Preserving Olive Oil Culture in Adatepe

Jul. 26, 2010
By Umut Egitimci

Recent News

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.

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?


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?


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?


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.


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.