Competition winners and judges standing together, with a few crouched down in front

The Cretan Olive Oil Competition (COOC) celebrated its 10th anniversary and the accomplishments of Cretan olive oil producers with an awards ceremony and informative seminars in Heraklion, Crete, Greece on March 31. Olive oil sector professionals and Cretan dignitaries honored the 43 extra virgin olive oils from Crete that received awards and commendations.

The COOC has taken place annually throughout the last decade, contributing to great improvement in Cretan olive oil over the years, according to competition coordinator Eleftheria Germanaki, Director of the Sensory Evaluation Laboratory of Crete and an international competition judge. Germanaki reported that Cretan olive oil has won so many top awards in recent international competitions that Crete has become the most awarded region in the world.

The internationally recognized olive oil expert Efi Christopoulou, leader of the COOC jury, has played a key role in the competition since its founding. In addition to working with the European Union and the International Olive Council, this Greek olive oil expert and chemist was one of the pioneers of the official organoleptic method for evaluating olive oil (judging it based on its aroma and flavor) starting in the early 1980s.

This year, 69 samples competed in the COOC, most of them Koroneiki variety olive oil. One gold, one silver, and one bronze award were presented in each of three categories: conventional production, organic production, and PDO/PGI. The nine judges from all four regional units of Crete and two foreign countries also awarded the best olive oil from each of the island’s regional units and presented commendation (honorable mention) certificates to olive oils scoring at least 80 out of 100 points.

During this celebration of the 10th year of the competition, Deputy Regional Governor for Agricultural Economy Stavros Tzedakis was pleased to see that the competition scores were “quite high, [even] in a difficult year for the production of Cretan Olive Oil.”

Terra Creta Grand Cru bottle and award certificate

The competition’s highest score, the Gold Elea (Olive Tree) prize for conventionally produced extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), and the Best of Chania award, went to Terra Creta Grand Cru Koroneiki. Terra Creta also received Kritiki Elea (Cretan Olive Tree) distinctions* for Terra Creta PDO Kolymvari EVOO and Terra Creta Organic EVOO. Emmanouil Karpadakis credits “clear goals, dedication, and the excellent coordination of our team, from the farmer to the miller and all other people involved,” for his company’s success. He added that awards motivate Terra Creta’s team to continue examining their EVOOs’ “organoleptic profile evolution in relation to consumer demand or acceptance,” always taking action to produce flavorful products that will please consumers.

Pamako award presentation

In the organic category, Pamako Premium Organic Monovarietal EVOO, a Tsounati olive oil, captured the Gold Elea prize. Eftychios Androulakis told Greek Liquid Gold this is “another important award in our list of many awards” and their 8th prize from the COOC in 9 years of participation. Androulakis revealed that what is most important to him is that Pamako’s repeated success shows “consistency” even in very “difficult harvest seasons.” He is proud “to create some of the most excellent organic EVOOs at our own olive mill, and happy that again this year we had more than 2000 mg of total phenols,” which means Pamako is an extra healthy olive oil that is very rich in antioxidants.

the Governor of Crete presenting an award to Tsouderos Ltd.

Honored with the Best of Rethymno award, Tsouderos Ltd. took home a Silver Elea prize for their organic Ladi Bio, plus two honorable mentions, one in each of the other categories. Vangelis Tsouderos explained that they participated in the COOC to highlight olive oil producers’ good work and spotlight “the quality of olive oil produced in our region, despite the difficulties we faced this year.” He views awards as “the reward for a series of correct actions--a chain of actions that starts from growing the trees” and proceeds through “harvesting, milling the fruit, storing and finally bottling the olive oil.” He suggests that prizes help consumers select “an olive oil recognized for its properties and organoleptic characteristics, so that it has only benefits in their diet.”

Award presentation for Physis of Crete

The Best of Lasithi award was claimed by Physis of Crete 0.2, which also won the Bronze Elea prize for conventionally produced EVOOs, while the company’s Korona Organic Farming received an honorary distinction. Manos Asmarianakis told Greek Liquid Gold Physis of Crete has won awards at the COOC every year since 2018, when they first entered the contest. Awards reflect the success of “systematic work throughout the year. Proper harvesting at the right time is necessary, and of course, the fundamental requirement is pressing the same day.” Asmarianakis believes awards validate their olive oil’s “consistent and superior quality year after year, instilling a sense of trust in consumers,” although “the primary criterion” is “the level of satisfaction at the consumer's table.”

Congratulating all the participating producers in his welcoming remarks at the awards ceremony, Governor of Crete Stavros Arnaoutakis commented on important progress in the Cretan olive oil sector in three areas: modernizing production methods, improving the quality of the product, and promoting it abroad. “In this room,” the Governor told the audience, “we share the common goal of promoting Cretan olive oil as a symbol of Cretan agricultural production, as a quality product, with standardization and certification” rather than bulk sales in which its identity is lost. The governor explained that the Region of Crete’s 2023 Strategic Plan for olive oil includes increasing the percentage of standardized olive oil and its exports, as well as connecting olive oil more closely with tourism and gastronomy.

COOC coordinator Germanaki mentioned some changes to the competition and awards ceremony in the last few years that relate to the similar goals of the competition:
•    inviting selected chefs and restaurant owners to join judges in tasting
samples (not to contribute to the EVOOs’ scoring, but to deepen gastronomy professionals’ knowledge of EVOO)
•    including experienced judges from abroad
•    offering a free “consultant service for all the participants of the competition at our sensory evaluation laboratory, to discuss their samples and give proper instruction for possible quality improvements”
•    adding presentations useful to producers to the awards ceremony

This year, organizers invited experts from several branches of the olive oil sector in Crete to discuss the following topics:
•    proposals for improvement of olive cultivation (Dr. Georgios Koubouris, researcher at the Institute of Olive Tree, Subtropical Crops and Viticulture and a scientific editor)
•    olive oil export and production issues in relation to modern knowledge and practices (Emmanouil Karpadakis, Vice President of the Cretan Exporters’ Association)
•    the presentation of branded olive oil in restaurants and hotels (Vasilis Leonidou, executive olive oil chef, and Fillipo Falugiani, Italian olive oil judge and olive oil restaurant organization president)

Thanking everyone involved in the event for their contributions, Iro Stavrakaki, the competition organizer on behalf of the Agronutritional Cooperation of Crete, emphasized that they try to make the competition better every year to “honor the olive oil producers as they deserve. The 11th Cretan Olive Oil Competition is on the way."



(the olive variety is Koroneiki, except in 3 cases, where noted)


Regional Unit – Brand Name – Company
Chania – Terra Creta Grand Cru Koroneiki – Melissa-Kikizas SA
Rethymno – Ladi Bio – Tsouderos Ltd.
Lasithi – Physis of Crete 0.2 – Physis of Crete
Heraklion – Eliama D.V. Premium – Elli’s Farm


Company Name – Brand Name – Regional Unit – Award
Melissa-Kikizas SA – Terra Creta Grand Cru Koroneiki – Chania – Gold    
Elli’s Farm – Eliama D.V. Premium – Heraklion – Silver
Physis of Crete – Physis of Crete 0.2 – Lasithi – Bronze


Company Name – Brand Name – Regional Unit – Award
Melissa-Kikizas SA – Terra Creta PDO Kolymvari EVOO – Chania – Kritiki Elea (Cretan Olive Tree) distinction*
Michelakis, J., SA – Kolympari SA Mihelakis Family PDO Kolymvari – Chania – Gold
Astrinakis C. Georgios – Astrinakis Family – Heraklion – Silver   
El. Renieris & Co. – Renieris Estate PGI Chania – Chania – Bronze 


Company Name – Brand Name – Regional Unit – Award – Olive Variety
Androulakis Eftychios Olive Oil Bottling LLC – Pamako Premium Organic Monovarietal – Chania – Gold – Tsounati    
Melissa-Kikizas SA – Terra Creta Organic EVOO – Chania – Kritiki Elea (Cretan Olive Tree) Distinction* – Koroneiki
Michelakis, J., SA – Phenoil – Chania – Kritiki Elea (Cretan Olive Tree) Distinction* – Tsounati
Tsouderos Ltd. – Ladi Bio – Rethymno – Silver – Koroneiki
Critida - Bio Cretan Olive Oil – Bio Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Heraklion – Bronze – Koroneiki   



Company Name – Brand Name
Akalli EVOO – Akalli Gold (Chondrolia variety)
Psarakis' Harvest – Superior EVOO Dias
Nikos Klados – Klados Family   
Tsouderos Ltd. – Elaiolado Extra Ladi
Nasiakou Stephania – Tsimitakis Estate   
Kydonakis Bros. – Sillogi
Akalli EVOO –    Akalli Premium   
Yiannarakis Olive Estate – Elea Rokka
Alexakis Nikolaos – Minoiko
Agricultural Cooperative of Kritsa – Kritsa
Creta Eleon SA – Creta Eleon EVOO
Tsimpimpakis Olive Breeze – Olive Breeze
Tzortakakis I. Georgios Single Member PC, Tzortakakis Kritiki Elaiourgia – Orama Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Oikogeneia Kalphaki – Oikogeneia Kalphaki
Olivartia – Olivartia Koroneiko


Company Name – Brand Name
Tsouderos Ltd. – Elaiolado Extra Ladi
El. Renieris & Co. – Minos PGI Chania
Agricultural Cooperative of Kritsa – Kritsa   
Creta Eleon SA – Creta Eleon PDO Kolymvari Chanion Kritis   
Critida - Bio Cretan Olive Oil – PDO Messara Extra Virgin Olive Oil   
Kydonakis Bros. – Oleum Crete PDO Messara EVOO   
Creta Eleon SA – Creta Eleon PGI Chania Kritis   
Agricultural Cooperative of Zakros – Adelphos   
Kreta Food Ltd. – Entelia  


Company Name – Brand Name
Physis of Crete – Korona Organic Farming
Tzortakakis I. Georgios Single Member PC, Tzortakakis Kritiki Elaiourgia – Orama Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Galanaki Charikleia Tou Adamantiou – Gortys Extra Virgin Olive Oil   
Maria Sgourou – Skoutari   
Kavalaria Estate Saridakis Georgios – Pathos Extra Virgin Olive Oil   
Olea Homeopathica – Olea Homeopathica "Theodosia"
Zero One Olive Oil Kalligiannis Family – Zero One Very Low Acidity

*In order to recognize as many companies as possible with a limited number of first, second and third place prizes, two companies with EVOOs that deserved more than one of the top three awards received the “Kritiki Elea” (“Cretan Olive Tree”) distinction in place of a second or third gold, silver, or bronze award.

Thanks to the COOC organizers for the photos of people that appear with this article, and to Terra Creta for the photo of their product and certificate.

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