Pressing Olive Oil The Old Fashioned Way at Zafiro Experience

So here we are, a sweet reunion with all the TGS students once again. Two weeks ago, we started off our Greece trimester in Athens at a really cool place called “The Zafiro Experience.” We werehigh atop a hill where we could see about 75% of Athens. The view was spectacular. The sun rays peeked through the clouds, shining down on the rooftops of the city. Is this heaven? I don’t know, but it was just beautiful. 


We were there for a traditional Greek meal. You know, it lasts for hours, there is music and dancing in between courses, lots of “Opa!” and dish breaking, thus the name Zafiro Experience. This place is a restaurant, but it is also a venue where they educate their patrons about Greek life, old style. On this night, we were introduced to how olive oil is made the old fashioned way.

 First, 300-500 pounds of fresh olives were put into the bottom of a stone mill.  Once the olives are in the stone container, two long wooden levers are attached to a grinding stone that is powered by humans. Around and around we took turns grinding the olives until we had a nice brown olive paste.  



Next, the olive paste was transferred to a wooden tray. With a scoop, the olive paste was loaded into some burlap sacks and then stacked on each other under the press.

A lever was turned forcing a large iron press to smash the stack of  olive-paste-filled-sacks, squeezing out the olive oil. This is the part that surprised me. I thought the olive oil that came out of the press would be greenish in color, but it was actually brown. (In “The Odyssey TV Mini Series” we saw Queen Penelope pressing her own olive oil which was coming out green – false!)


The olive oil settled for a while in the collection pail. The oil floated to the top while the rest of the sediment sunk to the bottom. The oil was skimmed off the top and poured into glass jars where it would settle some more. After being filtered out, the greenish olive oil color appears, but it takes hours for this to happen. 

This is a process that takes a long time and it’s quite messy. Most Greek families own their own olive orchards and process and make olive oil for their entire family, since olive oil is an essential ingredient in Greek recipes. It takes about 100 trees to produce olive oil for a Greek family.

What a terrific night we had. After this, we headed inside for a traditional Greek meal. Unfortunately, my iPhone lost power. BUT, here is a really cool video created by Lindsay Clark, the photographer for Think Global School. She captured the night perfectly! You’ll see sneak peeks of us in there:)

Taste of Athens