“The idea was to present an easy way to prepare teas, without a strainer, so we settled on a simple, do-it-yourself process that allows the herbs’ qualities to shine,” say Afrodite Florou and Yanna Matthaiou about the kit (a specially designed tea bag with a wooden stick that can be suspended in your cup) that comes in their company’s herbal tea packages.
Founded in 2013, Anassa Organics produces teas made of whole leaves of ironwort (mountain tea), chamomile, lemon verbena, mint and sage, sourced from a network of associated farmers on the mountains of Olympus and Taygetus and in Kozani, Agrafa, Evrytania and Epirus. These are packed as soon as they’ve finished drying (retaining all of their aromas and beneficial properties) in attractive tin boxes that protect them from further exposure to light and air.
Other than single-herb teas, Anassa also offers a series of blends, such as Pure Defense with ironwort, dog-rose, Cretan dittany and pennyroyal for protecting the body against winter colds, or Pure Youth, an antioxidant and anti-aging beverage based on ironwort, rockrose and rosemary.
The company works with Athens University’s Pharmacy Department in analyzing herbs and their properties. Its products are also available in the UK, France, Belgium, Austria, Korea and Dubai, among other countries.
Back when she was a university student in Bologna, Italy, Evangelia Koutsovoulou would cook for her friends using the oregano from Mt Oiti in central Greece, that was sent by her parents. Soon, she was bringing bags of the herb back from every trip to Greece to give to her enthusiastic friends. “Their interest compelled me to ask another friend, an agriculturalist here in Greece, to teach me more about the characteristics of Greek herbs, which are superior to the stuff typically found on supermarket shelves around the world,” she explains.
In 2013, she started sourcing herbs on the basis of their terroir, much as is the case with wine. “Assyrtiko from Santorini is wildly different to that cultivated in northern Greece. The same is true with oregano, though not many people seem to have thought of that,” she says. Four years on, her company Daphnis and Chloe sells 24 different herbs, the most popular of which are oregano and bay leaves from Mt Taygetus, mint from Samos and sage and wild thyme flowers from the Peloponnese.
All of the products are from farms in particular areas and some are from farmers who work exclusively with D&C. Other than herbs for cooking, the company also produces teas, like the Office Blend, a bestseller that came about by chance. “One of the girls on the team was making me a cup of tea with whatever she could find lying around: mountain tea, thyme, rose hips and peppermint. It was delicious, so we decided to keep it.”
If you’re in downtown Athens, stop by the shop near the Acropolis (19 Erechthiou), or get in touch beforehand ([email protected]) to arrange a mini-tasting session.
Friends since their schooldays, Yota Pavlaki, Sophia Stathatou and Eleni Vafiadi were enjoying successful careers in marketing, advertising, research and botany when they decided in late 2013 to create a product line that would marry tradition with innovation. With help from a master tea blender, they launched a line of five herbal infusions, using 24 herbs and flowers such as hibiscus, jasmine and rose.
The blends – Energy, Relax, Detox, Harmony, Light and Lean – are made from cocktails of Greek herbs like Cretan dittany, sage, mountain tea, lemon verbena, lime flowers, chamomile and pennyroyal, most of them harvested by hand in the wild. They are available in pyramid-shaped tea bags in attractive, colorful packages at selected stores. The company also sells a limited quantity in the US and the rest of Europe.
Even though saffron has been cultivated in the area around the northern Greek village of Krokos for more than three centuries, research into its multiple beneficial properties did not start in earnest until 25 years ago, as scientists sought a cure for thrombosis. Until then, Kozani saffron was mostly used in cooking for its discreet aroma and distinguished flavor, and as an additive in the local tsipouro to give the spirit a rich golden color and a more complex bouquet.
To really appreciate this fine product, you should visit the fields when they’re in bloom in October – truly a sight to behold. Everything about saffron is labor-intensive: from its cultivation to the collection of the golden stigmas, which is done by hand. Requiring 150,000 flowers to produce one kilogram of saffron, it’s hardly surprising that it is known as “the gold that grows in Greece.”
Kozani’s saffron has received protected designation of origin (PDO) status and it is used by Krocus Kozanis – a partnership between the local saffron cooperative and the Korres cosmetics company – to produce nine fine beverages, available in organic and conventional versions. Blended with mint and lemongrass, cinnamon and cloves, green tea, ginger and liquorice, or rosemary and thyme, the saffron gives us a wonderful tea that is packed with goodness.