Bringing Olive Oil Tourism to Greece’s Most Popular Island

Anita Zachou is determined to turn Mykonos into a leading olive oil tourism destination, even though the island produces no EVOO of its own.
Photo: Anita Zachou
Feb. 17, 2021
Daniel Dawson

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About 150 kilo­me­ters east of Athens, in the mid­dle of the Aegean Sea, Mykonos is per­haps the most famous of all Greek islands.

While it is best known for its beaches, shop­ping and nightlife, there has been a recent revi­tal­iza­tion of the island’s olive oil cul­ture.

Through design and with knowl­edge of how to guide it, yes, you can do olive oil tourism any­where.- Anita Zachou, founder, Mykonos Olive Oil Tasting

People were Googling olive oil tourism in Mykonos,’ ” Anita Zachou, an agron­o­mist and founder of Mykonos Olive Oil Tasting, told Olive Oil Times. I real­ized that these tourists are in Greece, and they know that Greece pro­duces good olive oil.”

They don’t know if Mykonos pro­duces olive oil, but since they are here, they want to taste olive oil,” she added.

See Also: Tourism News

While Mykonos is home to roughly 30,000 olive trees, mostly Koroneiki, the island is not known for its olive oil pro­duc­tion.

This is mostly due to the absence of a local mill, which forces pro­duc­ers to ship their olives to other islands and wait days for them to be trans­formed. As a result, the olive oil that is pro­duced is usu­ally of the non-vir­gin grade.

However, this will change soon, as plans are already in place to build a munic­i­pal mill on the island.

Also, there is another per­son who wants to make a pri­vate mill that will also be avail­able to be used by local grow­ers,” Zachou said. However, every­thing is in the plan­ning stage still; noth­ing is cer­tain yet.”

Until then, Zachou con­tin­ues to focus on edu­cat­ing tourists who visit the island about olive oil tast­ing and pro­mot­ing olive oil tourism in the rest of Greece.

She founded Mykonos Olive Oil Tasting when she first moved to the island in 2018. Zachou sensed that Mykonos lacked an authen­tic Greek culi­nary expe­ri­ence and decided that she could fill that niche as a cer­ti­fied olive oil som­me­lier.

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Photo: Anita Zachou

Before the onset of the COVID-19 pan­demic, the busi­ness was boom­ing. Zachou said she was rou­tinely arrang­ing two group tast­ing expe­ri­ences per day, with her mostly American clien­tele, try­ing five to six extra vir­gin olive oils from around the coun­try.

I try many olive oils, more than 50 every year, to find the ones I like,” she said. Most of the time, they are awarded in inter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions and I choose dif­fer­ent vari­etals.”

Last year, for exam­ple, her clients sam­pled Koroneiki and Tsounati from Crete, Makris from Alexandropolous, Amfissis from Delphi, Kolovi from Mytilene, Manaki from Peloponnese and Lianolia from Corfu.

Mykonos is well known as a bil­lion­aire’s play­ground and as a result, Zachou has tai­lored her expe­ri­ences to make her tast­ings a nov­elty lux­ury event.

Because of the pro­file of the cus­tomers here, I have many pri­vate tast­ings,” she said. I go to vil­las, pri­vate yachts or even pri­vate beaches. The mate­r­ial I use is essen­tial because these peo­ple are used to a spe­cific qual­ity in their lives.”

The expe­ri­ence of car­ry­ing all of her tast­ing equip­ment and olive oils all over the island to cater to her wealth­ier clien­tele turned out to be invalu­able, though. When Mykonos opened its doors to tourists last sum­mer, many hes­i­tated to do group tast­ings, so pri­vate events became the norm.

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Photo: Anita Zachou

The tourism sea­son on Mykonos gen­er­ally runs from May until the end of October, but the pan­demic cut her pre­vi­ous sea­son short. This has allowed Zachou to pivot and focus on pro­mot­ing olive oil tourism in the rest of Greece.

We have around five to six peo­ple in all of Greece who are try­ing to launch olive oil tourism ini­tia­tives,” she said, adding that some take the effort more seri­ously than oth­ers.

Olive oil tourism is another busi­ness oppor­tu­nity, so you need to make a busi­ness plan,” Zachou said. You have to study the mar­ket. You have to study the ser­vices.”

Too often, she warned, pro­duc­ers think they can open the doors of their mills for a tour, allow vis­i­tors to see the trees in their grove and have an impromptu tast­ing at the end.

However, Zachou said this model does Greek olive oil a dis­ser­vice by neglect­ing what she believes vis­i­tors are most inter­ested in: learn­ing how to taste the olive oils.

See Also: Best Olive Oils From Greece

This is not olive oil tourism,” she said. What they want is to learn how to taste and explore the aro­mas and fla­vors of Greek olive oil and to learn how to use it in their kitchens.”

Zachou treats olive oil tourism more like a tast­ing course than any­thing else. This win­ter, she is plan­ning a sem­i­nar for other pro­duc­ers in Greece who are inter­ested in this dif­fer­ent type of olive oil tourism, which has the par­al­lel goal of cre­at­ing a more informed con­sumer.

We taste five dif­fer­ent vari­eties from dif­fer­ent parts of Greece and also two defec­tive olive oils and one non-vir­gin olive oil,” she said. By the end, they under­stand the dif­fer­ences.”

Despite Greece being the world’s sec­ond- or third-largest olive oil pro­ducer (depend­ing on the year), Zachou said olive oil edu­ca­tion is severely lack­ing in the coun­try. She cred­ited Italy and Spain for hav­ing far more devel­oped ini­tia­tives.

We are far behind Spain and Italy because we lack edu­ca­tion,” she said. In Greece, we don’t have a pub­lic school for olive oil. I’m an agron­o­mist, but even in the uni­ver­sity, they never trained us how to taste olive oil or how to cre­ate olive oil in the mill.”

Zachou hopes to reverse this trend with her sem­i­nar and begin turn­ing Greece into a more promi­nent olive oil tourism des­ti­na­tion. Ultimately, she said, peo­ple vis­it­ing Greece want to try the best extra vir­gin olive oil the coun­try has to offer.

You don’t need mills or a tree — and this is what my expe­ri­ence has shown me,” she said. People want to be intro­duced to the world of Greek olive oil. Through design and with knowl­edge of how to guide it, yes, you can do olive oil tourism any­where.”





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