideal world maybe.
But in reality, things aren't so simple, as they seem to be.
First of all, the olive oil industry has foundations of a non-ethical basis.
As we have grown up in a land which there is a theoretical abundance of olive oil, over the past four years, we discovered that - except the majority of the producers - most people have no idea of what is all about.
Fancy bottles and labels are attracting the buyers more than the well-hidden details on the back labels (which sometimes doesn't exist either).
Articles like this can help You understand some of the basics.
A few years ago, in 2011, the UC DAVIS report, revealed a shocking truth.
An actual huge fraud in even well-known brands.
The same year, Tom Mueller, released his book.
In 2016 CBS "60 minutes" had more revelations about the industry.
And there are much more which it would take lots of pages, just to mention these.

Back to our homeland and our microcosm, after reading those reports and more, we talked with many producers (some were even close relatives with decades of olive trees cultivation experience).
With this way, we filled the first puzzle, which is part of the naked truth.
There must be for sure another well-hidden bunch of secrets which keep this "green gold" from finding its way of recognition amongst the people over the world.

The "first extra virgin olive oil" straight from the mill.

   So what about "the first extra virgin olive oil"?

  Let's start with the fact that many of our fellow Spartans and a big part of the rest of the Greeks, haven't tried even once fresh extra virgin olive oil.
They know what they see in the big stores or what they are informing as "extra virgin olive oil from the village, or from a friend or a relative which is a producer in "xxx" small village."

  You might find it hard to believe it, but we have admitted it, in our last October's newsletter":
"...sometimes during the first week of October – as we recall old memories – we can remember our grandmother presenting us proudly a small can from “another village, far away, near the ancient sea,” as she used to say. This was the "first olive oil of the year" from green and unripe olives, from the mythical "Athinoelia" variety. The yearly production of that olive oil was too small each year, and having even few liters of it was - even for the olive producers - a luxury!"

   We were considering "all the extra olive oils are about the same," and had forgotten about the "first olive oil, " and it's bitter, spicy and strong taste.

   What was happening all over these years? (and still is going on now, for the majority of producers)
To achieve a bigger crop which means more olive oil, many farmers are waiting till the olives are mature enough/in their highest peak of maturity.
   At one point this is fine. But from the quality side, this is a terrible mistake.
The following example will help You to understand it better:
In our area, the valley of Sparta, the olive crop (for the olives which will produce the extra virgin olive oil - not the edible "Kalamata" ones), starts in mid of November.
   At that time, the fruit of the olive tree can produce an excellent olive oil, with a mild and fruity taste.
The analogy varies from 4 to 5 kilos of olives for a liter (1000ml) of extra virgin olive oil.
As we are getting closer to the winter, the analogy can reach to the best in average (4 to 1 and in rare cases 3,5 to 1!)
   Now think about this:  If we gather the same olives even a couple of weeks earlier, this analogy changes. It can climb to 6 too.
If we start earlier (mid of October) it can lead to 8 or 10 to 1 for a liter of extra virgin olive oil.
The taste, of course, will be different. 
In other words: The sooner the harvest, the fewer olive oil we get, with stronger and bitter taste, BUT richer in polyphenols.
More valuable for our health!

   Back in 2015, when we got our "first extra virgin olive oil" from the small farm near the sea (it was the first days of October!  -  50 days before our crop), we finally understood about the missing link.
It was the mythical tree, of goddess Athena.
The "Athinoelia" olive tree. Grows only in our region, with an earlier harvest than the rest varieties, gives an incredible extra virgin olive oil. 
But the fact that this variety has significant less average production per year leads to many farmers to substitute these with other varieties (like the famous "Koroneiki" which also produces a fantastic extra virgin olive oil).
   Due to the early harvest, the analogy is 8 to 1 (and sometimes more).
These few farmers like our friend, are using natural methods for the cultivation, without any chemicals and similar products which can have disastrous effects on our health.
Meanwhile, most of the remaining farms with the "Athinoelia" trees, are without irrigation.
Only the sun and the rain. 
All these above factors contribute to the production of this unique olive oil.

   In brief, these are the "keys" to this exceptional quality:
Single, rare and unique variety of olive trees (Athinoelia)
No chemicals and irrigation.
Early and small crop (comparing to other varieties).
Last but not less important: All these farms need at least 7 to 10 years (starting from the beginning) to produce the highest quality with most polyphenols. Demands an intense passion, devotion and a lot of extended hand work.

   Then this logical question arises: 
Where this rare is extra virgin olive oil will end? 

   It's a sad conclusiοn, but except few people (the producers and their small inner family circle), this extra virgin olive oil is mainly purchasing from large olive oil houses.
Then they 'll mix it with less quality olive oil (not necessary extra virgin one) or sell it under a luxury brand and packaging.
   In this occasion, the end consumer price is many times more up.

   Why we still insist in the "first olive oil of Greece", when we all can find such fantastic extra virgin olive oils, in several specialized stores?

   All these are mixtures. Even from the same region, but purchased from farmers unions which are gathering all their olive oils in big tanks. 
It means that is impossible for such volumes to maintain the highest quality of taste, flavor, and polyphenols. They are still great, but why not getting the best of the best when you have the chance?
It can happen only in small specific quantities and the proper momentum.
The official laboratory tests from the University of Athens, fill our claim for this.

   There fore, we want to urge you to try "the first extra virgin olive oil of Greece."
This year we will also get some litters which we won't keep only for our family, but we would like to share with You.
   It's one of these rare opportunities which we meet in our lives that we can taste real and authentic products from the last remaining sources.
These people deserve all the credits for their incredible work.
The price for such product might seem a little high but remember:
It's worth every cent of it and more.
Usually, well-known branded, similar olive oils cost much more!
You and Your health deserve only the best.
Recipe of the Month - Recipe of Life! 
A spoon of "the first extra virgin olive oil of Greece" every morning.

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