Cristina Stribacu enjoys a variety of activities, but she has a special passion for languages, because they facilitate communication. This is useful for art because you can explore and express your deeper, more profound self. It is also vital for nature because you can make contact with and respect yourself as a part of it. She studied Italian Language and Art History and her entrepreneurial spirit led her to found LIÁ Premium EVOO. LIÁ is a mainly export-oriented EVOO brand specializing in the production and the trade of Premium EVOO.
Cristina considers the time she made it on the catalogue of the best EVOOs in the world among selected shops in ten countries in the US, Europe and Asia as the best achievement of her team. Cristina is a certified EVOO taster and participates in international contests.
She works as a volunteer, organizing EVOO Courses for schools sharing the importance of EVOO consumption and benefits of the Mediterranean diet in this way. Her last project, titled “Master on Greek Olive Oil Varieties,” in collaboration with an international advisory board, aims to support a more sustainable olive oil agriculture, inspire EVOO producers in Greece to save Olive Oil biodiversity by cultivating native varieties and promote the importance of EVOO consumption in our daily diet.
How important is the olive oil sector in Greece?
Greece holds the third place in the global olive oil production and what is very interesting is that Greece is the First Extra Virgin Olive Oil producer in the world while 80% of Greek production is EVOO. Furthermore, EVOO is corresponding at 9% of the value of the agrofood sector. Nowadays it is estimated that more than 600.000 families are working in the olive oil production and the olive oil cultivation surface area amounts to 1,000,000 hectares, 132.000.000 olive trees while the average of the annual production is 280-300 thousands tonnes. (source : Ministry of Agriculture)
What is worthy to note is that in the last ten years more young people started to work in olive oil production. They stopped – what is done for many years – selling olive oil in bulk in Italy, and they have created their own olive oil brands, they try to open new markets for their bottled EVOO and they started to educate consumers about the healthy and quality characteristics of the greek varieties. The results are important, by the end of 2018 Greece had an increase in the exports of 14% at the bottled greek extra virgin olive oil.
Greek olive oil varieties
Thanks in part to the long history of the olive tree in Greece, there are many varieties of olives.
There are 10 prominent varieties for the production of olive oil:
- Koroneiki, the most prominent of the olive tree varieties in Greece is called by many different names, as it is cultivated in many different areas. It is the strongest of the Greek varieties and the least demanding in terms of moisture, soil and care. Its main areas of cultivation are the southwestern Peloponnese, Crete, and the Ionian Islands. It’s extra virgin olive oil is considered to have medium fruitiness with exceptional aroma and taste. It has a high content of oleic acid and a very high stability.
- Lianolia is another almost equally highly rated variety, cultivated in the Ionian Islands and Western Greece. It is not as hardy as the Koroneiki and is very vulnerable to the main enemy of the olive tree: the olive fly. Its olive oil possesses a particular taste and aroma that is very valued in foreign markets as more delicate than that of Koroneiki.
- Konservolia is of medium hardiness and productivity is high and alternate (pt—what does this mean?). Its ability to adapt to different environmental conditions permits it to be cultivated from sea level up to an altitude of 500 – 600 metres. It is one of the varieties whose fruit yields a good amount of quality olive oil. The flesh of the fruit is firm and therefore resistant to damage during transportation and handling. Because of that it is also the most important table olive variety in Greece, and is processed as a black brined olive. It accounts for 70% to 85% of the total acreage devoted to table olive cultivation, and it is grown mainly in central Greece.
- Tsounati is cultivated mainly in Crete and accounts for 15-20% of the country’s acreage. It is a hardy variety and can be cultivated to up 1,000 metres above sea level. It is a high-yield variety, producing good-quality oil.
- Megaritiki is a hardy dual-purpose variety, cultivated in the area of Attica, Boetia,and the Peloponnese. Its fruit gives a medium high oil yield of good quality. It is resistant to dry climates and moderately tolerant of cold.
- Valanolia is of medium hardiness and its cultivation extends over most of the Eastern Aegean Islands. On the island of Lesvos (Mytilene) it accounts for 70% of the olive growing acreage, which makes it an important variety nationally since Lesvos contributes 10% to 20% of the annual Greek oil. The oil it produces is rated very highly.
- Andramytini is another variety that is largely cultivated on the island of Lesvos covering about 20% of the olive growing acreage. It is a hardy variety of high oil content. It is sensitive to attacks from olive fly, moderately resistant to cold and can be cultivated up to 500-600 metres above sea level.
- Chalkidiki, a variety of medium hardiness is cultivated in the Chalkidiki area of northern Greece. The fruit is harvested early and gives a medium oil yield. It is dual purpose and is used for green pickling
- Matolia is dual purpose and mainly cultivated in Ilia, the western Peloponnese, where it accounts for 90% of the trees. It is sensitive to olive fly and is picked 15 to 20 days earlier than the Koroneiki cultivated in the same area. The yield is rather poor but the oil is of good quality.
- Kalamon is of medium hardiness and of dual purpose. It is grown chiefly for Greek-style black olives. Productivity is high and alternate. It gives a medium yield of excellent quality oil. It is moderately resistant to cold and sensitive to excessively hot climates.
Main Areas of Olive Oil Production:
- Peloponese : 35%
- Crete : 30%
- Mitilini : 5%
- Ionian Islands : 5%
- Per capita consumption is almost 16 kilos annually! That is because every greek recipe is based on extra Virgin olive oil. Greece is the only country that has a recipe category called “Ladera” (from ladi — λάδι — the Greek name of olive oil) means mainly plant-based foods (e.g. eggplants, okra, fresh beans, legumes) cooked in plenty of olive oil; garlic, onion, tomato, and various herbs and spices (parsley, oregano, basilica, dill, spearmint, etc.) are added. The “Ladera” provides macronutrients and a wide range of micronutrients that meet many recommended daily allowances.
The perspective of greek olive oil.
I have worked at the export of LIÁ Extra Virgin Olive Oil for ten years and I admit that the exports and the reputation of our awarded monovarietal olive oil every year is increasing. International markets appreciate the quality of an authentic single estate extra virgin olive oil. Consumers are fed up with well branded olive oil that comes from big companies. The global trend of Farm to table and the latest support for small producers help us to increase our sales. At the same time, every year I give lessons to consumers in order to understand how to distinguish extra virgin olive oil from lower categories. Furthermore, The delicate flavour and the perfect balance of LIA Olive Oil makes it the best choice for chefs and consumers of different culinary backgrounds because it makes easy food pairings and it does not cover the other tastes. It’s a healthy pairing with Vegetables, grilled fish, salmon salads, roast potatoes, soups, pasta, stewed shrimps, roast rabbit, grilled poultry, goat cheese.
I am very optimistic for the future of the greek olive oil also because young greeks who turn back in the olive gardens are all highly educated, speak many languages and they follow courses for the olive oil production in this way they adopt modern techniques in the traditional olive gardens giving perfect results.