Terra Creta's mill in its natural landscape, surrounded by olive groves, hills, and sky

Kyriakos Makratzis traveled the world as a ship captain for fifteen years. He took a break each autumn to help with the olive harvest on his family’s farm in Kontomari, Platanias, Crete, since the olives seemed to call to him across the seas. Then, after his first son was born, he gave up his seafaring and his respected position to return to his roots.

Back on the farm now, Makratzis uses top of the line portable electric harvesters to gently dislodge the olives without damaging the trees or the fruit. He collects his olives in the ventilated plastic boxes resembling old-time milk crates that are preferable to the traditional burlap bags, because the crates protect the olives from being crushed or getting too hot on the way to the mill, resulting in higher quality oil.
Interested in producing the best possible product, Makratzis is a member of a new team of farmers who work with early harvest olives alongside a scientific advisor affiliated with the nearby bottling and export company, Terra Creta. The goal is to improve on traditional methods with new techniques to produce larger quantities of high quality, extra healthy early harvest olive oil.

Every afternoon during the harvest, all the olives that have been collected are taken to Terra Creta’s mill right away, since prompt extraction is essential for the best quality oil. Makratzis’s olives provide internationally award-winning extra virgin olive oil, so they can roam the world while he stays on his own dry farmland.

While many young villagers head to cities in search of easier lives, Makratzis insists, “I’m very proud of what I’m doing. I was a captain, and I left the vessel to come here and collect the olives.” He “visited all the world—Borneo, New Zealand, Alaska, Vancouver, Indonesia, Japan, Russia—everywhere.” Yet “I feel like I never left.” He considers Crete “the best place in the world,” with its mild fall and winter, and he credits the Cretan climate and soil with some of the world’s best produce.

Terra Creta’s Emmanouil Karpadakis, Exports Department / Marketing Manager, considers Kyriakos Makratzis “one of our dynamic farmers with the vision and motivation” to achieve the highest possible quality and health benefits through a more “professional approach to olive tree cultivation and olive oil, under our scientific support.” Terra Creta’s 22 awards at international olive oil competitions demonstrate the success of their efforts to produce the highest quality, best tasting extra virgin olive oil.

And they don’t stop at that. The first company in the world to develop and launch an online traceability system for its olive oil, according to Karpadakis, Terra Creta has impressed users as far away as Connecticut. Forget about scandals in the olive oil world: with Terra Creta’s olive oil, consumers have been able to see what they’re getting and where it comes from since 2006.

As Kevin Coupe reported in 2008, Terra Creta’s olive oil is “utterly, completely transparent.” Consumers can use numeric codes to learn the date of production and expiration, the olive grove area and elevation, and the chemical and organoleptic analysis. Most fascinating to me, we “can even see a map of the specific field where the olive oil came from.” Try it with a recent Early Harvest bottle’s number, 31525, and you can see a Google Maps view of some of the olive groves that produced my bottle of oil.

Founded by two Cretans who aimed to export top quality Cretan olive oil, Terra Creta is located in the Kolymvari region, the heart of high quality olive oil production in the western part of the island of Crete. Cooperating with more than 1200 farmers, they use a vertical production method, controlling everything from the farming of Koroneiki olives to extraction and bottling in their facilities in the certified Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) region of Kolymvari.

Today they export 97% of their products to more than 42 countries. All Terra Creta’s products and procedures are multi-certified by HACCP, IFS (higher level), ISO 22000/2005, ISO 9001:2008, KOSHER, ECOCERT, USDA/NOP, and KRAV, as well as being assigned the EL-40-027 code by the European Union for the production of Cretan Olive Oil. These certifications indicate Terra Creta’s compliance with international standards for food quality, safety, and healthy attributes.

Dedicated to building tailor-made and long-term cooperation, the company has extensive experience supporting large retailers from different countries. Terra Creta ensures the high quality of all their products through lab analysis, organoleptic evaluation, a focus on healthy elements (polyphenols and vitamins), and an emphasis on safety (freedom from contaminants and pesticides). 

Visitors to Crete can sign up online for Terra Creta’s complete olive oil experience, including a tour of their facilities. They can learn how olives are harvested and how each batch is analyzed in Terra Creta’s unique laboratory for classification and barcoding; they can see the machines that produce olive oil and hear about the production process. After their tour, guests can sample a few of Terra Creta’s olive oils in a guided tasting. And the tour is not only for tourists; every year, hundreds of Cretan schoolchildren, teachers, and parents visit the olive mill to learn about one of the island’s most important products, so local visitors can stay in touch with their region’s heritage as Kyriakos Makratzis did.

This year, Terra Creta has begun to take their educational endeavors one step farther, inviting renowned organoleptic judge Eleftheria Germanaki to take a break from her trips to competitions in the USA, Italy, and Israel to lead tasting seminars for visitors in Crete. In the Cretan Olive Oil tasting PRO seminar, Germanaki teaches participants to distinguish between the rich fruity aroma, characteristic peppery flavor, and very low acidity of Terra Creta Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil "PDO Kolymvari," and the enticing flavors of warm butter with hints of black pepper in Terra Creta Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, among many other examples of the varied flavors of olive oils from Crete and other parts of Greece.


Photo of Kyriakos Makratzis, his son, and his dog by Lisa Radinovsky