Forging a Future for Olive Oil Production on Corfu

Apostolos Porsanidis-Kavvadias is following in the footsteps of his grandfather, returning to Corfu to revitalize the family olive grove and the island’s olive oil sector.

Photos courtesy of Markos Kyprianos
Oct. 1, 2020
By Costas Vasilopoulos
Photos courtesy of Markos Kyprianos

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Situated less than 20 kilo­me­ters (12 miles) off the north­west­ern coast of Greece, in the Ionian Sea, the island of Corfu has long been known for its beaches and rich cul­tural her­itage.

And now, an unlikely fam­ily of olive oil pro­duc­ers is also seek­ing to turn the island into a focal point of Greek pro­duc­tion.

Back then, pro­duc­ing olive oil in Corfu was like sail­ing into uncharted waters… Everybody was laugh­ing at us, say­ing that the island makes the worst olive oil in Greece.- Apostolos Porsanidis-Kavvadias, owner, Dr. Kavvadia Olive Oil

Back in the 1950s, Apostolos Kavvadias, an ortho­pe­dic sur­geon in Athens, was look­ing for a new career path and decided to pro­duce olive oil part-time from his cen­te­nary trees on Corfu.

While mus­cu­loskele­tal surgery and olive oil pro­duc­tion may seem worlds apart, Kavvadias brought the same ded­i­ca­tion and method­i­cal plan­ning to both.

See Also: Producer Profiles

The result was the pro­duc­tion of high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil from his Lianelia trees, a feat at odds with the island’s past, where there has never been a note­wor­thy tra­di­tion of olive oil pro­duc­tion.

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Kavvadias uti­lized sim­ple meth­ods, includ­ing a tra­di­tional stone press to extract the oil, pos­tu­lat­ing that any added water or the use of a cen­trifu­gal sys­tem would dimin­ish its qual­ity. He also believed that the best crops came from nat­u­rally-grown olive trees.

Kavvadias set the foun­da­tions of Dr. Kavvadia Olive Oil, one of the very few pro­duc­ers in Corfu to enter the illus­tri­ous world of extra vir­gin pro­duc­tion.

These days, Apostolos Porsanidis-Kavvadias, the founder’s grand­son, is behind the com­pany and has taken Dr. Kavvadia from a part-time project to a name to be reck­oned with in the Greek olive oil sec­tor.

The first dis­tinc­tion for the qual­ity of our extra vir­gin olive oil came in 2013,” Porsanidis-Kavvadias told Olive Oil Times. Then our olive oil qual­i­fied for a European Union health claim for the phe­nols it con­tained.”

But we could never imag­ine that our organic mono­va­ri­etal olive oil from Lianelia would be the only one from Corfu to earn prizes in sev­eral inter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions, includ­ing a Gold Award at the pres­ti­gious NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition in 2018,” he added.

The brand con­tin­ued its win streak with a Silver Award in the 2020 edi­tion of the world’s largest and most pres­ti­gious olive oil qual­ity com­pe­ti­tion.

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Harvest at Dr. Kavvadia Olive Oil

An indus­trial designer liv­ing and work­ing in Paris, Porsanidis-Kavvadias returned to his ances­tral home in Corfu in 2010, where he took up the man­tle of car­ing for the family’s olive trees and land.

I had no chance of prac­tic­ing my pro­fes­sion in Greece, so I decided to work with my grand­fa­ther’s olive groves,” Porsanidis-Kavvadias said. We started our com­pany in 2011 and the first quan­ti­ties of olive oil were pro­duced a year later.”

Making head­way in the olive oil indus­try was no walk in the park for Dr. Kavvadia. Corfu was off the map of the olive oil mak­ing ter­ri­to­ries of Greece, and Porsanidis-Kavvadias had no prior expe­ri­ence in grow­ing and har­vest­ing olive trees.

Back then, pro­duc­ing olive oil in Corfu was like sail­ing into uncharted waters,” he said. In the begin­ning, we were press­ing our olives at the nearby con­vent of Kamarela since there was no sub­stan­tial pro­cess­ing infra­struc­ture on the island. Everybody was laugh­ing at us, say­ing that the island makes the worst olive oil in Greece and that we were doomed to fail.”

I was com­pletely clue­less about olive trees and olive oil,” he added. I could not even hold a hand pruner straight. After a lot of mis­takes and fail­ures, attend­ing sem­i­nars and read­ing books, trav­el­ing and search­ing on the web, my end­less quest finally made me under­stand how olives and olive oil work.”

Honoring his grandfather’s legacy, Porsanidis-Kavvadias keeps his busi­ness sim­ple and straight­for­ward, apply­ing organic cul­ti­va­tion and gen­tle tech­niques in the field and dur­ing har­vest.

Organic farm­ing has been the way to go since the begin­ning,” he said. We have also added some ele­ments of per­ma­cul­ture and nat­ural farm­ing. We respect the envi­ron­ment, we never har­row the soil, we cause no destruc­tion. We main­tain a healthy ecosys­tem in our groves so that our olive trees remain healthy and bal­anced, and con­sumers receive a food prod­uct con­tain­ing no pes­ti­cides or chem­i­cal fer­til­iz­ers.”

Harvest begins in October and lasts until mid-November,” he added. We use some elec­tri­cal equip­ment, and of course our hands. The olives are put in plas­tic crates for the air to cir­cu­late and the olive oil extrac­tion process takes place daily and within hours from har­vest to achieve top qual­ity.”

The result is a medium fruity, medium bit­ter, and medium pun­gent extra vir­gin olive oil, car­ry­ing an E.U. health claim for its polyphe­nol con­tent, which plays an impor­tant part in pro­tect­ing blood lipids from oxida­tive stress.

Despite some draw­backs in the local olive oil sec­tor, Kavvadia is ready to make a big leap for­ward by expand­ing the company’s facil­i­ties and adding a new olive vari­ety to its arse­nal.

Until recently, no one in Corfu pro­duced qual­ity olive oil and the tech­niques and knowl­edge on har­vest­ing and milling the olives were out­dated,” Porsanidis-Kavvadias said.

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We are in the process of cre­at­ing a multi-func­tional estate with an agri-tourist estab­lish­ment at our home base of Tzavros vil­lage, includ­ing a new pro­cess­ing and bot­tling unit to have com­plete con­trol over pro­duc­tion,” he added. We have also come across another native olive vari­ety of Corfu, Thiako, which pro­duces olive oil with fruity notes and a great fla­vor and we intend to mar­ket it.”

Dr. Kavvadia Olive Oil plans ahead and respects its ori­gins, using a native olive vari­ety to deliver top-qual­ity olive oil with spe­cial traits that exem­plify the ter­roir of Corfu.

My grand­fa­ther believed as a physi­cian that when the high­est qual­ity olive oil is pro­duced cor­rectly, it is as good as med­i­cine,” Porsanidis-Kavvadias said. Dr. Kavvadia Olive Oil is a prod­uct of pas­sion and love. It is pro­duced from a rare olive vari­ety, it is unusu­ally rich in polyphe­nols and ben­e­fi­cial to our health. On top of that, it tastes amaz­ing.”


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