Meet an Award-Winning Producer Promoting Greek Oils in Berlin

Amadeus Tzamouranis is connecting German consumers with olive oil producers in Kalamata.

Clara Marie Paul (back left), Amadeus Tzamouranis (back center) and Simone Artale (front) are the driving forces at Thalassa.
Oct. 27, 2022
By Daniel Dawson
Clara Marie Paul (back left), Amadeus Tzamouranis (back center) and Simone Artale (front) are the driving forces at Thalassa.

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Butter has long been the edi­ble fat of choice in Germany, with the European Union’s most pop­u­lous coun­try and largest econ­omy among global but­ter pro­duc­tion and con­sump­tion lead­ers.

However, olive oil con­sump­tion and cul­ture have slowly gained a foothold in Germany. According to the International Olive Council, Germans con­sumed 76,900 tons of olive oil in the 2021/22 crop year, a 25 per­cent increase com­pared to one decade ago and a sev­en­fold increase com­pared to 30 years ago.

In Germany, there are many olive oils, but the prob­lem is you don’t know who is behind the brand… We wanted to build a bridge directly from Greece to Germany.- Amadeus Tzamouranis, chief exec­u­tive, Thalassa

While plenty of olive oil in Germany is pur­chased in super­mar­kets, Amadeus Tzamouranis is work­ing to cre­ate a more inti­mate con­nec­tion between Germans and extra vir­gin olive oil.

The chief exec­u­tive of Thalassa (the Greek word for the sea’), which pro­duces the award-win­ning OEL brands, was born and raised in Berlin but spent his sum­mers on the fam­i­ly’s olive farm in Kalamata on the Peloponnese penin­sula.

See Also:Producer Profiles

I’ve always had a deep con­nec­tion to Greece,” he told Olive Oil Times. Although I knew olive oil, I never had the intense expe­ri­ence of being in the field, har­vest­ing the olives, bring­ing them to the mill and see­ing how the oil is pro­duced.”

While olive oil was a ubiq­ui­tous part of his child­hood, Tzamouranis said his first inti­mate expe­ri­ence came after get­ting a call from his uncle in 2015 ask­ing him to come and help with the har­vest.

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Tzamouranis agreed and bor­rowed a friend’s van to drive from Berlin to south­ern Italy before cross­ing to the Peloponnese on a 24-hour-long ferry.

His orig­i­nal plan was to bring some paint­ings to his father, an artist host­ing an exhi­bi­tion, and med­i­cine that was unavail­able in the com­mu­nity. Tzamouranis also pur­chased some of his uncle’s olive oil to bring back to Germany and share with friends and fam­ily.

I had this van full of paint­ings, med­i­cine and all these things, and I did­n’t have the idea to make a busi­ness out of it,” he said. My idea was just to have a good time.”

However, this changed when he brought the freshly-har­vested unfil­tered extra vir­gin olive oil back to Germany.

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Tzamouranis said unfiltered olive oil was a relative unknown in Berlin, but proved to be popular.

I gave some to my friends, and they were amazed,” he said. When it comes fresh, like two weeks old, most peo­ple in Germany don’t know this kind of taste because nor­mally olive oil is stored and then fil­tered before being bot­tled.”

Soon one of his friends, who later became his busi­ness part­ner, rec­om­mended that he lever­age his con­tacts in the German food indus­try – Tzamouranis had spent years work­ing as a cook in Berlin restau­rants – and start a busi­ness import­ing his uncle’s oil to fill the void of fresh, organic extra vir­gin olive oil.

In Germany, there are many olive oils, but the prob­lem is you don’t know who is behind the brand. There’s no con­nec­tion to the pro­ducer,” he said. We decided to make a brand from Berlin – OEL Berlin. We wanted to build a bridge directly from Greece to Germany.”

There have always been strong links between the two coun­tries, with 2021 cen­sus data indi­cat­ing that more than 450,000 Greeks live in Germany, the ninth-largest for­eign national group in the coun­try.

A sep­a­rate 2019 report from Insete Intelligence found that Germans make up the largest share of tourists in Greece, with more than four mil­lion vis­it­ing each year, nearly 13 per­cent of total tourists, gen­er­at­ing an aver­age rev­enue of almost €3 mil­lion per annum.

A lot of peo­ple here in Germany have a pas­sion in gen­eral for Greece,” Tzamouranis said.

Despite these close cul­tural con­nec­tions, he added that many Germany believed the old cliché that high-qual­ity olive oil only comes from Italy and set out to change this.

At first, he imported the olive oil part-time, work­ing up to three other jobs in par­al­lel. After two years of this, he saved up enough to buy a small grove in Greece and returned to Kalamata to mas­ter the art of olive oil pro­duc­tion.

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Olive oil has long been a family affair for Tzamouranis, with formative experiences taking place in the olive grove with his grandparents.

I wanted to learn every­thing,” he said. I wanted to be there and not just be some­one buy­ing olive oil and reselling it.”

However, he soon found that he could not pro­duce enough of his own olive oil to meet demand, so he went to Ilias Stavropoulos, who had long trans­formed his olives, and part­nered with the cer­ti­fied organic miller of 30 years.

Now, Thalassa, the recently re-branded name of OEL, pro­duces 100,000 liters of organic extra vir­gin olive oil each year, along with a range of other olive-based prod­ucts.

We are try­ing to give peo­ple an under­stand­ing of what needs to be done to pro­duce a good olive oil,” Tzamouranis said, adding that many super­mar­ket chains sell olive oil for €4 to €5, prices at which he could never afford to sell his oils.

Tzamouranis believes that extra vir­gin olive oil, the way he pro­duces it, is a bou­tique and arti­sanal prod­uct that needs to be mar­keted and sold as such. To this end, he works closely with Berlin’s organic super­mar­kets and spe­cialty food shops.

Working within the con­text of a retailer that already attracts a more sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of health-con­scious clients has helped Tzamouranis to edu­cate con­sumers about the health ben­e­fits of olive oil and how to use it in the kitchen.

There are many cus­tomers who started using olive oil just for sal­ads,” he said. In Germany, there’s a dif­fer­ent cul­ture of how to use olive oil.”

As in many other non-olive-oil-pro­duc­ing coun­tries, Tzamouranis said myths about fry­ing with olive oil abound, as do mis­con­cep­tions about cook­ing with olive oil. However, he added that this is slowly chang­ing.

I’m try­ing to find ways to inspire peo­ple on how to use olive oil with recipes,” he said. It’s chang­ing a bit. People are more aware that good olive oil needs to cost at least €15.”

The real­iza­tion that pro­duc­ing qual­ity prod­ucts requires sub­stan­tial invest­ment has not come a moment too soon.

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The harvest is set to begin in November, and Tzamouranis anticipates a good yield.

While Tzamouranis does not expect to begin har­vest­ing until November, sup­ply chain dis­rup­tions and infla­tion have cre­ated a chal­leng­ing busi­ness envi­ron­ment.

He said the price of the tins in which he stores and sells his olive oil had exploded,” and the costs of trans­porta­tion and ship­ping from Greece to Germany had also risen sig­nif­i­cantly.

Additionally, his usual tin sup­pli­ers asked him to pur­chase a min­i­mum of 100,000 units at a time, far more than he requires each har­vest.

We have higher costs, but we can’t pass these costs to the con­sumer because if we do that, who will buy our olive oil,” he said. This is the prob­lem we have, so we some­how need to find ways to deal with that.”

The com­pany had been work­ing on find­ing cre­ative ways to add value to the extra vir­gin olive oil before the cur­rent macro­eco­nomic dif­fi­cul­ties emerged.

One way the com­pany does this has been by focus­ing on the tin design. Tzamouranis said that adding the artis­tic dimen­sion to the prod­uct helped the com­pany to sell the oils in con­cept stores.

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We always try to focus on not only the qual­ity but also the look,” he said. We want peo­ple who buy our prod­ucts because they like our design.”

Tzamouranis added that the focus on design increases the appeal of pur­chas­ing olive oil as a gift. Olive oil is always a good present because you always need it,” he said. You always use it, espe­cially if it looks nice.”

The com­pany also sub­mits its olive oils to a range of com­pe­ti­tions, includ­ing the 2022 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, where its OEL Zoe brand, a del­i­cate organic Koroneiki sourced from cen­te­nary and mil­lenary trees, earned a Gold Award.

When all is said and done, Tzamouranis does not believe that any sin­gle pro­ducer is mak­ing the world’s best olive oil. However, he thinks that prov­ing your qual­ity pro­vides value to cus­tomers, which is the busi­ness’s core com­po­nent.

I would not say that I’m mak­ing the best olive oil because many peo­ple are mak­ing good olive oils,” Tzamouranis con­cluded. I’m try­ing to be authen­tic in what I’m doing, and I’m try­ing to give the peo­ple what they deserve.”


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