Annita Zahou: “Mykonos Olive Oil Tasting changes your philosophy about oil”
The creator of the company Mykonos Olive Oil Tasting, Annita Zahou, talks to the Mykonos Post about this project, which is a result of passion, love, but also knowledge she has about olive oil.
02.07.2021 Georgia Perimeni
She may have been born in Athens, but comes from a family with a history in the field of oil production in Kalamata. From an early age, she remembers herself being somewhere among the olive trees, playing with childish carelessness and watching the process of picking the olives, but also the production of the oil, which is still in a prominent position at the family table.
Studying in Agriculture was for her an one-way decision. In 2012 she became a certified oil taster, combining the experiences and knowledge she had gained from her parents’ involvement with oil, with those she gained from her own personal research. She is then honored with a scholarship from the International Olive Council (based in Madrid) to attend the most recognized education in the world, in olive oil tasting at the University of Jaen in Andalusia, Spain, from which he holds the title of Expert in Virgin Olive Oil Tasting.
Then, she decided that the time is ripe for her to leave behind her career in big Greek companies and to deal professionally with something of her own. Her choice to deal with oil, it was not by chance, as her love for this product, was harmoniously combined with perfect knowledge and the result was more than positive. Being a lover of the Greek landscape and the sea, she decided to settle in Mykonos. Firstly, she followed her Mykonian partner, in order to radically change her life, making it simpler, more peaceful. Relatively soon, she realized that happiness ultimately lies in simple and everyday things. From the offices in the big buildings, the constant meetings, the traffic and the crazy rhythms of the city, she found herself close to nature and lived it in all its glory. “I always had the passion for olive oil inside me and I always had a specific dream: To create a business that will positively affect people’s lives. To inspire them, to train them and to make them learn as much as they can about olive oil”, she confesses to the Mykonos Post.
Somehow, in 2018 he creates the company Mykonos Olive Oil Tasting, a company that organizes seminars, workshops on Olive Oil Tasting, olive oil gastronomy, the Mediterranean Diet and Holistic Health, Beauty and Wellness. The seminars, as Annita mentions, concern everyone. Professionals and non-professionals, producers, consumers, even children, for whom there is nothing better than to know the world of olive oil, an ingredient inextricably linked to the Greek diet, tradition, our roots. As for what her vision is, Annita gives a clear answer, “To contribute to a change in the olive oil industry. If we want to change the future of the world, we must focus on education. Education of the oil producer, the trader, the salesman in the store, the chef and the owner of the restaurant, the adult consumer but also the children, because these are the consumers of the future”.
“I’ve always had a passion for olive oil in me and I’ve always had a specific dream. To create a business that would positively impact people’s lives. To inspire them”
One might reasonably think that Mykonos is not famous for its olive oil production, so what is the reason for taking this step there? Apart from the fact that the island is now her permanent residence, Annita decided to establish this business there because she wanted to show something very specific to the public: “Mykonos does not have an olive mill or a reputation for its gastronomic tourism. However, Olive Tourism can take place anywhere, as long as the passion, love, know-how and a well-designed olive oil tasting program are properly combined. Mykonos is a global destination and has visitors from all over the world who are interested in gastronomy and want to live experiences that smell like Greece. Clearly, the foreign visitor does not know if Mykonos produces olive oil. All he knows about the island is that it is located in Greece and since Greece is the third largest olive oil producer in the world, he can find good olive oil to try. What every visitor who comes to Greece needs is to get to know the local culture, tradition and gastronomy. With this logic, I decided to work professionally on the island”, she explains.
“If you tell someone to give 20 euros for a bottle of wine, they will give it. If you tell him to give 20 euros for a bottle of olive oil, he will resent it”
The experience of Mykonos Olive Oil Tasting
“What we do at Olive Oil Tasting is essentially the tasting of olive oil and not showing the world how production is done. My main and personal goal is to change the culture of the Greeks, regarding olive oil. Unfortunately, while we are in a country where olive oil is a staple of our diet, we do not know much about it. What are its varieties, what does each one taste like, how do we recognize them. We do not know for example that there is Koroneiko, Manaki etc. Instead, we simply say “olive oil” without being able to understand exactly what we are eating. Also, we can not distinguish good, quality oil from non-quality. That’s why many people do not have the money for the first. If you tell someone to give 20 euros for a bottle of wine, they will give them. If you tell him to give 20 euros for a bottle of olive oil, he will be upset. So what I think one gains from the experience at Mykonos Olive Oil Tasting, is that his whole philosophy for oil changes and therefore his mentality regarding food”, she explains. As for who visits it the most? The answer does not surprise us, since most of the visitors come from abroad and even more from America, as Annita informs us. Due to its educational character, Mykonos Olive Oil Tasting is a pole of attraction especially for families, as it is a very interesting and fun process for children but also for vegans (since it is a vegan product).
“Unfortunately, while we are in a country where olive oil is a staple of our diet, we don’t know anything about it. What are its varieties, what each one tastes like, how do we recognise them?”
What else can you do at Mykonos Olive Oil Tasting
The lab also includes a defective olive oil test to teach participants how to recognize an extra virgin olive oil from a severely defective olive oil. They learn all about the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil and the Mediterranean Diet and engage in an activity of delicious olive oil and food harmony that aims to show them how a variety of olive oil can enhance or degrade a culinary creation. After training, participants have learned to recognize the different types and qualities of olive oil and this drastically changes their daily lives. Through this training they learn to recognize the aromas and flavors of olive oil, to evaluate it on the basis of fruity, bitter and spicy, and to know which olive oil goes best with fish and which enhances the taste of meat, through the food pairing process. This workshop also teaches how to store olive oil so that its taste remains as intact and unchanged as it becomes over time.
In winter, Annita offers seminars and webinars (online olive oil tastings), and advises producers and oil mills on how to produce high quality olive oil.
For more information, visit mykonosoliveoiltasting.com