Meet Eftihis Androulakis, from Crete, our partner at Olea True and young entrepreneur who has preserved the traditional methods of sustainable organic cultivation and processing that have been passed down to him from generation to generation. In this Q&A, Eftihis shares his philosophy and commitment to producing high phenol olive oil.
'Challenging, painstaking, traditional, and innovative' are the four words you use to describe the process for yielding premium quality olive oil. Can you tell us what this means to you?
The experience of older generations guided us, and youthful passion motivated us to start a challenging, painstaking procedure to take full advantage of what nature gave us. It all began in a rocky, mountainous area covered with olive trees that are hundreds of years old. Throughout our journey, we kept in mind the advice of our grandfathers which is to respect the trees, look after them, and they will richly reward you with their fruits. The best quality olive oil with all of olive oil’s health benefits is our ultimate reward. These four words describe the complete procedure for creating an ultra-premium olive oil.
Why do you rely on a handpicked method for cultivating premium olive oil?
Because our olive trees grow in a rocky, mountainous area, the use of heavy machinery is impossible. Harvesting has to be done by hand, climbing up into the trees and using electric sticks to carefully shake the branches. To catch the fruit when it is light green before it starts to turn purple, this procedure starts in early October.
You've mentioned in the past that your trees have unique personalities. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Cultivation and harvesting are extremely challenging due to the morphology of the ground and the size of the trees. Following the traditional ways that more than four generations have taught us and respecting what nature generously gives us on this mountain, we treat each one of the trees differently, according to its needs. With an average height of about 11 meters and some trees reaching 20 meters, and an average age of about 200 years, each tree has a different “personality.” That’s why each one needs individual attention. Our ally in this effort is the ideal microclimate of the area: sunny and windy while the trees start to blossom, with cold, rainy days naturally protecting them from disease and feeding them before the harvest.
Do you prune your trees?
Some believe that pruning is the best way for olive trees to produce new leaves, flowers, and olives. I like to let them alone to do whatever they want. The more you let them reach for their food, the more phenolic compounds. Other olive farmers wondered why I don't make life easier by pruning our trees. They called me crazy, destroyer of the trees, stupid—but now they call me to ask what to do.
Olive oil naturally oxidizes over time. How do you combat this and help preserve phenols?
Milling is done on the day of the harvest, at low temperatures (under 26 C). We put out the pit before malaxing so that we will take only the best from each fruit. It lasts for a maximum of 30 minutes for each batch of olives and while malaxing we use inert Argon gas so that we don't have any oxygen affecting the quality and to ensure that the olive oil will keep all its aromas and valuable phenols. We lose quantity this way, but we gain an extraordinary quality.