Meet the Producer Behind Turkey's Most-Awarded Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Bahar Alan started producing olive oil as a hobby but has since dedicated herself to cultivating local varieties to produce high-quality organic olive oil.

Bahar Alan
Aug. 16, 2021
By Wasim Shahzad
Bahar Alan

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Once again the pro­duc­ers behind Novavera proved to be among the biggest win­ners at the 2021 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

The Turkish com­pany, which spe­cial­izes in pro­duc­ing olive oil from rare local vari­eties, earned a third-con­sec­u­tive Gold Award for its Trilye blend and three Silver Awards for its Ayvalik, Yamalak and organic blends.

Every year, we process at least one or two rare local cul­ti­vars and try to pub­li­cize them, such as Yamalak, which we believe is a hid­den jewel.- Bahar Alan, owner, Novavera

According to Bahar Alan, the company’s founder and owner, Novavera is the most-awarded Turkish brand, hav­ing earned more than 200 acco­lades since it was founded in 2018.

See Also: Producer Profiles

After going through an ill­ness, I real­ized the true impor­tance of health and cre­at­ing a bond with nature,” Alan told Olive Oil Times. Through this, I came to know the true pur­pose of my life: to pro­duce healthy food in the best way and doing it in har­mony with nature.”

Part of this metaphor­i­cal rebirthing of Alan as an olive oil pro­ducer is con­veyed in the name she chose for the com­pany.

Nova vera means new spring’ and new truth’ and can be trans­lated as the new truth of bahar’ (bahar means spring),” Alan said. Producing olive oil, a healthy food, using the best pos­si­ble approach is the new truth and pur­pose of my life, which I came to know after expe­ri­enc­ing a tough time in my ill­ness. This brand name reminds me of that pur­pose.”

The cor­ner­stone of Novavera was laid when the com­pany planted 2,000 trees over an area of 20 hectares in Ayvalik, which has been the olive cap­i­tal of Turkey for cen­turies.

At first, it started as a hobby that we wanted to do as a retire­ment project,” Alan said. But being totally drawn to the sub­ject, I was eager to learn every­thing I could find about pro­duc­ing health­ier olive oil with higher amounts of phe­no­lic com­pounds.”

Now we have more than 160 hectares of groves in the Ayvalik and Manisa regions, which can be described as the old and new olive grow­ing cen­ters of Turkey, respec­tively,” she added.

africa-middle-east-profiles-the-best-olive-oils-meet-the-producer-behind-turkeys-mostawarded-extra-virgin-olive-oil-olive-oil-times

Photo: Bahar Alan

The first year was chal­leng­ing for Alan and her team, who were not sat­is­fied with the tra­di­tional approaches used in olive farm­ing and har­vest­ing.

During the first year, our biggest chal­lenge was the con­ven­tional habits of the farm­ers and the har­vesters with whom we worked,” she said. We had to work hard to con­vince them to use more mod­ern ways like the use of crates instead of sacks, or har­vest­ing machines instead of tra­di­tional sticks.”

Erratic weather was another chal­lenge Alan and her team faced as hail, storms, and drought all took their toll on her trees in the first sea­son.

Despite these chal­lenges, Alan said that Novavera’s first year of pro­duc­tion was well-received, with sev­eral oils earn­ing inter­na­tional awards.

This encour­aged us to learn and invest more time and energy in this new busi­ness line,” Alan said. For this rea­son, we attended two train­ing ses­sions in California for olive oil tast­ing and pro­duc­tion. There, we met experts and got the guid­ance to set up our own mill in the most effi­cient way.”

See Also: How to Produce Award-Winning Olive Oil

Early har­vest­ing is pre­ferred for most of the olive vari­eties. The har­vest period usu­ally begins in late September and lasts until the first week of October.

The post-har­vest olives are imme­di­ately trans­ported to our mills and pressed with­out caus­ing any delay,” Alan said. For the trans­porta­tion of olives from dis­tant loca­tions, vehi­cles with cli­mate-con­trolled stor­age sys­tems are used.”

Once the olives arrive at the mill, they are rinsed using a dou­ble wash sys­tem to remove any residue on the fruit. Afterward, water pass­ing through a spe­cial fil­ter is used to wash the olives one last time. Once the olives have been washed, the cold extrac­tion process begins.

For olive oil to be con­sid­ered cold extracted, the tem­per­a­ture of the olive paste should not exceed 27 ºC at any stage of pro­duc­tion,” Alan said. Our pro­duc­tion infra­struc­ture and its tech­nol­ogy enable us to mea­sure the tem­per­a­ture of the paste at six points and cools at spe­cific points if needed.”

Then the olive oil is stored in an air, light and heat resis­tant envi­ron­ment to main­tain its fresh­ness and qual­ity,” she added.

While this process is famil­iar to many extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­ers, Alan said that the company’s empha­sis on local vari­eties, includ­ing their Gold Award-win­ning blend, helps Novavera stand out.

africa-middle-east-profiles-the-best-olive-oils-meet-the-producer-behind-turkeys-mostawarded-extra-virgin-olive-oil-olive-oil-times

Bahar Alan

This early har­vest extra vir­gin olive oil blend is pro­duced from Trilye olives, which grow at an alti­tude of 600 meters in the region of Manisa,” Alan said. The oil pro­duced by these olives con­tains high lev­els of polyphe­nols and an intense fruity fla­vor due to their growth on an ideal soil and cli­mate.”

Every year, we process at least one or two rare local cul­ti­vars and try to pub­li­cize them, such as Yamalak, which we believe is a hid­den jewel,” she added.

Along with their reliance on local vari­eties, Alan also attrib­uted her highly skilled team to the company’s endur­ing suc­cess.

Our pro­duc­tion team was trained for two years by experts from Italy and the United States,” she said. They can work mir­a­cles in terms of main­tain­ing the level of fruiti­ness and phe­no­lic com­pounds, besides bal­anc­ing the har­mony of oils with the local vari­eties.”

See Also: The Best Olive Oils from Turkey

Despite putting stren­u­ous efforts in each phase of pro­duc­tion, Novavera is not immune to the chal­lenges posed by cli­mate change, which are becom­ing increas­ingly preva­lent in Turkey’s Aegean region.

Last year, we faced the neg­a­tive effects of global warm­ing,” Alan said. Unfortunately, the qual­ity and quan­tity of our crop were affected by drought. But we tried our best to over­come those chal­lenges by apply­ing mod­ern organic agri­cul­ture meth­ods to save our crops.”

According to Alan, cli­mate change is the most sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge faced by farm­ers, not just in Turkey but also in the rest of the world.

With each pass­ing year, the preva­lence of new dis­eases, untimely rains, droughts and global warm­ing is increas­ing, all of which neg­a­tively impact the qual­ity and quan­tity of crops,” she said.

Alan’s vision and core val­ues are based on the idea of pro­duc­ing healthy food in har­mony with nature. To this end, Novavera has devel­oped a strat­egy to fight cli­mate change.

The com­pany has imple­mented sus­tain­able pro­duc­tion meth­ods with­out gen­er­at­ing any waste, includ­ing sav­ing and recy­cling water.

africa-middle-east-profiles-the-best-olive-oils-meet-the-producer-behind-turkeys-mostawarded-extra-virgin-olive-oil-olive-oil-times

Photo: Bahar Alan

We imple­ment organic and bio­dy­namic farm­ing prin­ci­ples in our groves,” Alan said. Our trees are watered by drip irri­ga­tion method only if needed. We ensure through accred­ited tests that no pes­ti­cide residue remains in our olive oils.”

We pro­duce with­out includ­ing any addi­tional water to the olive paste to avoid the for­ma­tion of water waste,” she added. By send­ing our pomace to recy­cling facil­i­ties, we con­tribute to the trans­for­ma­tion of this prod­uct into fuel.”

Along with envi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity, Novavera bal­ances the need to remain eco­nom­i­cally viable. As a result, the com­pany cur­rently exports 30 per­cent of its extra vir­gin olive to the United States, Europe and South Korea.

Alan hopes to increase that fig­ure by work­ing with other local pro­duc­ers, but only if they meet her company’s stan­dards.

We are work­ing on a new busi­ness model to include more farm­ers in our ecosys­tem based on a con­tracted organic olive farm­ing’ model,” Alan said. To avoid pes­ti­cide-caused cross-con­t­a­m­i­na­tion, we will only process the olives that were grown in our own groves.”

We would like to enable more farm­ers to grow their olives organ­i­cally,” she added. This model will help olive grow­ers, who lack proper knowl­edge of organic farm­ing, to apply organic farm­ing prin­ci­ples to their groves.”

Novavera will enable them to apply organic fer­til­iz­ers and harm­less organic pes­ti­cides by fol­low­ing a sched­ule under super­vi­sion,” Alan con­tin­ued. These con­tracted farm­ers will be able to mill their final organic prod­ucts at Novavera. We believe this model will attract the olive grove own­ers who are abroad or liv­ing in cities and can­not take good care of their groves.”


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