While the earliest surviving olive oil amphorae dates back to 3500BC, the production of olive oil is assumed to have started much earlier. It is widely believed that the first-ever cultivation of olive trees took place on the Greek island of Crete where archaeological evidence suggests that olives were being grown as long ago as 4500 BC.
Olive oil production has also played an important role in historical Greek culture. During the the classical times in Athens, the olive tree was considered a present to their city from the wise and brave goddess, Athena, and Greeks would carry olive branches during ancient rituals as a symbol of purity and freshness. According to Aristotle, whoever destroyed or eradicated on olive tree was condemned to death.
Today Greece holds the record as having the largest per-capita olive oil consumption in the world at more than 5 gallons (18kg) of oil consumed per person each year, according to the European Commission.
It is without question that Greek extra virgin olive oils are known as some of the best the world has to offer. Today the country holds the position as the 3rd largest producer of olive oil in the world, producing around 15% of the total world production. In fact, what makes Greece so unique when compared with other producing countries is that 70-80% of all olive oil produced in the country qualifies as premium-quality extra virgin.
The principal regions of production in Greece are the Peloponnese and the island of Crete; however, premium-quality olive oils are produced in many other areas including the island of Lesvos and the Northern region of Chalkidiki.
While the dominant varietal grown throughout the country is Koroneiki, which is extensively cultivated in both Crete and the Southern Peloponnese, other lesser-known varieties are also capable of producing premium-quality extra virgin olive oil, such as Manaki, Hondrolia and Athinolia.
Greek olive oils are highly regarded for their attractive, well-balanced flavor profiles of medium to intense fruitiness. Pleasant aromas of freshly cut grass and artichoke are common, along with a sweet almond flavor and mildly pungent, peppery finish.