THE DIVERSE FOOD PORTFOLIO OF NATURALLY GREEK

So, while we were going all over Greece working on the olive oil and wine, we kept running into other foods that we loved. And we thought if we loved them, other people probably would too.

We found the fava from Santorini, an ancient superfood dating back to ancient times. It’s been called fava for 3000 years , so the name of the bean probably came from this puree that it makes. It’s really a kind of pea in the lentil, not what we call the fava bean, and it has only ever grown on Santorini and two other islands, 

We’re bringing back caper leaves and caper berries that have a robust and lovely flavor of the kind you find almost nowhere else. We also fell in love with some of the honey of Greece.  We tasted tons of honeys and ultimately found a supremely complex and irresistible portfolio from a small producer, who we love. He’s in Crete which is a large, unspoiled island that has hundreds of botanicals to create seriously evocative and mind-blowing honey.

Ultimately, we found a lot of great products that were cottage industry and phenomenal, but couldn’t produce enough for export. So we had to turn down some great small producers to also find sources that were high quality but could produce enough for export. 

All the products unfortunately are not inexpensive, though they all are of natural and manual production. We work directly with farmers, and we want to know the provenance of every product down to the very detail.

photo thanks to ninjapotato on Flickr

For example, this is how we sourced our eating olives. After searching for olives and dealing with a lot of olive traders, we were lucky enough to meet a journalist for a major paper in Greece whose family grew them in the Agrinio region, where 80 percent of all kalamata olives are grown (though not, confusingly, where the town of kalamata is). We went straight there to meet the families who brine them by hand. Instead of dealing with an olive merchant, we cut out all the middle men and went directly to the farmers. It wasn’t an easy task, especially given the byzantine nature of Greek bureaucracy. We got the farmers business licenses to produce on their own, to be able to package and go to market on their own while working with us. Our hope is it will help the farmer to empower himself to make a little more money in what’s a very poor region. 

We had to go through this process for many producers. I found in Greece while spending three months there that the wine industry is actually quite sophisticated. Dealing with these cottage industry food producers was very different. There, I’m not just going to a winery that has bottled a product that’s ready to go. For the small farmers we had to first find the producer, create the packaging, create labeling, set them up as a company, get them licenses, arrange transportation, show them the paperwork.

It got to be more than I could do by myself, so in the last couple of years, we had a couple new partners join in to help, new partners in both Greece and the USA. And our plans our to expand. 

We’re going to be doing bottarga and sea salt and red peppers smoked and dried from northern Greece. Goat butter. Things we believe exemplify and are uniquely Greek, while we explore other potential food products. We want things that will be be accessible and appeal to both chefs and home users.

Olive oil in bag in the box, honey, fava, peppers, and bottarga are all here in the US. The olives are on their way. Dried herbs and teas may follow. Right now we’re at the very fledgling stage of distribution. We’re looking for distributors and we’re excited for the future, though there are challenges in this business, which I’ll talk about soon.

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