Education Vital to Success of Turkey’s Olive Oil Sector, Award-Winning Producer Says

After winning 10 awards at the 2023 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, the producers behind Oliva Malia are keen to share the secrets of their success.

Oliva Malia grows at least five native Turkish varieties. (Photos: Oliva Malia)
By Paolo DeAndreis
Aug. 2, 2023 17:43 UTC
Oliva Malia grows at least five native Turkish varieties. (Photos: Oliva Malia)

As the pro­duc­ers behind Turkey’s Oliva Malia seek out new export oppor­tu­ni­ties, they have been buoyed by the company’s unprece­dented 10 awards from the 2023 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

Located on the Karaburun penin­sula in west Turkey, sur­rounded by the Aegean Sea, Oliva Malia earned seven Gold Awards and three Silver Awards for its organic extra vir­gin olive oil at the world’s largest olive oil qual­ity con­test.

I believe the awards will help us present our inter­na­tional cus­tomers with the true value of Turkey’s extra vir­gin olive oil. That will, in turn, give value back to the com­mu­nity.- Harun Enes Çoban, gen­eral direc­tor, Oliva Malia

The com­pany buys olives har­vested from more than one mil­lion trees grown on 4,000 hectares, care­fully select­ing the best fruit to craft its award-win­ning oils.

One of the goals of our project is to con­tribute to show­ing the world how Turkey is the source of excel­lent extra vir­gin olive oils,” Harun Enes Çoban, gen­eral direc­tor of Oliva Malia, told Olive Oil Times. They are not only pro­duced in Italy, Greece or Spain, to say a few of the major pro­duc­ing coun­tries. We also have world-class excel­len­cies right here.”

See Also:Signs Suggest a Weak Harvest in Turkey

In recent years, we have seen new pro­duc­ers and names aris­ing in the coun­try,” he added. They began look­ing at the inter­na­tional mar­kets in a new way, boost­ing Turkish olive oils among the best olive oils in the world.”

According to the offi­cial fig­ures released by the NYIOOC, Turkish par­tic­i­pa­tion in the NYIOOC has risen con­sid­er­ably over the years: from two awards in 2017 to 28 in 2020.

On the back of a record har­vest of 421,000 tons in the 2022/23 crop year, Turkish pro­duc­ers also smashed records at the 2023 NYIOOC with an unprece­dented 74 awards.

The Karaburun penin­sula, not far from Izmir, is a unique source of organic olives for Oliva Malia: the whole area falls under the statute of a spe­cial envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion zone insti­tuted to pre­serve nature and limit the impact of human activ­i­ties on the ter­ri­tory.


The company buys and grows organic olives in a protected area on the Karaburun peninsula.

Karaburun is a very spe­cial place,” Çoban said. No indus­trial oper­a­tion is active here; very few peo­ple live here, mak­ing it a vir­gin ter­ri­tory that is clean.”

Vegetation in our province is shaped by the Mediterranean cli­mate in which it is immersed,” he added. Biodiversity is sig­nif­i­cant, as in the penin­sula 36 native plant species are to be found, and that means half of the native plants of the whole region.”

Oliva Malia does not own the largest part of those olive orchards, as they are the fruit of a broad pub­lic devel­op­ment project aimed at fos­ter­ing olive farm­ing and com­mu­nity income. Older trees share the place with scores of younger olive trees, and Oliva Malia’s highly tech­no­log­i­cal olive oil mill only started oper­a­tions in 2019.

The mill is equipped with state-of-the-art equip­ment made in Italy, capa­ble of trans­form­ing up to 70 tons of olives each day. The com­pany aims to press olives within four hours from har­vest, and most of its pro­duc­tion is focused on early har­vest.


Oliva Malia mills up to 70 tons of olives per day at the height of the harvest.

The large steel tank stor­age area is con­ceived to sep­a­rate olive oils based on sen­sory and chem­i­cal analy­sis, which fol­lows every processed batch of olives.

An auto­matic sup­ply sys­tem allows the com­pany to bot­tle its olive oils when needed with pro­ce­dures the com­pany believes min­i­mize con­tact of the prod­uct with oxy­gen to pre­vent oxi­da­tion.

The fund­ing idea was to bring tech­nol­ogy and inno­va­tion in the area as well as a dif­fer­ent and new approach to mak­ing olive oil,” Çoban said. A whole cul­ture of qual­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity needs to be fos­tered.”

See Also:Producer Profiles

The com­pany coop­er­ates with sev­eral local asso­ci­a­tions and non-gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions to raise aware­ness about high-qual­ity olive oil pro­duc­tion among local farm­ers.

While many embraced a very mod­ern approach to olive oil pro­duc­tion, oth­ers might need some more time,” Çoban said. That is why we orga­nize many events to learn and teach.”

At its store and show­room in Izmir, a city of nearly 3 mil­lion peo­ple, the com­pany hosts tast­ings for con­sumers and pro­duc­ers and courses about olive grow­ing issues.


Harun Enes Çoban

We are very proac­tive. In our region, we go vil­lage by vil­lage to present a mod­ern olive oil-mak­ing approach,” Çoban said. The bet­ter farm­ers grow olives, the more they apply best prac­tices in the field, the more they can charge for their olives as they will be good to pro­duce high-qual­ity olive oils.”

Experts explain to farm­ers cru­cial issues that some do not know yet, such as the con­cept of early har­vest to max­i­mize the healthy con­tents of the prod­uct,” he added. Others might not have yet fully under­stood how cru­cial it is to process olives as soon as pos­si­ble after har­vest.”

Olive oil had a cen­tral role in Turkish cui­sine and house­holds for gen­er­a­tions. Still, we have seen some changes in the behav­ior of con­sumers in the last few years,” Çoban said. It is to be attrib­uted to the Covid-19 pan­demic, which caused peo­ple to con­sider more than before the healthy pro­file of extra vir­gin olive oils.”

According to Oliva Malia’s direc­tor, a grow­ing num­ber of con­sumers are look­ing for extra vir­gin olive oil’s qual­ity and healthy char­ac­ter­is­tics.

Today, there are way more tast­ing events in the coun­try than ever before,” Çoban said. And that hap­pens because con­sumers are ask­ing to under­stand more about extra vir­gin olive oils, why it is healthy, what all the fuss is about its con­tents.”


Oliva Malia won 10 awards at the 2023 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

That is also among the rea­sons Oliva Malia focuses on a broad spec­trum of extra vir­gin olive oil blends.

Among its award-win­ning olive oils, Oliva Malia’s port­fo­lio includes the Çocuk brand, char­ac­ter­ized by a strong fla­vor and min­i­mal spici­ness, and the com­pany mar­kets it as con­ceived for chil­dren.

Others, such as the mono­va­ri­etal Erkence, are explic­itly crafted with an early har­vest approach, trans­lat­ing into lower yields but usu­ally higher con­cen­tra­tions of polyphe­nols.

The com­pany can choose the fla­vors and tex­tures of its prod­ucts, both blends and mono­va­ri­etals, from a wide range of cul­ti­vars grown in the area.

Among them are the local Tirilye, which bears dis­tinc­tive fla­vors through­out the region, or the Memecik vari­ety, well known for its high polyphe­nol counts.

Dedicated mono­va­ri­etal extra vir­gin olive oils are pro­duced with the dis­tinc­tively large Domat olives or the Ayvalik vari­ety, widely used by local grow­ers for olive oil pro­duc­tion and table olives.

We are work­ing hard for qual­ity,” Çoban con­cluded. As oth­ers in Turkey are doing. I believe the awards will help us present our inter­na­tional cus­tomers with the true value of Turkey’s extra vir­gin olive oil. That will, in turn, give value back to the com­mu­nity.”

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