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“Magical” is how we would describe our olive oil tasting in Crete.
At the base of Cretan cuisine is olive oil, which features prominently in the recipes of traditional food.
Olive oil is Crete’s finest export and cannot be missed when visiting this Greek island with a long history and proud inhabitants.
Since prehistoric times, olive oil has sustained the Greeks and it continues to be a part of every modern table.
To help us understand the nuances and cultural importance of the olive, we took an olive oil tasting in Chania, Crete.
This was a fascinating and informative experience of one of Crete’s richest treasures.
If visiting Crete is on your itinerary, here are five reasons why you want to have an immersive olive oil tasting experience.
Experience Olive Oil Tasting Crete
Guiding us through the long history of olive oil in Crete was Aspassia Stavoulaki, founder of Oliving in Crete.
A gastronomy expert of Cretan heritage, Aspassia is passionate about sharing the culture and history of Greek olive oil.
In the midst of a 2000-year-old monumental olive grove, we explored the importance of olive trees and olive oil.
In Crete, and most of Greece, the olive oil produced is the superior extra virgin olive oil. To help demonstrate how to match olive oil and food, the tasting experience included a pairing with Cretan food specialties.
With an unexpected visit by the olive grove’s owner and the beautiful natural environment, this was the perfect tasting experience.
This is truly an unmissable experience in Crete.
Authentic Food Quest Tip: Diving deep into Crete with an immersive olive oil tour is a wonderful way to experience the island. This olive oil tasting and Cretan food pairing class takes you on a culinary tour into one of the secrets of Cretan cuisine. For about 3 hours, you’ll immerse your senses into Cretan culinary culture and olive oil. Private and outdoors, you’ll keep safe under the shade of the olive trees. Find out more here.
1- Relax in an Amazing Ancient Olive Grove
To have the best olive oil tasting in Crete, context matters. There is nothing like sitting in the middle of century old olive trees and learning about Cretan olive oil.
In the open-air, private and relaxing atmosphere, you’ll enjoy views of the nearby mountains.
You will also tour the olive grove, and we had the unexpected good fortune of being accompanied by Manolis Psaroudakis, the owner.
While walking around admiring the intricate details of the olive trees and trunks, Manolis excitedly talked of growing up in the olive groves.
He proudly showed us trees he remembers growing up with and talked fondly about his father and grandfather.
His love for the olive trees was evident and being in his presence and feeling his joy was contagious.
Retrospectively he told us, “our heritage (Crete’s) is in these trees. They are not just mine, they belong to everyone.”
Consider Manolis words as an invitation to visit his olive grove.
When planning your Crete visit, be sure to plan for an olive oil tasting tour amongst these monumental olive trees.
2- Discover Fascinating History About Olives and Olive Oil
Since antiquity, the olive tree has played a very important role in the daily life of Greeks.
On the island of Crete, the cultivation of the olive trees can be traced back to the early Minoan civilization.
Using visual aids, Aspassia regaled us with stories about the importance of the olive tree and olives in Greece.
Tracing the history from the Minoan period to Roman times, the Byzantine era, all the way to the Ottoman occupation.
Even in modern times, we talked about the branches of olive trees used at Olympic games and the sacred nature of olive oil in religion.
One of our favorite stories was learning how the city of Athens got her name. According to Greek mythology, Olympian gods, Poseidon and Athena were competing to become patrons of Athens.
Challenged to give the people of Athens a gift that was truly valuable, Athena won with an olive tree over Poseidon’s salty water.
Learning the Cretan culinary culture and interesting historical facts kept us entertained.
And, you cannot pick a more perfect setting to learn about the glorious olive.
3- Enjoy a Surprising Olive Oil Tasting
Tasting and getting to know Cretan olive oils engages the senses. Aspasssia laid out blue olive oil tasting glasses and olive oils from different Cretan varieties of olives.
The tasting glasses we learned are colored blue to hide the olive oil color. The color is not relevant to the evaluation of olive oil allowing the focus to be on the taste.
“Olive oil tasting is more complicated than wine”, Aspassia told us, “it’s like mathematics.” You want to “concentrate on the smell, taste and other characteristics and not the color.”
Starting with the aromas and flavors, we learned how to warm up and swirl the glasses. This process opens up the oil allowing you to sniff the flavors.
After trying to identify the aromas, we tasted the oils feeling the bitterness and pungency spread around our tongues and throats.
Along each step of the way, Aspassia talked about the characteristics of the oils.
The Pamako extra virgin olive oil was an organic monovarietal olive oil from the Tsounati variety of olives.
And, the Skoutari, also an organic extra virgin olive oil from the Koroneiki olive variety.
We went back and forth tasting each variety noticing the subtle flavors even more.
Olive oil tasting is like a story, Aspassia told us. “There needs to be a beginning, some elements in the middle, balance, a little aggression, and a nice end.”
As we tasted the profiles of the extra virgin olive oils, we each found our own story amongst the varieties.
4- Discover How To Pair Olive Oil With Food
Olive oil and the Cretan diet are inextricably linked. And, pairing Cretan olive oil with traditional Cretan specialties was the most delicious part of the experience.
For the food pairing, Apassia prepared a selection of dishes with different taste profiles. The idea is to discover the impact of olive oil on taste.
On foods that don’t have a lot of taste like broccoli, you want a nice strong olive oil. Compared to fish where a mild olive oil is preferred.
It was really interesting tasting the nuances on different kinds of salads like dakos and black eyed pea salad.
What was even more fascinating was the impact of taste by each of the olive oil varieties.
As we ate and tasted the different Cretan olive oils, we talked about the wonders of the Cretan diet.
A wealth of knowledge, Aspassia talked about the Cretan diet versus the Mediterranean diet and Crete’s rich culinary culture.
When you learn to pair olive oil with traditional Cretan food, you get a deeper appreciation for the interaction of flavors.
5- Learn How to Buy and Cook With Olive Oil
Cooking with olive oil is misunderstood even though it is used widely in salads, pastas and more.
Taking an olive oil tasting in Crete with an expert gives you the opportunity to ask questions and learn new tips.
Unlike wine, Aspassia told us, “olive oil does not age”. It is best consumed fast and fresh.
Learning about light and heat, the two enemies of olive oil, gave us a new perspective for buying and storing olive oil.
You’ll be surprised just how much information the label holds and why origin greatly matters.
Cretan extra virgin olive oil is found in almost all dishes regardless of whether they are fried, cooked or baked.
You will learn about cooking with olive oil including the benefits of the stable extra virgin olive oil.
Highly personable, friendly and warm, you can ask Aspassia anything about olive oil.
In addition to being an expert on Cretan olive oil, she is also well-traveled and can talk about olive oil from different countries.
No matter your level of understanding of olive oil, you’ll leave more confident in buying, tasting, and cooking with it.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: Have you ever tried olive oil in dessert? Try this simple recipe for Greek honey cookies and taste the irresistible combination of olive oil and sweets.
Immersing yourself into the Crete’s rich culinary history is best expressed with an olive oil tasting.
In the open air nestled amongst ancient olive trees, you’ll have an unforgettable experience.
Aspassia will make you feel right at home as you dive into the history, culture and nuances of Cretan olive oil.
The conversation will be enriching and the setting extraordinary.
The experience will leave you much more knowledgeable, well-fed, and empowered to buy and cook with olive oil.
How To Book Your Olive Oil Tasting Crete
Book your olive oil tasting Crete with Aspassia of Oliving in Crete, for an immersive and authentic experience.
Location: The olive tasting takes place in Pigi village which is easily accessible from Chania and Rethymno, Crete.
Olive Oil Tour Crete: All the tours are private and you can choose either a morning tour (10:30 am) or evening tour that starts between 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Included is a 4-course degustation menu pairing with different olive oils.
Cost: €80.00 (approx. $97) per adult. Price for children 12 and younger, €50.00 (approx. $63) per child.
Languages: Tours hosted in English, French and Greek
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Special thanks to Aspassia Stavroulaki, for an incredible olive oil tasting Crete. And to Manolis Psaroudakis, for the wonderful tour of his olive grove.
Rosemary is the editor-in-chief and strategist at Authentic Food Quest.
Traveling slow since 2015 with her partner, Claire, she has explored the cuisine in 45 countries and more than 240+ culinary cities.
Her writing about local food specialties has been featured in Lonely Planet, Business Insider, Honest Cooking, Food Insider, and Huffington Post.
As a food and travel writer, Rosemary has co-authored three books, including one in collaboration with Costa Brava Tourism.
Rosemary is an avid runner when she’s not eating and exploring new destinations. She has run ten marathons and counting.
Before Authentic Food Quest, Rosemary held senior-level strategy positions in advertising.
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