The results determine which of Terra Creta’s three main settling silos they will end up in.
The product of two years’ research, this grading system is crucial for the new premium line of maximum 0.2 acidity EVOO to be offered for the first time by Terra Creta this season.
It is also used for an incentive scheme designed to get farmers to aim for better quality whereby they are paid a €0.05 – 0.10/kg bonus for oil of up to 0.2 percent acidity.
The average acidity of all oil processed in the mill last year was 0.4 percent. The extra virgin limit is 0.8 percent.
Built in 2009 at a cost of €4million ($5.25m) including the land, Terra Creta’s state-of-the-art continuous processing plant can make 50 tons of olive oil a day. There’s generally a 5 to 1 ratio of fruit to oil conversion.
Apart from an Italian centrifuge separator and 2‑phase German centrifuge decanter, it was designed and made on Crete, Sousalis said.
There were some teething problems in the first harvest but he said the plant now runs optimally. Terra Creta is very proud of the design, which facilitates traceability and features a high level of water recycling.
Blending and bottling
The company says it sells all of its production but some is kept each year to blend with the new oil in the early harvest months. Known as back-blending, this is done solely for consistency, Sousalis said.
“It’s so we don’t send someone an oil that is super-strong because they ordered during harvest in November and then in March they get a mild one.”
The company also adjusts its oil blend according to market tastes. “Our customers in the US consume milder olive oil than those in Germany, so you need to take this into account if you want to be successful.”
The company ships to far destinations such as China and Australia but breakage is rare. Any that does occur is usually in minus zero weather overland to Belgium and Scandinavia.
Italian bottles are preferred, because “their quality is better than the Greek ones.” Tins are also used, but mainly for the French market and food service sector. Terra Creta says its oil has an 18 – 24 month shelf life.
New products: olives in olive oil, gift sets, table olives and olive paste
An extra virgin olive oil with real olives inside the bottle has flown off the shelves in launch market Brazil and will soon be sold elsewhere, including the US. “It’s our best seller in Brazil, which was a big surprise for us” Sousalis said.
“Having a few olives inside the bottle has a strong visual impact but it’s more for the fruitier taste. The Brazilians put it on pizza after it’s cooked.”
The company is also moving into table olive and olive paste sales on an outsourced basis next year and plans a range of corporate gift sets.
High altitude olive oil: Tsounati
Terra Creta’s production has so far come from the Koroneiki olive abundant in Greece but it has a longer term plan to offer an EVOO from the Tsounati variety mainly found above 350m in Hania.
Crete’s ancient olive tree of Vouves — estimated to be 3,000 years old — is of this variety, which Sousalis said makes for an olive oil that’s “rich yet not spicy, so ideal for those who love mild olive oil.”
“But we need a special way of harvesting. Because of the slopes, the farmers lay nets and wait for the olives to drop. But they can’t check every day and so many end up rotting and only produce virgin or lampante oil.”
Pruning will again be key, gradually reducing tree heights so harvesting is easier and staggering ripening so more extra virgin can be made.
EVOO as a functional food and energy shot
Terra Creta sees a big future in marketing EVOO as a functional food.
In the same way milk is enriched — such as with vitamin D for pregnant women — it envisions olive oil combined with other health-promoting, natural ingredients to target certain groups, such as those with cholesterol problems.