Celebrating Five Generations of Sustainable Spartan Farming

Nikkitas, is a Greek family business that spans five generations in Sparta. Producing truly exceptional extra virgin olive oil, honey, and olives- the sustainable company has a deep and utter respect for ancestral harvesting methods. 

Looking after their olive groves and beekeeping for hundreds of years, each family member has played a pivotal role in protecting the authenticity of the production- through both dedication and craftsmanship. 

Insights Greece - Celebrating Five Generations of Sustainable Spartan Farming
Nikkitas’ family olive grove

Set in a landscape of archaeological wealth and historical heritage, the lush family grove sits among the ruins of Ancient Sparta, at the foot of Mount Taygetos. Flanked by the Eurotas river and a stone away from heroic warrior King Leonidas’ tomb, it’s also close by to the Unesco World Heritage fortified town of Mystras.

Dedicated to producing the finest products and just as committed to taking care of the resources and its local community- Nikkitas’ main priority is to balance traditional techniques with modern quality controls, which allows them to create olive oil and honey that can be enjoyed and appreciated by people worldwide. Their liquid gold is produced entirely in Sparta in the family-owned groves; where in less than 24 hours, the handpicked olives are pressed and bottled, retaining all the fruits’ nutrients and producing an exceptional polyphenol-rich golden-green Extra Virgin Olive Oil- unique to these lands. Nikkitas’ antioxidant honey is pure, unheated, and unpasteurised; pine, thyme, flowers, and conifers honey deliver wonderful and complex tastes and are the fruits of nomadic beekeeping- using traditional methods, artisanal love, and care on carefully chosen fields.

The range of family-made products combines luxury and transparency bringing quality olive oil, heavenly pine honey, and glossy Kalamata olives into homes around the world. 

IN+SIGHTS GREECE recently spoke with Christina, who has helped turn her family’s love of farming into a successful Greek family business. 

How did it all come about?

Three years ago, in London, in a starred-restaurant, the chef mentioned he wanted me to try olive oil he had just found from Spain and I cheekily told him that my family produces a great extra virgin olive oil. He was curious and asked me to come back the next day so he could try it. When I came back he was there with a professional buyer – they tried my EVOO, olives, and honey and loved it all. They advised me to create nice packaging for my products. Until then, we had never thought of selling our products. They were always purely for friends and family’s consumption. And that’s how it all began. 

Tell us about your family’s Spartan olive grove?

As a child, I used to spend three months in Sparta during summer, at my grandparents’ house. I remember the stark, ‘Spartan’ ways and silence of my grandparents’ home. I did not speak good Greek at the time and language was a clear barrier between us. I spent my days cycling in the garden, running after the chickens and amongst olive trees. Eventually, when I grew bored, I used to peek into the semi-dark kitchen backroom where my grandmother used to stand for hours, preparing food and marinating olives. The overpowering smell of olive oil and olives was intoxicating, inebriating… my Yiayia would stay in that room until it was lunchtime when she would call us all to sit. The sight of the kitchen table was unbelievable: covered with Greek delicacies, homemade delectable foods were bringing us all together and there and then, something magical happened: a flow of conversations, sounds, smells, tastes would submerge our home, in striking contrast to the rest of my day.

For me, Nikkitas is my strong connection to my roots, it symbolises the deep bond I could make as a child in a ‘Spartan’ austere upbringing, when for a brief moment in time, but forever in my memories, my home would be alive- surrounded by the most amazing smells and tastes- complete awakening of my senses. 

How important is sustainable farming to you?

Our family produces olive oil, olives, and honey, the traditional way- respectful of our great grandparents. Traditional care, pruning, composting, and no usage of machines enable a considerable increase in soil organic matter, which improves not only our olive groves’ soil fertility but also our trees’ health. This emphasizes the potential of our olive trees for mitigating climate change by storing carbon in the soil and in the tree biomass.  Our olive by-product is either used to feed goats, sheep and cows, or for energy generation and fertilization (with 80% used for composting and 20% in direct field application).

Our glass bottles and jars are responsibly sourced from raw materials and are infinitely recyclable. And we are proud to use 100% recyclable packaging. We are also supporting our local community of very small artisan producers, from whom we gather the fruits of hundreds of tiny neighbouring kindred family groves and fields, all applying the same respect for traditional ways in the fertile and wildlands of Sparta. 

We have also partnered with Desmos, a non-profit foundation, to support local schools in Sparta by providing educational equipment and supplies.

What makes your products so unique?

– Passionate craftsmen: we dedicate our skills to working our lands by hand. Many of our olive groves are in small, inaccessible orchards, so the olives are hand-picked, pressed and bottled on site in less than 24 hours, ensuring we keep the whole fruit’s nutrients.

– Transparency: our mill and factory are equipped with in-house chemical laboratories performing regular quality control analysis. Our cultivation, harvest, pressing, bottling, packaging and quality control all take place onsite.

– Unique extra virgin olive oil: we harvest and blend three exceptional varieties of polyphenol-rich olives in equal proportion: Koroneiki, Athinolia, and Koutsourolia. This balance is unique to our lands (as Athinolia can only be found on our lands and has an extremely high level of polyphenols) and results in highly antioxidant olives charged in polyphenols and healthy golden-green first cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, with a mildly piquant taste, full of texture and long-lasting aftertaste.

– Unique honey: every harvest depends on the quality of the ecosystem that surrounds it; wild forests and ecosystems are our home. We are nomad beekeepers looking for ideal conditions for our bees, and how far they travel to their food source. The natural properties of our real honey are impressive: antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-booster.

Where are your products stocked and do you ship internationally?

At the moment Nikkitas delivers to the UK, in 24/48hours, from our e-shop nikkitas.com.

We are also stocked in Hedonism Wines in Mayfair hedonism.co.uk, Panzers in St John’s Wood panzers.co.uk, Jaks, and Zefi in Knightsbridge/Chelsea jakslondon.com.

Nikkitas is also looking to broaden the range of olives and honey varieties, so stay tuned. 

The Woman Behind Oleosophia, Greece’s Award Winning Olive Oil

Marianna Devetzoglou is an Olive Oil Sommelier and the founder of OLEOSOPHIA, a family business that produces mono-varietal Extra Virgin Olive Oil of the Manaki variety – a rare variety cultivated in only two areas of Greece. 

Marianna organises olive oil tours, olive oil tastings, workshops and seminars to share her knowledge of high quality olive oil; as the core of a healthy, Mediterranean based diet. 

When asked why she pursued a career in the olive oil industry, the answer was straightforward: “Getting to know more about olive oil was a life changing experience for me, one that revealed the beauty of a natural product that holds within it a long history, tradition and of course, science! That multisided mystery spoke to me and it clicked. Having a scientific background and an entrepreneurial spirit, it was clear that I needed to make the most of my abilities and then build some more in order to create the value-added cluster I had in mind.”

Marianna studied Physics at the University of Athens and completed her postgraduate studies in London, before working in the industry and in EU research projects. However, she always felt the need to create something of her own and give back to her community. Despite being a city girl, she came to know olive oil through her husband, George, and it was an instant love! She appreciated the aromas and flavours of this natural product and understood the need for consumer and professional education alike. Pursuing in-depth knowledge, she became a certified Olive Oil Sommelier after completing her studies in London with the Olive Oil Insights Greece - The Woman Behind Oleosophia, Greece's Award Winning Olive OilTimes Education Lab and the International Culinary Centre of New York. She returned home with a mission: to share the Manaki variety with the world and to guide people towards a healthier lifestyle through the consumption of extra virgin olive oil. 

Through OLEOSOPHIA, Marianna aims to make the family’s variety of Manaki Extra Virgin Olive Oil known across the globe, educate consumers about authentic extra virgin olive oil, its health benefits, the history behind it and of course, communicate the complexity of producing high quality extra virgin olive oil and its contribution to local communities. 

In addition to being a producer, Marianna is an educator of olive oil and conducts olive oilInsights Greece - The Woman Behind Oleosophia, Greece's Award Winning Olive Oil tasting sessions, olive oil tours, farm to table workshops and olive oil communication to professional buyers and sales teams to help them better understand how to identify the positive attributes and defects of olive oil, as well as how to select, store and promote their olive oils.

Being in contact with both professional retailers and consumers, she knows how to explain olive oil in a simple, informative and interesting manner without the jargon. But the road is not paved with roses! As an entrepreneur, a producer and a woman, a number of challenges arise. “I enjoy every minute of being a business woman, despite the difficulties that pop up here and there. I love the fact that there are Insights Greece - The Woman Behind Oleosophia, Greece's Award Winning Olive Oilno limits to creativity, so long as you want to grow and generate value not just for yourself, but for your community and your environment. I see entrepreneurship as a multidimensional activity. It pushes you to evolve, to become better, to do better.”

Outside work hours, Marianna is involved in activities that promote women in entrepreneurship and the development of value-added projects in Greece and abroad. She aims to encourage more women to take up leadership roles and pursue their passion. After all, the way she sees it, “creating your own business is more about creating your own lifestyle and that, for me, is quality of life”.

Young Couple’s Traditional Olive Oil Named One of Healthiest in the World

OLEOSOPHIA is the result of a love story between a young Greek couple who turned the Ancient Greek tradition of olive harvesting into a modern family business that is being widely recognised and praised as one of the best and healthiest in the world. 

Launched in 2018 in the village of Kalentzi, by Marianna Devetzoglou and Aris Magginas, this Corinthian extra virgin olive oil is rich in antioxidants and was recently awarded for its wellbeing content by the World Olive Centre for Health.

Insights Greece - Young Couple's Traditional Olive Oil Named One of Healthiest in the World

Ensuring consistency in quality, flavour, and aroma, OLEOSOPHIA is a limited edition product as the quantities depend on each year’s yield.

The brand’s vision is to promote the philosophy of extra virgin olive oil while sharing the values and ethos of their land. With a mission to inspire people to add this unique and healthy liquid gold into their everyday life- the small and talented team consists of young individuals of different backgrounds who love their country and its produce.

We recently had a chat with co-founder and Olive Oil Sommelier Marianna Devetzoglou about her family business, which is growing rapidly by the day.

Tell us about your olive oil brand. How did it all begin? 

It all started when my husband George and I met – two people from different backgrounds who fell in love. We used to attend events and walk together through the olive trees, discussing ideas and future plans. OLEOSOPHIA started shortly after our love story blossomed with the aim of communicating our ethos, our values, and our vision to
the world. OLEOSOPHIA represents the wisdom of olive oil, the unification of two families, and their traditions. We are happy to share this love for extra virgin olive oil with people, exchange ideas, and form solid partnerships around the world.

Insights Greece - Young Couple's Traditional Olive Oil Named One of Healthiest in the World

Tell us more about your upbringing and how that helped you launch OLEOSOPHIA?

George and I grew up in very different families. George comes from an agricultural family in the village of Kalentzi, Peloponnese, whose activities involved cultivating olive trees, table grapes, and apricots. He then studied IT at the Polytechnic University and got an MBA degree, before setting out on his IT career while helping his family. I, on the other hand, was born and raised in Athens, away from nature and in an urban family. I studied Physics and Materials Science in Athens and London before coming back to Greece. When we met, we enjoyed long hours of talking about new ventures, while our romance grew. Despite the different backgrounds, we shared the same passion – sharing our dreams and values with people, contributing to life changing experiences. There, under the olive trees, OLEOSOPHIA was born as a manifestation of our common passion: to create a point of reference where people can learn, enjoy, participate and get to know the local culture, the local olive variety, build a health-oriented mentality, experience artisan products and create long-lasting friendships.

What is the history behind your olive grove in Corinth?

My in-laws family live in the village of Kalentzi, which is located at the base of Mt. Fokas (in the Corinthian area), the mountain where the Lion of Nemea was born, according to legend. For three generations, the family has been cultivating olive trees, table grapes, and apricots. 

Insights Greece - Young Couple's Traditional Olive Oil Named One of Healthiest in the World

Blessed with a strategically mild microclimate and fertile land, the area offers a variety of products with excellent quality and authentic taste. OLEOSOPHIA is our family’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil, produced by handpicked olives from our family grove, ensuring consistency in quality, flavour, and aroma. This tradition and experience has been passed on from generation to generation and is an integral part of our identity. Now, the new generation, young brothers and sisters have spread their wings, built their education in different sectors – chemistry, physics, and engineering, and have returned to their roots to build a new era for the family – with ethos, persistence, honesty, and integrity. Our olive grove is our sacred family heirloom, where we work hard to produce our awarded monovarietal extra virgin olive oil of the Manaki variety. It is also open to visitors to learn, explore, share and experience the magic of olive oil through olive grove tours and olive oil tasting events under the trees.

Tell us about your varieties?  

In our olive grove of approximately 4,000 olive trees, we cultivate and produce monovarietal, first harvest Manaki Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which is health claim certified and represents our local variety, with a well-balanced, smooth sensory profile whilst we also produce Manaki/Megariti extra virgin olive oil variety combined with a playful twist. As olive oil production has been running in the family for more than three generations, we have improved and optimised our agricultural practices in order to achieve higher quality and showcase the beautiful variety of Manaki. We bottle in luxury bottles of 500mL and 250mL which are ideal for everyday use as well as for corporate or personal gifts.

What do you think makes your business so successful?  

Insights Greece - Young Couple's Traditional Olive Oil Named One of Healthiest in the World

We are a team of young people with different backgrounds and this is what makes us so strong. The team consists of Aris, Marianna, and Myrto. Aris is responsible for the cultivation. He is very knowledgeable, takes great care of the trees, and makes sure to keep them healthy and happy in order for them to give us their best fruit every year. I am the Olive Oil Sommelier, responsible for networking, PR, exports/sales, and of course, our olive oil tours and olive oil tasting events. I’m very active through education seminars to both consumers and professionals, while being the contact point between the family and our partners. Myrto is our Quality Advisor – coming from a chemistry background, she is the go-to person for all the necessary, quality-related processes, organisation advice, and science. The three of us complement each other, each building on each other’s strengths and weaknesses, creating a productive, well-balanced result.

What makes Greek olive oil so healthy? 

Extra Virgin Olive Oil – the highest grade of olive oil – is the healthiest one can possibly consume, rich in healthy fats and antioxidants that have demonstrated to contribute against a number of changes our body undergoes. Moreover, it is a natural juice that comes directly from the pressing of the olive fruit. Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil, in particular, is healthy and rich in different sensory profiles because of the many different olive varieties found in Greece. As a result, the consumer can enjoy all the health benefits and experience authentic flavours that depict the local microclimate and flora of each region.

What makes your olive oil so unique?

Insights Greece - Young Couple's Traditional Olive Oil Named One of Healthiest in the World

A number of reasons make OLEOSOPHIA special. The Manaki variety that we cultivate in our family olive grove is a sensitive variety that is mainly used for the production of high quality, high-end extra virgin olive oil. The variety is found only in two areas in Greece and is not cultivated in other countries, making the experience of OLEOSOPHIA an authentic one, one you may explore when travelling in our region. Moreover, OLEOSOPHIA monovarietal extra virgin olive oil holds a Health Claim certificate for its phenolic content – this means that consumers may use OLEOSOPHIA as a health supplement, not just as a tasty ingredient in their everyday cooking. Both, our monovarietal and our varietal combinations have been awarded a GREAT TASTE AWARDS 2020, one of the most prestigious food competitions globally. Finally, OLEOSOPHIA is not just a product – partners and consumers can enjoy this unique variety, participate in our online workshops and also, visit our olive grove to experience olive oil tours, olive oil tasting, and food pairing guided by our Olive Oil Sommelier. Our vision is to create a community of Oleosophers and let people enjoy it, learn about our ethos and olive oil culture, and become part of our family.

Tell us about your awards and accolades?

Our family is constantly working hard to ensure high-quality extra virgin olive oil in order to enjoy the health benefits and unique flavour of our Manaki variety. Our hard work has been rewarded with an OLYMPIA AWARD 2020 for OLEOSOPHIA’s Monovarietal Manaki Health Claim and phenolic content while we have also won our GREAT TASTE AWARD 2020 for both our monovarietal and our variety combination with very positive comments by the judges.

Where is your oil stocked and do you ship internationally?

Insights Greece - Young Couple's Traditional Olive Oil Named One of Healthiest in the World

In our village, Kalentzi, and near our olive grove, we stock our olive oil in stainless steel containers, in dark, cool places as per the appropriate specifications of olive oil maintenance. Internationally, we have been working with a number of high-end, fine food shops globally that address a demanding audience that seeks healthy, authentic, and original products. Our partners are located in the EU (France, Germany, Switzerland, Greece, Sweden), USA, and Australia while we keep growing our network through product collaborations, article contributions, olive oil tasting events, and training workshops.

Are you working on any new projects and what is your long-term vision?

Every year we work hard to improve our products and our methods, simultaneously improving ourselves with respect to our land and its value. We continue working on our
product range that will eventually include not only extra virgin olive oil but also olive oil-based cosmetics, herbs, and table olives. Our vision is to communicate our philosophy of life and of extra virgin olive oil while sharing the values and ethos of our land and family. We aim to become a reference point for excellent quality manaki extra virgin olive oil, olive oil tastings and tours, education workshops and to make our local variety known across our network of partners and community of Oleosophers.

You also offer olive oil tours.  

Yes. Seeking to communicate our family values and mentality, we host olive oil tours and tasting sessions in our olive grove as part of the OLEOSOPHIA experience. Visitors have the opportunity to walk through the olive grove, learn about the olive trees and the manaki variety specifically, and explore the authentic flavour by experiencing olive oil tasting sessions under the olive trees. We book small groups to ensure a better experience and guide them through the lifecycle of olive oil. We discuss with them the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil, its role in the Mediterranean Diet, ways to make it part of their daily gastronomy, and why it is more of health investment, rather than simply a tasty ingredient. Moreover, visitors can learn which are the positive attributes of extra virgin olive oil, which are the defects, and how to identify them when seeking to purchase olive oil for their friends and family. This is a unique experience, one that enables people to explore new flavours and aromas, live a local, authentic experience and way of life, participate in the evaluation of olive oil and learn how to make well-informed decisions about their health. The tours run all year round, based on bookings, and with a special emphasis in the spring-summer season. We are always happy to welcome visitors, get to know them, educate them, share our values, and make long-lasting friendships with people from around the world and from different backgrounds.


Why Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the Healthiest Oil Worldwide

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). We know it. We eat it daily. And we love it. But why is it so good for us? 

By Marianna Devetzoglou

EVOO plays an integral role in our daily diet – the famous Mediterranean Diet, which was once again voted as the world’s healthiest diet for the year 2020. And at the heart of it, is the almighty EVOO. Although there are several olive oil grades, EVOO is the one we should always prefer, due to its strong health benefits and gastronomical profile.

What makes EVOO so different from other oils? A number of characteristics actually!

To begin with, contrary to other oils, olive oil is a natural juice which means it comes directly from the olive fruit. There is no chemical or industrial processing taking place. It is produced from the crushing of the olives at the olive mill, much like orange is squeezed to produce orange juice. This, in itself, makes it a very healthy food to consume, as we enjoy the bioactive compounds in their natural raw form.

Moreover, EVOO is one of the best sources of unsaturated fatty acids, and antioxidants such as polyphenols, a-tocopherol, carotenoids etc. has the ability to deliver important health benefits to various health aspects. On the area of cardiovascular health, its high content in monounsaturated fatty acids in combination with the antioxidants, decrease the risk of arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, high blood pressure and coronary heart disease. Insights Greece - Why Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the Healthiest Oil WorldwideThe strong antioxidant properties of olive oil constituents contribute positively to the body’s ability to resist oxidative stress, combat inflammation and promotes a healthier neurological and cellular function. Epidemiological studies show encouraging results in that olive oil consumption, as part of the Mediterranean diet, can help manage diabetes type 2 and reduces the risk of cancer, as well as cognitive and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

The health benefits of EVOO are accumulative, making the consumption of EVOO a lifelong, health investment and not a one-off medicine. So, it’s important to consume EVOO on a daily basis. And how easy is that? It is easier than most think!

EVOO is best consumed raw in salads but is also a good option to cook with and fry in Insights Greece - Why Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the Healthiest Oil Worldwidebecause it is more stable in high temperatures than other frying oils. To increase daily consumption, EVOO can be added in raw salads, boiled or roasted vegetables, in pasta once it’s ready, and, of course, in baking- to replace butter.

There are many different varieties of EVOO, depending on the olive trees, and the EVOOs that are produced can be delicate, mild or robust. Each variety gives a different profile – delicate aromas or robust pungency, mild bitterness or intense fruitiness. There are basically two distinct ways to pair olive oil with food:  complementary and contrasting. In complementary flavours, two similar ingredients are blended, without overpowering primary flavours, such as fish, mushrooms, seafood paste and baking. In contrasting flavours, each ingredient is tasted separately, so adding a robust EVOO can add some interest. You can easily use a robust EVOO in barbeque meat, a mild EVOO in pasta, and a delicate EVOO in baking as a butter replacement.

Food pairing and the gastronomic combinations are endless with such a unique and versatile product and exploring the different varieties of olive oil, flavours, aromas and intensities open up a new world of possibilities in creativity and culinary activities, all without compromising on your health! So, cheers to EVOO!

Marianna Devetzoglou
Insights Greece - Why Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the Healthiest Oil Worldwide

Olive Oil Sommelier



FB/IG: @oleosophia