Many people dream of getting away from the trappings of modernity, to start again in the wild, to be connected once more with the natural world around us. So our story begins with a dream. Sat in our small apartment in Athens, Eleni and I longed to reconnect with the earth, and our ancestors.
My wife grew up on the beautiful Greek isle of Kefalonia, an Ionian island known for production of raisins, fresh fish, and some of the best Olive oil in the world.
We didn’t know it then, but our future lay there, between the bright endless skies, and the deep blue sea. Still, we did not know how to realize our fantasy, but even the longest journeys start with a small step, and sometimes we must look back, to look forward.
When the chance came to help on the farm, we packed everything we could physically fit into, and around, our little car. Not forgetting our three dogs, we set off. Six hours flew by crossing the rugged terrain of southern Greece, a quick hop on the ferry, and we were there. Our new life began on Kefalonia...
A couple of months later, and we were sitting at a makeshift table on the terrace. The sun warmed our faces as we enjoyed a traditional Greek lunch of Feta cheese, fresh wild oregano, home grown tomatoes, warm bread straight from the oven, and of course olive oil... Our olive oil... From the family fields. This was our “eureka” moment, we should share this treasure with the world.
The next chapter started with a lot of learning, and a lot of hard work. Combining our passion for ecological responsibility, with local techniques and knowledge, we started from the roots and worked up.
We had to learn everything there is to know about the growth and care of the olive trees. From root system, to the shape of the canopy, when to water and how much, as well as annual nutrient requirements. Not only how it produces the fruit, but what qualities make the best fruit, always looking for the most natural, organic solutions.
After devouring every book we could find, and picking the brains of the very experienced local growers. We first surrounded our olive fields with bee hives to support local wildflower populations.
Secondly, to fight insects in the most natural way, we added a flock of chickens. Each bird can eat up to a kilo (2lbs) of grasshoppers, crickets, ticks, spiders, and scorpions! If that wasn’t enough, in return they provide fertilization, and aerate the soil.
As the olive picking season began, the enormity of our mission dawned on us. The two of us, two hands each, and hundreds of trees to harvest.
Knowing that to achieve the best quality oil, picked olives need to be delivered to the press within 24 hours of harvest. We embarked on probably the most frantic few months of our lives so far, but we loved it every minute of it even the ones when you couldn't feel your arms.
We got up each day at first light, packed food, readied the dogs, and head off to the fields. The olive groves are a special place, surrounded by rugged arid hills, the crystal blue sea in the background. The bird song welcomes in the new day, and the dogs run carefree, and happy, among the trees. After a labor intense morning, Manula (Greek for mum) would drop by to help us out, and bring us a delicious lunch.
As the shadows grew longer, and the sun retreated, we packed the olives onto the truck, and head to the beach for a swim, to wash away the day’s sins. Finishing the day at the press...
To get the best understanding, there’s no better way than to get yourself a job at the press. With great fortune, I had the opportunity to work with one of the best oil press in Greece. The expertise displayed was inspirational, and the knowledge I gleaned invaluable.
The season continued like this, long hot days of picking, and even longer evenings at the press, but by the end I knew we were ready to go it alone...
With the pieces all in place, and the years harvest stored in barrels, we sought suitable packaging for our liquid sunshine.
The usual glass, and tin, used commercially didn’t resonate, but a brief look back in time revealed the clay pot as storage. So began the quest to find the best pottery/artist to compliment our ethics and values. That is how our bottles were born, each one hand made by a small pottery, using traditional methods.
We couldn’t stop there, so we found another company making beautiful boxes from recycled paper, reflecting our renewable dream. Together we worked closely, and over the next few months designed our box.
For our premium oil however, we wanted to take it to another level. So, combining my love for woodwork, and our very special oil we created a series of unique wooden boxes. Hand made from a single piece of eucalyptus tree specially for our incredible oil. The highest grades come from the “Rakana” grove, these special trees are known for the unsurpassed quality for their oil, and have sat high on the hilltops of the family’s land for years.
In line with our ethical stance all of our wood is sourced from wind fallen trees, no tree fell in order to make any of these products, and all of our olive wood from the pruning of the groves, necessary to encourage new growth.
My wife's passion for all things organic drew her toward soap production. she has been making soap, for our own use, for some time, and developed a wealth of great recipes.
With all the elements of the soap coming from our garden, or picked wild during throughout the season. We use the local abundance of rose petals, lavender flowers, thyme, mountain tea leaves, and Louisa tea.
We then capture the flavours by air drying, or extracting the essential oils through water distillation, using our hand built copper still. Allowing us access to these ingredients year round, to be combined into our sensational soaps.
Everything we do comes from our love and passion for nature, and natural products, we are proud today to share it with you, and the rest of the world.
This story is not over yet, it's actually just the beginning. in the near future we will be adding more incredible products, and have our first batches of honey flowing, as well as other seasonal products, like "Afrala" (individual hand picked flakes of sea salt) responsibly packaged, and available to you!
Stay tuned for more exciting developments from Ellia’s Organics.