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How Terra Creta Makes and Markets Olive Oil

Oct. 22, 2012
Julie Butler

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Terra Creta export man­ager Fotis Sousalis

An olive oil-based energy shot, an extra vir­gin bot­tle with whole olives inside, a pre­mium olive oil with max­i­mum acid­ity of 0.2 per­cent, and a high alti­tude EVOO are among new prod­ucts planned by Crete’s biggest olive oil pro­ducer, Terra Creta.

From its base in the Aegean Sea — and thanks to a cap­i­tal injec­tion from two new share­hold­ers — the 11 year-old com­pany plans to branch out world­wide with beefed up brand­ing and mar­ket­ing, and even bet­ter qual­ity.

Demand for good oil

Being on Crete favors pro­duc­tion of excel­lent olive oils but that doesn’t make us com­pla­cent” Terra Creta export man­ager Fotis Sousalis told Olive Oil Times at a recent con­fer­ence orga­nized by the com­pany on the Greek island’s west coast.


All our pro­duc­tion is EVOO but we aim at pro­duc­ing a truly excel­lent oil. Our sales have been grow­ing by an aver­age of 13 per­cent a year for the last five years and we see great demand for good olive oil.”

We also know there’s room to improve because we see how the olives arrive at our mill, so we know how much poten­tial is lost” he said.

Pruning crit­i­cal to qual­ity

After 1,050 tons in 2010, then just 400 tons last year — its worst har­vest in 30 years — this year Terra Creta expects to pro­duce about 1500 tons of olive oil and all of it EVOO.

Its own estate within the Kolymvari PDO in Hania, west­ern Crete, pro­vides a quar­ter of its olive oil out­put and the rest comes from about 800 local farm­ers, each with 500‑2000 trees with an aver­age age of 80 years spread over 4 – 10 groves.

Harvesting is mainly with vibrat­ing rakes and the fruit can’t all be processed at once so the trees are strate­gi­cally pruned to stag­ger ripen­ing.

It’s a bal­anc­ing act — heavy prun­ing improves qual­ity but reduces quan­tity — but is guided by inti­mate knowl­edge of the many micro-cli­mates on the 3,200 square mile, moun­tain­ous island.

We know all the fields and the kinds of olive oil dif­fer­ent vil­lages make” Sousalis said.

Near-infrared spec­troscopy (NIRS) tests of fruit devel­op­ment (fruit mois­ture, olive oil con­tent and acid­ity level) are used to deter­mine the ideal time to har­vest each grove.

Olives ana­lyzed before oil extrac­tion

Terra Creta aims to be tra­di­tional in cul­ti­va­tion and har­vest­ing but mod­ern in extrac­tion.

What’s hap­pen­ing in the mill is really novel” said Sousalis. The main inno­va­tion is that we seg­re­gate the olives at the start, based on their acid­ity, per­ox­ide level and olive oil con­tent.”

Representative sam­ples of each farmer’s deliv­ery are col­lected at the first stage of pro­cess­ing, where leaves and twigs are sep­a­rated from the olives, and ana­lyzed on-site within a minute via NIRS.

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