At Gaea, all of our products are made with highest quality olives from specific groves in Greece, 100% traceable from the source. We work with growers who have been picking and pressing olive oil for generations.
Sitia, in Eastern Crete, is like heaven for olive oil. The Cretans have been making olive for more than 4,000 years, since the Minoan era. Their environment, with its plentiful sunshine, gentle mountains and rocky yet rich soil, is made for it. Olive trees thrive here. “Crete is the largest olive oil producing region in Greece, the third largest olive oil producing country in the world,” says David Neuman, CEO of Gaea North America.
Not long ago, though, the 9000 family farmers of the Sitia Cooperative were in serious trouble. The Coop had been a successful venture for many generations. Together, the farmers owned 36 mills, the means of turning their ripe olives into extra-virgin olive oil. But as the Greek economy suffered, so did their operation. In the last several years, they were struggling to stay afloat. “They were operating on a shoestring,” says Neuman, and the Sitia Co-op ended up in bankruptcy court in 2011. They lacked the financial means to continue their once thriving enterprise.
And then something big happened: Gaea entered the picture. Gaea believes in preserving tradition, supporting farmers, and safeguarding the environment, and we saw that there was enormous potential in the Sitia Co-op’s rich legacy, history and land.“It was about saving the cooperative, but it was also about the future of olive oil and the future of Greece,” Neuman and Aris Kefalogiannis, Gaea’s CEO, believed. They purchased a majority share of the Sitia Co-op in July 2015, and now own 67% (the farmers retained 33%), plus a twenty-year management contract to run the operation.Gaea “saved the cooperative and saved the family farms,” says Neuman. We did it “for the good of the farms, the farmers and the country.” We also, of course, did it for the good of the olive oil-loving customer. Gaea brings enormous knowledge and expertise to help Sitia produce the very best extra-virgin olive oil possible.
Indeed, the contents of a bottle of Gaea Sitia are packed with health benefits and gorgeous flavor. The Koroneiki olives are handpicked and cold extracted by the centuries-old estates. They are bottled and transported on the ferry to Piraeus, and then to our shipping port in Agrinio. Our P.D.O. (certified Protected Designation of Origin by the EU) Sitia received a gold award in the 2016 New York International Olive Oil Competition and a Bronze Medal at the 2015 Los Angeles International Olive Oil Competition.
Sitia olive oil’s fruity, aromatic, and slightly peppery flavors and medium body make it wonderful and versatile in the kitchen. Sitia livens up a Greek salad, or any plate of fresh or roasted veggies.Use it to drizzle on fish and seafood, or even lamb chops or roast chicken. It makes a gorgeous bread-dipper, or mix it into a simple vinaigrette and dress fresh greens. When you indulge in this exquisite olive oil, you’re supporting thousands of years of tradition and deliciousness.