Papa's Grove olive oil bottle on a harvesting net surrounded by olives

Competing with 611 entries from 21 countries in a harvest year plagued by weather problems, Greek olive oils managed to capture 1 Gold Medal and 26 Silver Medals at the Olive Japan International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition, a prestigious competition that emphasizes fairness and accuracy while providing visibility for companies in the Asian market.

Olive Japan is organized by the Olive Oil Sommelier Association of Japan (OSAJ), which is chaired and directed by Toshiya Tada. Tada explained to Greek Liquid Gold that OSAJ is a non-commercial association of olive oil specialists with extensive knowledge of sensory analysis, olive varieties, and the olive oil production process. This year, 24 experienced judges from 14 nations participated in Olive Japan, carefully considering and discussing their impressions of each olive oil they tasted.

Olive Japan judges discussing olive oils at tables

Initiated in 2012, Olive Japan is “already the largest olive oil competition in Asia,” according to Tada. Tada started the competition in order to provide Japanese consumers with information about olive oil in their own language and to show Europe that there is a “quality-oriented market [for extra virgin olive oil] in Asia, which is Japan.”

Tada emphasized that Olive Japan follows strict protocols, because he considers fairness and accuracy “the most important aspects of the competition.” For Tada, this means avoiding commercial activities and links to commercial organizations, having judges taste no more than 35 oils each day, insisting that judges declare any relevant commercial relationships, and prohibiting judges from entering their own olive oils in the competition.

In addition, judging panels include groups with mixed nationalities, and judges do not taste their own country’s products during the initial tasting session (but only in case of a need for reconsideration of varietal peculiarities), in order to avoid any unconscious bias. Commercial connections can be developed separately at the Olive Marche Trade Show in July, where award-winning olive oils and other products can be exhibited.

This year, Papa's Grove was the top Greek winner at Olive Japan, taking home a Gold Medal for Papa's Grove Extra Virgin Olive Oil Green Bottle and a Silver for Papa's Grove Extra Virgin Olive Oil Gold Bottle.

Papa’s Grove’s June Tan explained to Greek Liquid Gold that their Green Bottle holds a blend of Koroneiki and Manaki olive oils from Peloponnese which “balances perfectly the intensity of aroma and bitterness of Koroneiki with the fruitiness and distinct odor of Manaki” for “a perfect medium intensity extra virgin olive oil” with “notes of herbs, nuts, citrus, and fresh cut grass.” Their Gold Bottle “offers you a limited edition of oil from specially selected Koroneiki olives” with “the robust intensity and aroma of Koroneiki” in just 1000 manually numbered bottles “with notes of herbs, citrus, and fresh cut grass.”

Andreas Papaspyrou, “one half of the Papa brothers,” explained to Greek Liquid Gold that he and his brother Petros began to commercialize their family’s olive oil just two years ago. “This all started when my brother lost his office job at the height of the Greek crisis. We always had the land, and since there was nothing else for Petros (with unemployment at 30%!) this idea was born.”

With Andreas based in Asia for more than a decade and “married to an amazing Singaporean wife,” June Tan, who now handles their marketing, the Papaspyrou brothers decided to focus on exporting to Asia. “Being based close to our markets certainly makes a difference,” since it enables “a direct human connection” in the area. And, Papaspyrou added, “given Japan is for us a primary market, striking Gold in Olive Japan is really important for us.”

One of Greece’s double Silver Medal winners, Ellie Tragakes of Hellenic Agricultural Enterprises, told Greek Liquid Gold their Acaia olive oil has won medals at Olive Japan four years in a row, “since 2014 when we first began going to competitions.”

Tragakes said they “believe that winning in Olive Japan has played a very important role in assisting our successful entry into the Japanese market. Winning awards regularly year after year reassures consumers that the product they are buying has a consistently high quality. This year we were especially pleased because not only our Acaia oil was awarded but also our Acaia Flavored with Lemon and Oregano, two flavors that we believe appeal to Japanese consumers interested in experimenting with foreign cuisines.”

Gaea was another double Silver Medal winner this year. Angelos Markou, Gaea’s Business Development Director, reports that his team is “very excited about winning these awards for Gaea Fresh and Gaea Vranas Estate” at Olive Japan. Even for one of the most awarded Greek export companies, which has won 87 awards, “it’s an honor to win awards in such a very distinguished olive oil competition,” awards “granted by an internationally recognized panel of jurors” with “the highest standards of integrity and professionalism” in a competition they consider “synonymous with excellence and fairness” and “the most quality oriented in the world.” 

Such standards are important to Gaea, since according to Markou Gaea does “not leave any room for compromise in our quality standards,” but rather pursues “excellence via innovation.” For example, the limited edition of Gaea Fresh represents a “top technological attainment,” with selected early harvest olives pressed within 3 hours of harvest and nitrogen added to all tanks and black bottles to seal in the freshness, aroma, spicy, fruity flavor, and nutrients while the oxygen, light, and heat that could spoil the oil’s quality and health benefits are excluded.

Thanks to Papa’s Grove and Olive Japan for the photos.


A complete list of the Greek winners at Olive Japan

(Information about all winners is available through the Olive Japan website.) 

Greek Gold and Silver Medal Winner at Olive Japan: Papa’s Grove

Gold Medal for Papa's Grove Extra Virgin Olive Oil Green Bottle

Silver Medal for Papa's Grove Extra Virgin Olive Oil Gold Bottle 

Greek Companies Winning Two Silver Medals at Olive Japan

Agro.Vi.M. S.A.     
Iliada Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil 500ml Marasqua Bottle
Olive Oil XV PDO Kalamata 12x500ml R.Tin Iliada

Estate Vranas Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Gaea Fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Hellenic Agricultural Enterprises
Acaia with Lemon and Oregano

Sparta Groves SPPCC
Sparta Groves Blood Orange Tin
Sparta Groves Evoo Early Harvest Hand Picked

Greek Companies Winning One Silver Medal at Olive Japan

Andriotis | Greek Olive Oil -- Kopos   

Dimitrios H. Papamichail -- Mana Cross Bio

Elawon -- Elawon Green Fresh   

Ennea -- Ennea Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil   

Greek Pony Farm -- Greek Pony Farm Organic Farming   

Hellenic Fields -- Ena Ena Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Wild Oregano   

Ladologic E.E. -- Alexandra's Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil    

Lia Cultivators     -- Lia Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil    

Makaria Terra    -- Makaria Terra   

Olympus Olive Oil -- Olympus Olive Oil   

Osis / Koropoulis G. & Sia E.E. -- Maleas   

Passalis Family -- Alexandros Olive Grove   

PJ Kabos -- PJ Kabos   

Rafteli - Protouli M & Co -- Aegean Gold
Sakellaropoulos Organic Farming -- Syllektikon EVOO with Orange, Lemon & Thyme   

Yanni's Olive Grove -- Yanni's Family   

Ziro Eleolado Sitias -- Ziro Eleolado Sitias   

Selected Past Events