Crete Olive Oil Tour

To learn more about olives and olive oil on Crete, Greece Travel Secrets visits Biolea, one of the few olive oil factories on Crete that you can tour.

Panoramic View from the Biolea Olive Oil Factory on Crete
All Photos (c) Mike Gerrard

Biolea is one of the few olive oil manufacturers in Crete that you can visit. So we did, thanks to Isidoros, our tour guide from www.GoCrete.net. Outside the factory we are greeted by our Biolea factory guide, Chloe Dimitriadis.

'Last week when it rained,' she says, 'the trees were happy as it was the first rain for four months.'

It was hard to believe it had rained so recently, as when we arrived in late September it was gloriously hot with temperatures into the low 90s (32-34C). It's not the kind of weather when you would normally do a factory tour, but this was no normal factory.

Chloe welcomes us and explains that while Biolea may be a modern factory, they still use a traditional stone press to make their olive oil.

'Crete has one of the biggest concentrations of olive trees in the whole Mediterranean,' she tells us. 'We make 5% of the olive oil in the world, and Greece is 3rd in the world for olive oil production after Spain and Italy. They've been making olive oil here since Neolithic times.

'The average person in Greece consumes 32 litres of olive oil a year, which is twice as much as in Italy.'

After this explanation of facts and figures, Chloe moves on to what everyone in the small tour group wants to know: How to make sure you get good quality olive oil when you buy.

Buying Good Quality Olive Oil

'First look for the word virgin,' Chloe explains. 'By EU laws this is 100% pure olive oil. If it doesn't say virgin, stay away. Extra virgin is the same thing, 100% olive oil, but with lower acidity. Extra virgin isn't necessarily better than virgin. There are other factors.

'You must also look for cold-pressed, which means it is done below 27 degrees and hasn't been burned. If you blast it with heat you get bigger quantities but you lose the health content. Even if you go over 30 degrees you start to lose qualities.'

Chloe knows so much about olive oil because it was her father who started the factory about 25 years ago, although the family has been making olive oil in the village of Astrikas for several generations.

'He was one of the first to become organic at the time when everyone was going industrial,' she says. 'Everyone thought he was crazy!'

Chloe explains that they have about 3,000 olive trees in their village, and it takes two months to harvest them. They put nets down on the ground and beat the tree branches with electronic beaters to shake the olives loose. They then get them to the factory as fast as they can, for the ultimate freshness.

She then leads us inside the factory where we see the modern-looking machine that presses the olives, with three large stone presses inside it. The machine works in the traditional way, but eliminates the need to have donkeys trudging around to turn the stones.

One of the hardest things, Chloe tells us, is keeping everything clean.

'We're an organic factory so don't use any chemical cleaners. It's all done with hot water and pressure – and olive paste is very hard to get off!'

Another tip Chloe passes on to us is to store olive oil either in dark glass or a tin, and to avoid plastic bottles.

Flavoured Olive Oil

As well as producing their natural stone-milled cold-pressed estate olive oil, Biolea also makes two flavoured olive oils, lemonio and nerantzio. These are done by throwing in the peel from lemons or bitter oranges when they mill the olives. At the tasting we do after the tour, both the lemon and the orange olive oil are huge hits. They're tangy and aromatic, and everyone wants to buy at least one bottle of each.

The company produces about 20,000 litres of olive oil a year, and the production sells out by about March. They could make more but, like many of the food and wine makers we met on Crete, they go for quality over quantity. They use all their own olives, and only buy any in if they have a bad harvest. Even then, they will only buy organic olives from farmers who they are sure know what they're doing.

Know Your Olive Oil

Chloe then gives us another reason why it's important to know exactly what you're buying: '80% of Cretan olive oil is exported in bulk in containers to Italy where they blend it with olive oil from Tunisia, Spain and other countries. It's therefore possible that the Italian olive oil you buy in the supermarket is blended and has Cretan olive oil in it. If it was blended and bottled in Italy then it can be called Italian olive oil, no matter where the olives came from.'

Where to Find Biolea Olive Oil

Biolea exports 70-80% of its own production, so if you're not lucky enough to visit the factory in its idyllic setting surrounded by olive trees and mountains, in Astrikas, west of Chania, where can you buy their organic olive oil?

'We don't have a distributor in the UK,' Chloe says, 'but we work with a shop in London, The Isle of Olive. Our biggest market is Japan, then the USA and Canada, and some European countries too.'

Visiting Biolea

For details of the free tours of the Biolea olive oil factory, see the Biolea website.

Our tour was arranged by www.GoCrete.net.

Where to Stay on Crete



Rent a Car on Crete


Other Crete pages

  • If you're wondering where to eat in Athens and Piraeus we have a few suggestions including some favorites around the Acropolis, Omonia Square, and Syntagma.

    Where to Eat in Athens and Piraeus

    If you're wondering where to eat in Athens and Piraeus we have a few suggestions including some favorites around the Acropolis, Omonia Square, and Syntagma.

  • Crete (Kriti) is the largest Greek island and its main attractions include the Minoan Palace of Knossos, the Samarian Gorge, Chania and Rethymnon.

    Crete

    Crete (Kriti) is the largest Greek island and its main attractions include the Minoan Palace of Knossos, the Samarian Gorge, Chania and Rethymnon.

  • Greece Travel Secrets’ potted guide to Eastern Crete and why you should consider it for a holiday, including seeing Agios Nikolaos, Sitia, Vai Beach and Zakros.

    Eastern Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets’ potted guide to Eastern Crete and why you should consider it for a holiday, including seeing Agios Nikolaos, Sitia, Vai Beach and Zakros.

  • Driving on Crete is the best way to see Greece’s biggest island and here is our driving advice and some information about Greek driving regulations.

    Driving on Crete

    Driving on Crete is the best way to see Greece’s biggest island and here is our driving advice and some information about Greek driving regulations.

  • These shopping tips for Crete include advice on buying souvenirs like ceramics, icons, jewellery, leather, weavings, wood carvings, and food and drink.

    Shopping Tips for Crete

    These shopping tips for Crete include advice on buying souvenirs like ceramics, icons, jewellery, leather, weavings, wood carvings, and food and drink.

  • How to see eastern Crete in five days, with its beaches, Minoan palaces, timeless villages, unique churches and mountain and coastal scenery.

    Eastern Crete in Five Days

    How to see eastern Crete in five days, with its beaches, Minoan palaces, timeless villages, unique churches and mountain and coastal scenery.

  • Malia on the north coast of Crete is renowned for its nightlife and beaches but also has the Minoan Palace of Malia, one of Crete's many archaeological sites.

    Malia and its Minoan Palace on Crete

    Malia on the north coast of Crete is renowned for its nightlife and beaches but also has the Minoan Palace of Malia, one of Crete's many archaeological sites.

  • Greece Travel Secrets page on  Phaistos or Faistos, the site of one of the finest Minoan palaces on Crete and is where the mysterious Phaistos Disc was found.

    Phaistos Minoan Palace on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets page on Phaistos or Faistos, the site of one of the finest Minoan palaces on Crete and is where the mysterious Phaistos Disc was found.

  • Sir Arthur Evans is the archaeologist famous for the excavations he made at the royal palace of Knossos on Crete.

    Sir Arthur Evans, archaeologist at Knossos on Crete

    Sir Arthur Evans is the archaeologist famous for the excavations he made at the royal palace of Knossos on Crete.

  • Visiting Knossos near Iraklion is one of the best things to do on Crete, and this page has a history of the site with visitor information.

    Knossos

    Visiting Knossos near Iraklion is one of the best things to do on Crete, and this page has a history of the site with visitor information.

  • What was daily life as a Minoan like on Crete, living in palaces like the ones at Knossos, Malia, Phaistos, and Zakros, and what were their religious beliefs?

    Life as a Minoan

    What was daily life as a Minoan like on Crete, living in palaces like the ones at Knossos, Malia, Phaistos, and Zakros, and what were their religious beliefs?

  • Is someone from Crete a Greek or a Cretan? They are both, of course, but most will tell you that they are Cretan first and Greek second.

    Greek or Cretan?

    Is someone from Crete a Greek or a Cretan? They are both, of course, but most will tell you that they are Cretan first and Greek second.

  • Driving central Crete in three days gives you time to see the highlights including the Minoan palaces at Knossos and Phaistos, the beaches and the Diktean Cave.

    Central Crete in Three Days

    Driving central Crete in three days gives you time to see the highlights including the Minoan palaces at Knossos and Phaistos, the beaches and the Diktean Cave.

  • Matala Beach on Crete is a guest blog for Greece Travel Secrets from the We Love Crete website, inviting you to Awaken Your Inner Hippy in Matala, Crete.

    Matala Beach

    Matala Beach on Crete is a guest blog for Greece Travel Secrets from the We Love Crete website, inviting you to Awaken Your Inner Hippy in Matala, Crete.

  • Agios Nikolaos is a pretty and popular town on the north coast of Crete and this page on Greece Travel Secrets covers its history, museums and beaches.

    Agios Nikolaos

    Agios Nikolaos is a pretty and popular town on the north coast of Crete and this page on Greece Travel Secrets covers its history, museums and beaches.

  • Elounda on Crete's north coast is a popular holiday town with a pretty harbour, from where you can take day trips by boat to see the island of Spinalonga.

    Elounda and Spinalonga, setting for The Island by Victoria Hislop

    Elounda on Crete's north coast is a popular holiday town with a pretty harbour, from where you can take day trips by boat to see the island of Spinalonga.

  • Cretan music is part of the island’s soul and visitors will hear live music wherever they go, with several distinctive Cretan musical instruments and songs.

    Cretan Music

    Cretan music is part of the island’s soul and visitors will hear live music wherever they go, with several distinctive Cretan musical instruments and songs.

  • Western Crete in five days allows time to visit Chania and Rethymnon, enjoy the beaches, hike the Samaria Gorge and see the monasteries at Arkadi and Preveli.

    Western Crete in Five Days

    Western Crete in five days allows time to visit Chania and Rethymnon, enjoy the beaches, hike the Samaria Gorge and see the monasteries at Arkadi and Preveli.

  • Crete’s wildlife and landscape are two of the island’s attractions, including gorges for hiking, rare raptors like the lammergeier, wildcats and ancient trees.

    Crete’s Wildlife and Landscape

    Crete’s wildlife and landscape are two of the island’s attractions, including gorges for hiking, rare raptors like the lammergeier, wildcats and ancient trees.

  • Western Crete has some wonderful golden sand beaches as well as mountain villages, monasteries, caves, and archaeological sites to discover.

    Western Crete Beaches and Villages

    Western Crete has some wonderful golden sand beaches as well as mountain villages, monasteries, caves, and archaeological sites to discover.

  • This drive along the west coast of Crete and inland from there will take a whole day and starts and ends in Kastélli Kissámou, west of Chania.

    West Coast of Crete Drive

    This drive along the west coast of Crete and inland from there will take a whole day and starts and ends in Kastélli Kissámou, west of Chania.

  • Greece Travel Secrets suggests where to stay in Eastern Crete with our favourite hotels in Zakros, Elounds, Sitia, Agios Nikolaos, Istron Bay, Myrtos, Neapolis.

    Where to Stay in Eastern Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets suggests where to stay in Eastern Crete with our favourite hotels in Zakros, Elounds, Sitia, Agios Nikolaos, Istron Bay, Myrtos, Neapolis.

  • Where to Stay in Western Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in western Crete, including both luxury and inexpensive hotels in Chania, Rethymnon, and Paleochora.

  • Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in Central Crete including hotels in Matala, Ayia Galini, and Zaros.

    Where to Stay in Central Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in Central Crete including hotels in Matala, Ayia Galini, and Zaros.

Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

Latest Posts

  1. Spetses: The Ultimate Autumn Guide

    Timeless hangouts, useful addresses and cool tips for an unforgettable weekend on the Saronic island of Spetses, just two hours by ferry from Athens.

    Read More

  2. Recipe: Soumada, the Drink of Happiness

    Traditionally served at happy occasions, this sweet almond drink scented with orange flower water is easy to make, and a wonderful treat for guests.

    Read More

  3. Samothraki: Another Greece, Forgotten by Time

    With its rugged, untamed beauty and rich history, Samothraki in the northern Aegean doesn't fit into any of the familiar molds.

    Read More

  4. 8 Excellent Athens Restaurants for Sharing Food

    These restaurants in the heart of Athens celebrate the quintessentially Greek tradition of bringing people together to share plate-loads of delicious food.

    Read More

  5. The Best Hotels in Athens

    Greece Travel Secrets gives its choice of the best hotels in Athens from budget and moderate options through to 5-star luxury choices.

    Read More

  6. Athens listed as a Top 10 most beautiful city for the second time

    Greece has not stopped breaking one record after another in recent years - from tourism to important economic indicators that testify to the enormous dynamics that the country has developed in recent…

    Read More

  7. Jet2 Adds New Routes to Greece, Increases Seat Capacity to 1.3 Million

    UK airline and tour operator to Greece Jet2 on Tuesday announced that it was expanding its 2023 program for the country even further with the addition of new routes, increase of seat capacity and seas…

    Read More

  8. Ultra-runners to Set Off for the 40th Spartathlon from the Acropolis on Friday

    Nearly 400 super athletes from across the globe will set off from the foot of the Acropolis in Athens on Friday, September 30, morning to run 246km (153 miles) to the Peloponnesian town of Sparta for…

    Read More

  9. ‘Athens Full of Tourists’ as Greece Extends Tourism Season

    International travelers are still visiting Greece in the shoulder season which validates the Tourism Ministry’s efforts to extend the season and keep visitors coming into the fall and winter, said Tou…

    Read More

  10. A Walk around Kolonáki

    This walk around the Kolonaki neighbourhood of Athens starts and ends in Syntagma Square and takes you to several museums, Kolonaki Square and Mount Lykabettos.

    Read More