olive flower buds, leaves, and branches

Hellenic Agricultural Enterprises (HAE) was founded in 2013 on the Aegean island of Lesvos, Greece’s third largest island. Wide expanses of olive groves cover nearly 80% of the island’s arable land. In fact, with eleven million olive trees on its terraced hills, Lesvos has the largest number of olive trees per capita in the world: 126 trees per person.

Turning to some of those trees, which were part of their family’s long legacy on the island, Ellie and Nicholas Tragakes decided that their olives deserved more credit for the wonderful oil they produced.

The Tragakes siblings rejected the common Greek practice of exporting olive oil in bulk to other countries where the oil loses its unique flavor as it becomes mixed with oils of diverse origins. They began to bottle and brand the historically famed olive oil of Lesvos by creating their flagship ACAIA brand of premium extra virgin olive oil. That was just the beginning of their effort to share high quality 100% Greek products with the world.

The Tragakes family has roots in the town of Plomari that go back many generations. The family’s age old interest in the olive tree is visible in the HAE logo, which presents their Byzantine era ancestral coat of arms: a dove perched upon the globe, with an olive branch in its beak. Olive oil production in Lesvos started much earlier, in the Bronze Age (3rd millennium B.C.).  

Combining tradition with novelty, Hellenic Agricultural Enterprises capitalized on its impressive initial success with ACAIA conventional and organic EVOOs by introducing new brands and a broader range of products from Lesvos. The company now offers extra virgin olive oil under three brand names — ACAIA, Aeolian Olive, and L&KO — as well as flavored olive oils and olive tapenades.

ACAIA, Aeolian Olive, and L&KO extra virgin olive oils come in a range of package designs and sizes, and they are all noteworthy for their delicate flavor. The premium ACAIA oil displays complex aromas of freshly cut grass and leaves, nuts, tropical fruits, apples, and herbs. Aeolian Olive provides excellent value at more competitive prices. L&KO is a premium organic extra virgin olive oil designed in collaboration with Japanese experts.

The secret of Lesvos oil is its native Kolovi olive, which grows almost exclusively on Lesvos, the only place where monovarietal Kolovi olive oil is made. Also known as Valanolia and Mytilinia (from Mytilene, the island’s capital city and its alternate name), this olive oil has been famous since ancient times for its naturally low bitterness and pungency. ACAIA’s extra virgin Kolovi olive oil has an unusually subtle flavor, with an excellent balance between fruitiness, bitterness, and pungency along with a very high antioxidant content that helps make it especially healthy.

All of HAE’s extra virgin olive oils are ideal for any culinary use, making them an excellent choice for consumers who are interested in the taste and health benefits of EVOO but not in the stronger flavors and bitterness often found in healthy oils made from other olive varieties. All of HAE’s olive oils will complement other flavors during cooking or baking rather than overwhelm them. 

The Kolovi olive tree that provides this balanced flavor grows mostly on hilly terrain rich in slate, up to an altitude of just under 2000 feet (600 meters). Well adapted to Lesvos’ limited rainfall, it forms a wide root system that enables the transfer of important nutrients from the soil to the olive fruit. HAE uses very limited amounts of fertilizers and pesticides even for conventionally grown fruit, resulting in olives that are more natural and nutritious. Certified organic versions of HAE’s extra virgin olive oils are available, but even the conventional version has shown none of the agrochemicals tested for during chemical analysis for organic certification.

workers loading jute bags full of olives onto a mule

As they grow on hillside and mountainous groves, many of the Kolovi olive trees on Lesvos have little or no road access and can be reached only by donkey or mule, or on foot. In the Plomari area in southern Lesvos (which is also famous for its ouzo), olives for HAE products are harvested just when they start to ripen. Small hand-held tools minimize the bruising of the fruit and allow for more careful attention to maturity, thereby improving olive oil quality. Harvested olives are carried in jute bags on donkey or mule back over terraced hills to the access roads, then taken to the mill for prompt oil extraction. The olive oil is carefully tested and stored in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with nitrogen injection to prevent oxidation.

The ACAIA, Aeolian Olive and L&KO extra virgin olive oil brands have all received quality awards in prestigious international olive oil tasting competitions, earning HAE medals on both sides of the Atlantic and the Pacific. Most impressively, HAE received a Premier Award in Japan (marking it as maker of one of the 12 best olive oils out of almost 500 in the competition), three Best of Greece Awards (in the Zurich, TerraOlivo and Athena competitions), Gold Awards at the New York and London competitions, and a Prestige Gold at TerraOlivo in Jerusalem. (See HAE’s Company Page for the complete list of their awards.) HAE is also HACCP and ISO 22000 certified and FDA registered.

In addition to unflavored olive oil, HAE offers extra virgin olive oils flavored with all-natural essential oils: ACAIA Grapefruit and Bergamot (perfect for salads), ACAIA Oregano (wonderful on feta cheese or grilled fish or meat), and the typically Mediterranean combination of ACAIA Lemon and Oregano (ideal for seafood). HAE also features green and black olive pastes.

Committed to maintaining “high standards of quality while upholding our core principles of top nutritional value, fair prices, and environmental sustainability,” according to Ellie Tragakes, Hellenic Agricultural Enterprises introduces the distinctive flavors and products that Lesvos has to offer. Now discerning, health-conscious consumers around the world can enjoy HAE’s growing range of products made from Kolovi olives and the natural goodness of Greece.