Kosterina olive oils, olives, fruit vinegar, and cookbook on a marble countertop

Katerina Mountanos grew up flying back and forth between the USA and Greece. In her grandparents’ small Greek village, the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle absorbed her. As a mother cooking in her American kitchen, she missed the fresh, healthy, authentic flavors of Greece. So she created Kosterina, a company that brings the goodness of Greece to Americans.

Her company’s name, “Kosterina,” is a combination of Katerina’s and her husband Kostas’s names, which they initially used as their wedding hashtag. “When I wanted to create a Mediterranean lifestyle brand that has family and Greek extra virgin olive oil at its core, it felt like the perfect name. Plus, I already owned the URL,” as Mountanos explained to Greek Liquid Gold.

Lifestyle and culture are important to the Kosterina team, especially the health and joy that “can be perfectly delivered through the Mediterranean lifestyle,” as Mountanos put it. She sees Americans “trying so hard to be healthy,” while in Greece her friends and family simply dance on the tables: “Greeks do it easily and enjoy life so much more.” Mountanos seeks to bring this effortless healthiness to the USA by importing the tastes and aromas of her parents’ homeland.

Founded in 2020, Kosterina offers extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), flavored olive oil, a variety of white balsamic and crushed fruit vinegars, pitted and dry-packed olives, a cookbook, gift sets, and even a series of olive oil based skin care products, for a unique combination of nutrition and beauty. “Olive oil is the perfect ingredient,” Mountanos asserts, “to tie all of that together, helping us deliver high-quality products” based on extra virgin olive oil.

Believing “everyone deserves fresh, high-quality ingredients they can trust,” as their website emphasizes, Kosterina aims to consistently offer outstanding extra virgin olive oil at accessible prices. Mountanos is determined to provide consumers with EVOO that has both an extra healthy “high polyphenol content and incredible taste – not so high phenolic it’s too bitter – to keep it culinary as well, for the perfect balance.”

a white bottle of olive oil being poured onto salad and a blue bottle of olive oil being poured into a frying pan

Kosterina’s “two hero olive oils” are their higher phenolic, robust early harvest Original in a white bottle, for finishing and dipping, and their less expensive, slightly later harvest, milder Everyday in a blue bottle, which is ideal for cooking, grilling, and baking.

“What does one cook with, if not with extra virgin olive oil?” Mountanos asked, reflecting on her family’s habits. “We used olive oil for literally everything: fresh fish, frying eggs and potatoes, a grilling marinade with olive oil and garlic, Greek burgers—simple, common Greek cuisine.” She continues to eat what she did as a girl, including olive oil-based vegetable stews and meat and chicken dishes.

Having taken an olive oil sommelier course in which she learned all about this liquid gold, including its health benefits, Mountanos wishes to dispel the myth that it is not safe to cook with olive oil. “The U.S. consumer has been told not to cook with olive oil because of a low smoke point, but if you have good quality olive oil, it has a high smoke point, and in any case we need to look at the level of free radicals emitted when heat is applied, not the smoke point.”

Like many scientists from various backgrounds, typical Greeks are fully aware that olive oil is the best fat for most cooking, as Mountanos learned from her parents and grandparents. Born in the USA, she spent all the summers and vacations of her childhood in Koroni, Messinia, in the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece. The village of Koroni is 45 minutes south of the more famous Kalamata (which is known for its table olives). However, Koroni has its own claim to fame as the namesake of the Greek olive variety most often used for the country’s olive oil, the Koroneiki variety.

“My grandparents have a small family farm where we make olive oil,” Mountanos explained, “and my entire life we’ve always brought olive oil back to the U.S. with us in large tins, getting stopped at customs. My mom worked for an airline, and we flew for free, so we went back four or five times a year, and I really fell in love with the lifestyle and cuisine.”

Her grandfather was a fisherman in Koroni, and her grandmother would fry his fresh fish in olive oil for their family. They would all stay in her grandparents’ rustic little village house, where her father grew up before moving to the US at age 12. As a child, Mountanos would ride a donkey or a tractor through the family’s olive groves with her cousins; now her children ride the tractor during their summer visits.

When she decided to establish Kosterina, Mountanos realized “our family farm doesn’t have enough olives for our company. So we did a tour of all the farms in Peloponnese who were harvesting early and measuring polyphenol content, searching for those with three key parameters: only Koroneiki variety olives, for a consistent taste year after year; only organic farming methods, never any pesticides, because health is important; and healthy polyphenol content over 500 for our white bottle and over 350 for the blue bottle.”

They found what they were looking for, so Kosterina is now available throughout the USA at Whole Foods, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, Food52, Crate and Barrel, Sprouts (starting with a 90-day test, and introducing new 500 ml tins), and Kosterina.com. Orders from the Kosterina website can be shipped anywhere in the U.S. Their goal, said Mountanos, is “to meet the customer where they are,” to make it easy to find superb Greek products. Free shipping for orders over $75 in the continental U.S. helps with that.

Mountanos suggests that many Americans’ first impression of Greek culture comes from casual Greek diners. She aspires to use the engaging aesthetics, health-conscious goals, energetic team, and exceptional products of Kosterina “to elevate Greece in the mind of the consumer,” raising the American view of her ancestral homeland to the level it deserves.

Thanks to Kosterina for the photos that appear with this article.

All businesses, organizations, and competitions involved with Greek olive oil, the Mediterranean diet, and/or agrotourism or food tourism in Greece, as well as others interested in supporting Greeks working in these sectors, are invited to consider the advertising and sponsorship opportunities on the Greek Liquid Gold: Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil website. The only wide-ranging English-language site focused on news and information from the Greek olive oil world, it has helped companies reach consumers in more than 220 countries around the globe.