Hopefully, this blog will be relatively entertaining and informative – that’s my intention – but it’s also to try and convey a little about the soul of our business as so many companies today are just about the bottom line, whereas Wise Tree Oil, while not averse to making a profit, is more about sharing the love – or more precisely our love of all things Corfiot especially their unbelievably smooth and tasty Olive Oils.
So from time to time, I will be adding to this blog with an update on our progress, new products, and a few pictures to give you a glimpse of our happy place – Corfu.
To start though, a bit of background, my wife Alison and I have been travelling to Greece for nearly 35 years, but in fact, I first visited Corfu by way of a broken relationship as far back as 1981. I had arrived in Kos after three days on the crappiest bus journey in the world from Kings Cross London to find that during the tedium of the coach ride my then girlfriend had shacked up with a stuntman. I briefly considered bopping him on the nose but decided against it as he’d of just bounced right back up again, plus I was then and remain epically rubbish at fisticuffs. Feeling a bit sorry for myself I caught a flight to Athens, a long train ride through the Peloponnese and a ferry to Corfu. I ended up staying months and fell in love all over again – this time with an island! I celebrated my twenty second birthday in what was then called The Cheeky Monkey Bar on the dusty main road through Gouvia and lived above the Red Lion; the sign that hung over the bar that I painted for them read “London – Paris – New York – Gouvia” if anyone remembers that! Back then Gouvia was a relatively quiet tourist destination with its handful of bars and one significantly sized hotel run by a local millionaire racehorse breeding playboy. Long halcyon sunny days but I somehow earnt enough Drachmas to enjoy life with the aforementioned sign painting, plus working in the fields, in a butchers, cleaning barnacles of yachts – just doing whatever I could to get by. Man, I loved it, and have been a Corfu addict ever since.
Eventually, I returned to England, met my wife Alison and we married in 1986. Of course, we choose Greece, though (don’t listen Corfiots) we went to Crete, but since that time while we have holidayed all across Europe, in Kenya, St Lucia, California, Oman, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and elsewhere, Greece but specifically Corfu is our “go-to” and my absolute favourite place on the planet. I love the people, the pace, the food, (especially the tomatoes), the rich greenery, the sunshine, the blue skies – I even love the rain and the storms. It’s no wonder Shakespeare based the setting for The Tempest in Corfu, or Homer brought Odysseus, Jason and the Golden Fleece to this magical island – it’s simply incredibly special with some of the most breathtaking scenery, the most turquoise waters and prettiest hidden coves and sandy shorelines you will ever find.
So, you get it, we don’t like Corfu, we love it! We have been back countless times, nearly always staying with our good friends Ninos and Lindsay who own Ninos on the Beach in Roda. Seeking to find more permanent roots in 2006 I bought an olive grove in Omali with a view to building a house there, but sadly somehow have always failed to save the £250k needed for the build, but we regularly return to Omali to eat at the blissfully panoramic Taverna Charolaou while collecting my sporadic ground rent – a litre or two of oil made from my own ancient olive trees.
It was this annual pilgrimage to Omali that made me wonder if it was possible to find several growers in Corfu and import their oil back to the UK (it genuinely is the finest you will find anywhere), so last year Ali and I set about finding the best olive oil on the island – what a great job that was and is! We identified four farmers, Spyros in the North East in Agios Georgios, Spyros being the father of the hoteliers’ son’s wife who we stay within Roda (work that out) and a charming man who makes the purest “Lianolia” olive oil I have ever tasted, all from young trees his father planted just twenty five years ago. Another Spiros who owns Nyssos in Moraitika and uses the perfect blend of the native Corfiot “Lianolia” olive and more common Kalamata “Koroneiki” olives to make a less gentle (but if I am an honest more spicy, stronger flavoured oil from his literally ancient trees) and we also found ultra-smooth, rich Virgin Oils made by Thomas who owns the Valanion groves. Finally, we met the lovely Mavroudis family (also in Moraitika) who make the simply sensational award winning Gourmet Oils we sell from this website.
Our plan is to choose the best oils from all of these growers, but we had to start somewhere and Spiros Mavroudis’ Gourmet Oils (a lot of the men are called Spiros as you’ll gather) are just the perfect introduction to Corfiot oil.
By the way, all of these growers are organic, almost every piece of arable land (and it’s almost all arable) is entirely untainted by modern fertilizers, all are small growers with maximum capacities measured in thousands of litres rather than hundreds of thousands (unlike the major supermarket brands from” Origin Europe”), and all the product we are importing now and will be importing in the future is from farmers who own their land, who care about the environment and love their products. Much as I do.
So as of today – launch day – we are kicking off with Spyro Mavroudis’ Gourmet Oils. All the flavours are real, locally picked Oregano is crushed in a cold press with the Olives, as is the Chilli, Rosemary, Basil etc. No flavourings or essences are used, just pure organic fresh sunkissed bounty of this beautiful island mixed in and crushed up with the freshly harvested Olives.
Just for your peace of mind, we trialled all our oils on our friends over countless tasting sessions (and on every tasting session got a tad tiddly at the same time), and tested and sold the entire range you see here through our local butchers and delicatessen Burtenshaws in Rustington, West Sussex. To which a quick thanks to the kindness of the owner Sarah Jane in taking a chance on our products and who now buys from us regularly as her customers come back again and again. We will also be reaching out to a few well known chefs and cooks to get their honest input which as we receive it we will publish here.
So this is our dream. I very much hope you can help us sustain and grow this business, as much as anything else so we can offer you even more of these outstanding products, including before year end, our own brand of plain Extra Virgin Wise Tree Oil from Spyros’ harvest. That’s the Nyssos Spyros BTW not the Roda Spiros or the Mavroudis Spiros! We will also be offering Thomas’ divine Virgin Oil which is somehow smoother than any extra virgin I can find in the UK and of course Spiros’ plain Mavroudis Oils and Spiros pure first pressing of Lianolia from Agios Georgios. We just need to roll it all out as we slowly and with your help grow awareness for the Wise Tree brands. We also need to ensure we never get all the Spiroses in the same place – that would be a heck of a confusing round of drinks!
Lastly, subject to Covid rules I will be visiting Corfu in Spring to secure the next products lines, which is when I will post again, but meantime, please try the Gourmet oils, and tell your friends.
Love to all you grecophile and olive oil lovers everywhere x
Paul & Ali