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The Tradition and History of Olive Oil Part 2


The production of Olive Oil has been lost deep in the centuries. History is taking us back at 3500 BC during the Minoan period but the production theoretically it starts at 4000 BC.

An alternative theory says that the first production of olive oil happened in the area of Israel. The olive oil use to be used not only as food but as a medicine too. The olive oil also has been used to made soap and other products for the protection and the care of the body skin. The first recorded export of oil is in the Hebrew bible and it took place during the exit from Egypt on the 13th century BC. That time of period the oil was exported by humans hands and has been kept in special containers protected to the priest's hands. These mills were estimated to produce 1,000 to 3,000 tons of olive oil each year. The crop of the olive oil trees took place in Crete after the Minoan civilization and it was very important for the island’s economic status and actually became the most powerful product of the Minoan civilization symbol of wealth and power.

Back in the days, the collection of the olives was exclusively a family affair. All the members of a family took part at the collection and that happens at certain periods as the weather circumstances are not the ideal ones all the year, usually, a good period to start is from September to December just before the Christmas days. The timeline of the collection is always dependent on the amount of the olive trees that the family owns and the time that they spending in the harvest per day. At the collection period, the day for each of them begins just before the sunrise till the sunset. Going back in the days before the modern machines took place and replace the human’s hands, the procedure of the collection was quite different and difficult. Upon the arrival of the family at the harvest, they had to prepare the field to start the collection. With a long wooden bar, they were crumbling the branches of the olive tree so the olives will be dropped on the field on a special net material which was spread around the olive trees for the facility of the collection and protection of the olives. A huge wicker bag was tied up around their waist to place the olives inside with their hands. Almost 8 hours after nonstop work the family must have a break for rest and lunch which has been prepared and packet from home in the morning. It is worthy of mention that back in the days not all the families could afford to own a van or a car for their transportation so they use animals like donkeys to carry their equipment or board the little kids as it was a long way to walk till the harvest.

After the small break of the family for lunch and rest, the hard work is starting again. In the evening before the sunset, they collect all the wicker bags board them on the donkeys and they are ready to go at the oil mill. There are 6 steps to follow for the production of the olive.

The defoliation. The separation of the leaves from the fruit is necessary because the olives with large combination of leaves give a bitter taste to the olive oil and enrich it with chlorophyll which acts negatively on its quality.
Washing the fruits. The olive washer runs, at the beginning the water source flow at the start of the washbasin, the water flows in the form of a water cyclone that the olive fruits rotate together and then jet in the orbit of water that forms waves for the washing.
Breaking and Mill where the fruit is crushed. After washing, a spiral olive conveyor equipped with a pyramidal bowl is used to transport the olive to the hand-mill. The hand-held mill drips the olive while maintaining the quality without temperature.


Centrifuge a machine with a rapidly rotating container that applies centrifugal force to its contents, where the core is separated from the skin. The olive mash is then led to the three-stage “centrifuges” where the oil essentially comes out.
Collection of the oil from the oil miller
Separation. The final stage was the oil and the water is separated

When the oil comes out of the machine, the acidity is measured so that the producer, who is most often present, knows the quality of the oil he produced. As the olive now is ready to go and to be used the payment time from the producer to the olive mill factory has come. As you can appreciate this is an expensive procedure and the producer had 2 options of payment. The first one is to pay for the production and the price goes according to the tones of olives that have been milled. As we mentioned previously most of the families belonged to a poor status of life so they couldn’t afford to pay the mill factory in cash. For the families, to secure their oil for the rest of the year for their houses as it is a very expensive product to buy on a regular basis they had the opportunity to leave a part of their oil that has been produced in the factory instead of money and the factory is taking it as payment.

Today modern machines, workers, electrical sticks and minivans took place in our lives and the tradition has been lost.

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Loukoumi is the child of Chef/Owner Kostas Avlonitis, who is credited with opening one of the first Greek restaurants in New York City.