The Oil that Enriches Everyone’s Life – An Interview with Yannis Psaroudakis of “Creta Eleon”

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In today’s Crete there may not be any more military sieges, but Cretans and all human beings are under attack by the stresses of modern life – and olive oil, which is still the basis of the Cretan diet, is one of the remedies.

“Creta Eleon” is a family business founded in 1950 that started with a small store in the center of Chania selling a variety of goods that catered to the needs of olive oil producers from the city and surrounding areas.

Over the next 60 years “Creta Eleon” managed to establish, develop, and expand its business – always respecting the product and the producer, and it now distributes up to 5,000 tons of olive oil annually.

The olive oil is sold to other brands after undergoing the standardization testing that certifies its high quality in Greece and the rest of Europe, and it is also bottled in the company’s own facilities.

The National Herald spoke with Yannis Psaroudakis, the owner of “Creta Eleon,” who answered questions about the company, Cretan olive oil, and the nutritional value of olive oil in our diet.

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TNH: Mr. Psaroudakis, what is the philosophy behind your products?

Yannis Psaroudakis: In order to create a great product, you must first get to know it, be familiar with it, love it and respect it. So, if you want to produce a fine olive oil, you first have to know it’s particularities, its value, and every single stage of its life. You have to know the land that grew the olive tree, the conditions of its environment, the way that the producer collected the olives, the way the elision of the olive fruit is done at the oil press, and every single stage of transfer until the olive oil comes to our hands to be bottled.

This is the philosophy that guides our relationship with the olive trees and the olive oil, which in the course of our lives and experience we have come to embrace, becoming familiar with their every element and particularity. We know the land where we produce our olive oil well, the rich and fertile Cretan land and its climatic conditions, the mild, moist Mediterranean climate, the terrain morphology – the soil in alternating landscapes of mountains and sea.

This is the land in which the so-called “Koroneiki” genre of olive tree is cultivated. This type of tree produces a fruity-flavored olive oil with high nutritional value. We are close to, and in partnership with, the people who cultivate the olive trees that produce the olive “fruit.”  We are also in collaboration with the olive mills that produce the olive oil with our company’s machinery and the scientific associates’ guidance. In this way, we end up with a product that is delicious and healthy for our consumers.

The meticulousness and conscientiousness of our company can be observed from the ground up, and continues from production to the moment of sale. Our goal throughout this effort is to introduce our fine quality product to consumers all around the globe and convince people to include it in their daily diet, to blend it into their lifestyle. Knowing the endless nutritional and curative properties of pure olive oil, we are committed to making sure our company’s olive oil retains all of its natural and unaltered contents which make it unique and special.

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The natural elements of the Mediterranean, Hellenic soil, and the land of our Cretan island, along with its mountain-herb aroma, citrus tree flavors, and the aura of the sea that surrounds us, all these find their way into the EXTRA VIRGIN olive oil in our bottles that we offer to the consumer, and we invite them to taste and love it, rewarding our effort.

TNH: According to various researchers, Cretan olive oil is the No.1 reason for longevity in Crete. As an expert, could you tell me more about this?

Y.P. Scientists have found time and time again that the Cretan people live longer. This mainly has to do with the lower percentage of locals who face one (or both) of the two most common dangerous health threats: heart problems and cancer. The first thing researchers did was try and find the environmental factors that cause such a clear distinction in life expectancy, and they found that the main reason was the traditional healthy Cretan diet, with Cretan olive oil at its core.

But how does Cretan olive oil help the Cretan people live longer? And how we can use it to help achieve our own longevity? The answer lies in Cretan olive oil’s components. Cretan olive oil – and especially the extra virgin type – is full of fat that is not harmful to our body, but, instead, it’s the most healthy, safe fat for our daily needs. This has to do with the olive oil being full of saturated fat, and also full of Omega-3 fatty acids, both of which are beneficial to our health.

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Most other kinds of fat, like the that contained in meat and dairy products, like butter, pose threats to our hearts. But this doesn’t happen with the “healthy” fat that is found in Cretan olive oil, which helps the locals have a sound, good-working heart long into their 70s, 80s and even 90s.

Cretan olive oil is crucial for avoiding heart problems, but it also has very important anti-cancer qualities. Research has shown that frequent olive oil consumption – especially of extra virgin olive oil – prevents the development of cancer in the human body. Taking into account all these immense health benefits, we can hardly find another food product that is so beneficial to longevity as olive oil.

There is recent scientific research that was published in March 2018 by the National Institutes of Health that describes the potential health benefits of olive oil and plant polyphenols. In its conclusion it says that “An increase in consumption of virgin olive oil and other plant products rich in polyphenolic compounds, specifically in populations with low olive oil intake, does seem to be rational and provide diverse health benefits.” So it is more than obvious that olive oil could be beneficial for our health.

TNH: I know that Cretan olive oil’s history goes back thousands of years. Could you please tell us briefly its history?

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Y.P. The history of Cretan olive oil dates back to Minoan times. If there is something constant in the turbulent and complicated history of Crete, it is the timeless love of the Cretan people for olive oil. It is not a secret that Crete has the first European soil in history where olive trees were grown methodically, with olive oil extracted from them. The ancient Minoans had olive oil in their diet thousands of years ago.

Olive oil was produced and consumed in Crete at least since the beginning of the zenith of the Minoan civilization in 2,000 BC. As evidenced by numerous archaeological findings, olive oil was a keystone of the Minoan diet, the ancestor of today’s Cretan diet. Indeed, numerous olive oil presses dating from the Minoan era have been found all over the island, showing clearly the long history of olive oil production in Crete.

Some of these olive oil presses are the oldest of their kind in Europe. Olive oil played a central role in the Minoan diet, as is the case with the modern Cretan diet. In times when there were hardly any means to preserve food – like today’s refrigerators – olive oil had the paramount advantage of being easily preserved for years, even in high temperatures. This is shown clearly with the very large clay vases – or “pithoi”, as the ancient Minoans called them – that were found in the Minoan palace of Knossos, the masterpiece of Minoan architecture.

Historians are convinced that these very large storage containers were used to safely preserve olive oil. In fact, according to the archaeological findings, the total storage space in the palace for olive oil amounted to hundreds of thousands of kilograms. Another easy to understand reason why Cretan olive oil was historically an extremely valuable food throughout history is its nutritional value. Olive oil packs a great deal of high nutritional value and “good” calories into a very small space. It is one of the most “condensed” foods on earth. Cretan olive oil was not only used historically as part of the Minoan diet, though: There is evidence that olive oil was used since ancient times for cleansing, for lighting, as a medicine, and myriads of other purposes.

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After olive oil was established in the Minoan era as the foundation of the islanders’ diet, it never really lost its central role at the core of the Cretan diet through the ages. In more recent history, olive oil was very popular and valuable during the years of Venetian control of Crete, especially during the turbulent times of the Ottoman attacks on the island, the numerous sieges launched by the Ottomans on many Cretan towns and fortresses. Olive oil was the foundation of the food supplies for those hard times during sieges: it could be easily stored for long periods of time in small spaces and it could feed a lot of people.

It is impressive when we realize that olive oil is at the core of the Cretan diet since the Minoan era, for more than 4,000 years! The history of Crete, due to the island’s location between three continents, and its unique climate and advantages, was as rich as could be packed into a small place like Crete. And a central part of this history has to do with Cretan olive oil.

TNH: Can you share some of your company’s facts with our readers?

Y.P. “Creta Eleon” is an authentic traditional product of high nutritional value from exquisite varieties of olives, produced according to the most stringent standards. Our company, Creta Eleon, created a new brand that strives to connect its values and philosophy with an excellent product that meets all the requirements of the modern market and consumers worldwide.

We produce a sophisticated line of olive oil with high standards of quality assurance and product safety. We are located 4 km outside the city of Chania, Crete and own premises of 4,000 sq. m. for the receipt, marketing, and storage of olive oil, as well as an ultra-modern plant for bottling olive oil, with a capacity of 3,000 bottles/hour.

We have the ability to meet any order from all over the world with our own label or with the labels of our client-buyers. Our goal is the production of an excellent product of organic, extra virgin Greek olive oil with a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) of Chania, which we offer to consumers who love and respect nature and its beneficial gifts, like we do.

TNH: Mr. Psaroudaki thank you very much for your time!

Y.P.: Thank you!