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Preserving Olive Oil Culture in Adatepe

Jul. 26, 2010
By Umut Egitimci

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by Umut Egitimci
Olive Oil Times Contributor | Reporting from Istanbul

I remem­ber my first time in Adatepe …  dis­cov­er­ing the Altar of Zeus, a breath­tak­ing view, beau­ti­ful old stone houses and the deli­cious olive oil.  Described in Homer’s Iliad, this beau­ti­ful vil­lage lying at the west­ern slopes of Mount Ida, over­look­ing the Aegean Sea and Lesbos Island, is most famous for its olives and olive oil.  Over the years, I returned to Adatepe, tasted more of that famous olive oil and vis­ited Turkey’s one and only olive oil museum.  The founders of this museum were also the founders of Adatepe Olive Oil and the beau­ti­ful logo of “Refika.”  Today one of the com­pany part­ners, Mr.  Mustafa Çakılcıoğlu, agreed to answer some ques­tions for the Olive Oil Times.

preserving-olive-oil-culture-in-adatepe-mustafa-cakilcioglu
Mustafa Çakilcioglu

How did you start to pro­duce olive oil in Adatepe?

We were inspired by the lovely chats we had with the olive oil pro­duc­ers in Adatepe.  These chats that lasted for hours, some­times all night long, intro­duced us the world of olive to us.  We thought of this world’s deep-rooted tra­di­tions, rich cul­ture and bright future and that’s how we got into olive busi­ness.  Shortly after, we real­ized the impor­tance of con­trol­ling the entire pro­duc­tion process in order to pro­duce high qual­ity olive oil and we bought a fac­tory that works with tra­di­tional meth­ods.  After making some improve­ments in the fac­tory, we started pro­duc­ing.  Adatepe Olive Oil is pro­duced only by tra­di­tional crush­ing and extrac­tion meth­ods.  Our mill, left for some time, was recently restored to EU hygiene stan­dards.  Organically grown olives, hand picked from our family estate are brought to our mill within 12 hours.  They are crushed in gran­ite stone mills and start releas­ing their first golden drops of olive oil even before being extracted.

And you have also founded Turkey’s first and only olive oil museum.  How did it happen?

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We have wit­nessed that thou­sands years old olive cul­ture was in process for a great trans­for­ma­tion, because the fac­to­ries work­ing with tra­di­tional meth­ods were clos­ing down one after another.  We wanted to col­lect sam­ples of this cul­ture before it gets lost totally, in order to pre­serve and pass it on to future gen­er­a­tions.  Because of this reason, we decided to estab­lish an olive oil museum here.  As you’ve men­tioned, Adatepe Olive Oil Museum is Turkey’s first and only olive oil museum, which opened in July 2001.  Although, olive pro­duc­tion dates back to pre-his­toric times in Turkey, much of its his­tory is being for­got­ten in modern times.  The goal of the Adatepe Olive Oil Museum is to pre­serve the lit­er­ary and visual his­tory of olive oil pro­duc­tion in Turkey, or as it was pre­vi­ously called, Anatolia.

We have restored an aban­doned antique soap fac­tory build­ing in Kucukkuyu county of Canakkale province, and re-designed it to serve as a tra­di­tional cold press olive oil fac­tory.  If you get a chance to visit it, you can be amazed at the very simple pro­ce­dure of olive oil extrac­tion by the tra­di­tional meth­ods.  On the large fac­tory site, one can see large and small objects impres­sively dis­played, such as huge gran­ite stone mills for grind­ing the olives, antique olive presses belong­ing to dif­fer­ent peri­ods of his­tory, numer­ous tools for prun­ing, olive pick­ing as well as car­ry­ing bas­kets and earth­en­ware jars for olive oil stor­age, amphoras from sunken ships of early trade through­out the Mediterranean, the huge oven and the bowl for soap making, knives and stamps for hand made pure olive oil soaps, olive oil lambs, and var­i­ous labels of the local pro­duc­ers.

And what makes Adatepe Olive Oil spe­cial in the indus­try?

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The area around Küçükkuyu and Adatepe vil­lage is already well-known for its high-qual­ity olive oil pro­duc­tion in Turkey.  We are trying to push the upper limits for high qual­ity as well as create a prod­uct that offers a com­bi­na­tion of this qual­ity and a visu­al­ity which is a rem­i­nis­cent of a life style.  We aim to remind how spe­cial and well-qual­i­fied olive oil is to the wide crowds as well as endear it.  I mean, our efforts are not only for sell­ing our prod­uct, but more impor­tantly, to intro­duce olive oil to every­body, in order to increase the con­sump­tion of olive oil.

What kind of mar­ket­ing strate­gies you have for this goal?

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Abroad, we only co-oper­ate with the firms that puts qual­ity and our own brand in the fore­ground.  In Turkey, we choose the exclu­sive restau­rants which only aims to offer the best to their cus­tomers and we also sell directly to our cus­tomers via phone or inter­net.

Can you please describe your cus­tomer pro­file?

We believe our cus­tomers who prefer Adatape prod­ucts, are con­scious about the qual­ity and have a taste­ful life style gusto.

What’s the story behind your com­pany logo “Refika”?

“Refika”, was a leg­endary beauty that lived in the vil­lage of Adatepe where the Greek and Turkish pop­u­la­tions co-existed towards the end of 19th, and the begin­ning of the 20th cen­turies.  Despite her Greek origin, her grace and joy­ful­ness had made her beloved by the Turkish com­mu­nity as well.  She sang cheer­fully and danced beau­ti­fully during wed­ding par­ties and at all fes­ti­vals.  Her grace­ful beauty and gen­eros­ity had been leg­endary not only in Adatepe but also extended far beyond to neigh­bor­ing vil­lages.  Especially during the olive har­vest season, it was a real treat for her fellow vil­lagers to work in the same grove where she picked olives while singing cheer­fully or chat­ting with them.  Both com­mu­ni­ties con­tin­ued to live peace­fully until the Greek occu­pa­tion of the region at the end of World War I.  Unfortunately, the war had pro­voked hos­til­ity between the two com­mu­ni­ties.

So, as a con­se­quence of a pop­u­la­tion exchange agree­ment between the two gov­ern­ments, Refika, who has always had a spe­cial place in the hearts of the Turkish vil­lagers, had to leave Adatepe.  Her absence in Adatepe caused such great sorrow that the young men of the vil­lage com­posed a ballad in her name.  It has been a tra­di­tion in Adatepe to sing her ballad and dance on the occa­sion of a wed­ding party or a local fes­tiv­ity.  Her story, told by the elders of the vil­lage, touched us very deeply.  Hearing more leg­ends about her, like set­tling in Chios and win­ning the first beauty con­test and more, have led our way to this little island to trace her foot­steps.

We could not find any sound evi­dence of her exis­tence there, but a framed pic­ture we hap­pened to find in an antique shop made us think, ‘Why not?’ …  Her beauty and the naïve look on her face along with an Ottoman hair­dress­ing style tempted us to believe it could be her.  When the elders of our vil­lage nodded their heads and with aston­ished eyes almost crying said, ‘Definitely, it is her’, we believed once more that Refika is still alive in the imag­i­na­tion of our vil­lagers.  Thus, we decided to pre­serve her image and name on our label as a symbol of beauty and good­ness, which Adatepe Olive Oil gives to people.

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She really is beau­ti­ful and the story is very touching…And as a last ques­tion, can you tell us what are your future plans for com­pany devel­op­ment?

All of our efforts are for offer­ing better prod­ucts to our cus­tomers who have been sup­port­ing us over the years.  We are aware that the only way to achieve this goal, is to improve qual­ity and that’s why we con­stantly work to make it better.  At the moment, we are pro­duc­ing olives, olive oil and tra­di­tional olive oil soaps.  We have unscented soaps as well as olive oil soaps with laven­der, rose­mary, cedar essences.  We are also aiming to offer more diverse prod­ucts in the upcom­ing years.

Thank you so much for this inter­view.

Thanks for your inter­est in Adatepe.  Hope every­body who gets a chance to visit Turkey, will come and visit our beau­ti­ful vil­lage and share this delight­ful ambiance while tast­ing our deli­cious olive oil.