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Olive Oil: the king of Cretan cuisine! 🌿

Harvesting the olives from Nature

Chania, located in the northwest of the Greek island of Crete, is renowned for its high-quality olive oil. The harvesting of the olives typically takes place from late October to early January. Usually, this is the most difficult part of the whole process. The olives are harvested by hand or with mechanical devices and are then carefully sorted to remove any debris or leaves. The goal is to ensure that the olives are in pristine condition for the production process. In case you didn’t know, Crete has a long history of olive cultivation. In fact, some of the olive trees on the island are estimated to be over 2,000 years old! Therefore, the harvesting process has been refined over time, with many farmers and producers constantly evolving their techniques.

olive oil pouring from bottle to bowl
Olive oil served as a dip. Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

From olive to oil: The production process

Once harvested, the olives are taken to local olive mills for the production of olive oil. More specifically, the production process involves pressing the olives to extract the oil, which is then separated from any remaining water or solids. Then, the olive oil is stored in large tanks to allow it to settle before being bottled or canned for distribution.

Moreover, there are many different factors which affect the taste, the color, the texture and the consistency of the final product. For example, the type of olives used, the time of harvest, and the production method can all have an impact on the flavor and quality of the oil. It is said that the best quality olive oil is produced from hand-picked, fully ripe olives that are processed within 24 hours of harvest. Also, many small-scale producers in Chania still use traditional stone mills to crush their olives. This is a special method, which imparts a unique flavor to the resulting olive oil.

Old mill for olive oill production
Old stone mill used for the production of olive oil. Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

Storing olive oil the right way

The resulting olive oil is then stored in stainless steel tanks where it is allowed to settle and mature. It should be stored in a cool, dark place, away from direct sunlight and heat. It’s recommended to store olive oil in a glass bottle or stainless steel container to prevent it from absorbing any plastic or metallic flavors. This part is crucial for maintaining its quality and freshness. In addition to storing the oil in a cool, dark place, it’s also important to use the oil within a reasonable timeframe (ideally within 1-2 years of production). This is because olive oil can become rancid over time, which can affect its taste and nutritional properties.

How does it reach the stores?

The next step towards enjoying olive oil in our food, is the distribution process. Many small-scale producers in Chania sell their olive oil directly to consumers, local markets, restaurants and specialty shops. This direct-to-consumer model allows for greater transparency and ensures that consumers are getting fresh, high-quality olive oil. Some producers also export their oil to other parts of Greece or to other countries. This is a great approach, since the quality of olive oil available in stores is always very high, satisfying the needs of every consumer.

The king of Cretan cuisine

As you can guess, olive oil has a significant role in Cretan cuisine. Virtually every traditional Greek dish includes olive oil, either cooked or uncooked (in some cases both!). One popular Cretan dish is “Dakos”. It is an appetizer made with barley rusk, fresh grated tomatoes, “Myzithra” cheese (see more about it in our post: The Cheesy side of Crete), a drizzle of olive oil and oregano. Another famous dish is fried snails with rosemary and vinegar, where the snails are cooked in a rich olive oil sauce with sea salt. Another example is “Stifado”. It is a hearty beef stew made with onions, tomatoes, and a generous amount of olive oil.

Dakos. A Cretan traditional dish
“Dakos” is a well-known appetizer made with barley rusk, fresh grated tomatoes, “Myzithra” cheese, a drizzle of olive oil and oregano.

Come and see for yourself!

If you’re visiting Chania, there are plenty of restaurants in the old town where you can sample traditional Cretan dishes. Tamam (3 min walk from Iason Studios) is a popular restaurant that serves a wide range of dishes made with local ingredients, including olive oil. Another great option is Glossitses (14 min walk), which offers a great dining experience with a wide variety of meat and seafood dishes cooked with olive oil. For a more casual dining experience, visit To Adespoto (13 min walk), which offers traditional Cretan cuisine at reasonable prices. Additionally, you can dive deeper into this experience by visiting one of the various farmers/producers who host guided tours!

So what are you waiting for? Come visit us and taste our beloved olive oil yourself! Take part in olive-harvesting experiences and visit oil production sites. We guarantee that you will love it! Book your stay at Iason Studios, fall in love with the Cretan cuisine and get ready for an unforgettable adventure of gastronomy!

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