While in Chania, Crete, we visited Biolea Astrikas Estate in Kolympari. Find out why they prefer to do things the old-fashioned way, and what it means for the olive oil.
Biolea Astrikas Estates Olive Mill
During our day-log tour with Chania Wine Tours, we made a stop at Biolea Astrikas Estate Olive Mill. There we met Greek-Canadian Chloe Dimitriadis, the 6th generation olive oil maker who runs the estate. We had a delightful visit with Chloe, learning about Cretan olive oil and the old-fashioned method of producing olive oil – using stone mills. The result, she says, is a richer, healthier olive oil. Many thanks to Chloe for explaining the harvest and production processes, and to her cute little doggies, Lola and Ouzaki, who made the visit fun for our girls!
Read on to learn more about Chloe and Biolea.
Q&A with Chloe Dimitriadis of Biolea Astrikas Estate
Maria A. Karamitsos: You’re Greek-Canadian.
Chloe Dimitriadis: My father left Crete and went to Canada to study to become a pilot. That’s where he met my Canadian mother. I was born in Canada.
MAK: When did you move to Crete?
CD: When I was 3, and my father started Biolea. I grew up here but attended university in Montreal. I studied Political Science.
MAK: When did you start learning about olive oil/olive oil production?
CD: My brother and I have been involved in all processes of harvest and production since we were very young.
MAK: How did you get involved with Biolea?
CD: When I returned to Crete after graduation, I saw the company with a new perspective and decided to get involved. In 2015, I took over the company from my father. I believed that the agricultural sector of Crete has so much to offer and there are many opportunities for young people to get involved and have a future in it.
MAK: Tell us briefly the story of Biolea.
CD: The Dimitriadis family has about 3000 trees which have been passed on through my father’s side of the family for 5 generations. After living in Canada for many years and having a good base in mechanical engineering, my father was the one who took the land and made it certified organic. He’s a pioneer in organic farming and sustainable cultivation in Crete these past 20 years. He started Biolea with a goal to modernize the traditional stone mill and press, even though this method has mostly been abandoned due to its difficulty and inefficiency. The philosophy behind the company is to produce olive oil in the most natural way with the least amount of processing and always trying to be as sustainable as we can.
MAK: Does making olive oil the “old way” yield an EVOO that’s better for your health?
CD: The traditional method is one of the most simple and natural extraction methods that doesn’t use heat or water. By producing the traditional way, using stone mills, we don’t have to introduce water for olive oil extraction. This means that olive oil’s rich antioxidants and minerals, which are water-soluble, remain intact.
MAK: So are other olive oils unhealthy?
CD: EVOO has great health benefits. While some modern factories choose to be more industrial and knowingly sacrifice the quality for quantity, others use little water and no heat — called cold extraction — and are excellent olive oils.
MAK: Biolea’s process is certified.
CD: Yes. We took the extra steps to acquire certification for this extraction method. We received our certification in 1997 as required by the Commission Regulation on marketing standards for olive oil. [(EC)No1019/2002 of 13 June 2002] This allows us to declare “Certified Stone-Milled” and “Certified Cold Pressed” on our labels.
MAK: Biolea is also certified organic.
CD: We’re proud to say that our cultivation practices, the factory, and bottling plant have been inspected and certified by BIO HELLAS.
MAK: You use old-fashioned farming methods as well.
CD: We cultivate our trees the same way they have been over the last 5 generations — without modern irrigation methods. Called arid cultivation, this results in an olive oil with a subtle richness and complexity. It’s the same philosophy of wine grape cultivation here in Crete. We also do this to protect our environment. This way, we conserve our island’s precious water supply and save it from the installation of thousands of meters of PVC irrigation pipes.
MAK: Biolea is one of only two companies in Greece that produce olive oil the “old way”.
CD: Apart from producing an excellent olive oil, the stone mill and press method is also part of our heritage and history. We’re proud to be one of the few that continue to do it to this day.
MAK: Your Koroneiki olive oil is single estate. What does that mean?
CD: It means that only Koroneiki olives are used in the olive oil. If an oil is not single estate, it likely is a blend of different types of olive oils. Like estate wines, it presents a truer representation of the place of origin.
MAK: Can people visit Biolea?
CD: Yes, we are open all year for agrotourism activities.
MAK: Where can our readers buy Biolea oils?
CD: We export all over the world. Send us an email and we’ll tell you where to find them in your area.
Visit Biolea and taste the difference
When you visit Crete, plan a stop at Biolea Astrikas Estate. You can taste the oils and purchase there as well. We took a few bottles home, and can’t get enough of them!