In November of 2018, The Pappas Post Team will lead a trip to Greece’s Mani region where we’ll partner with Peter Liokareas, a fifth generation olive farmer and olive oil producer from the region. Peter’s family has been making some of the world’s best quality extra virgin olive oil in the world for many generations. We’re excited to offer this opportunity to our readers. See the complete itinerary and details here.
Read the Liokareas family’s story below.
It’s a remarkable family story that goes back five generations (and entering the sixth) and thousands of miles away in the foothills of Kalamata, eventually makes its way to Pittsburgh and returns full-circle to a tiny village in the foothills of southern Greece.
Antonis Liokareas was known as an expert farmer in the mid 1870s and his plot of land — inherited from his own forefathers — was amongst the best in the area, nicknamed perivolatha or “premium orchard” by the locals.
Antonis had a knack for harvesting and pressing Koroneiki olives into a rich and flavorful oil and expanded his business by acquiring more orchards. By the turn of the century, he was ready to pass the baton to his son, Fotios — but not before he could protect his legacy and family tradition.
According to Antonis’ wishes, it was recorded in the registry that “the Liokareas premium orchards must be passed down to a son bearing the Liokareas name, and could not be sold, under any circumstance for 5 generations.”
He eventually transferred everything to Fotis, who carried on the family tradition for the first part of the 1900s, before passing the business to his son Panayiotis.
Panayiotis ran the business well into the mid-1940s and was considered an innovator in the region. He used large stone presses that were operated by horses to make some of the finest extra virgin olive oil while teaching his two sons Yiannis and Antonis the family business.
Political upheaval brought change to Greece following the Civil War and eventual arrival of the military dictatorship in the 1960s, forcing Panayiotis to emigrate to the United States in search of new opportunities to care for his family.
He took his son Yiannis, leaving Antonis to tend to the olive oil business. After establishing Yiannis in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Panayiotis returned to Greece. Yiannis stayed in Pittsburgh where he married, became a successful businessman and had his own son, Panayiotis, named in honor of his father.
American-born Panayiotis— or Peter, first visited the perivolatha near Kalamata when he was three years old. The grandfather whose name he inherited walked with him, tree by tree, telling him stories of his family and introducing him to the land that’s been in his family for generations.
He walked among antique remnants of years past — strange objects now embedded in the lands that were used by his grandfather, and his grandfather before him, to press olives into oil.
Over the years, Peter spent summers in Greece getting a better handle of the olive harvesting process and gaining an extensive knowledge of olive oil making.
While attending the University of Pittsburgh, Peter spent summers in Greece and winter break — harvest time — in the olive tree orchards to learn first hand a tradition that didn’t only go back generations in his family, but rather thousands of years.
In many villages around Kalamata, the olive harvest is still being done by hand, exactly as it has been since antiquity.
“I was 3 years old the first time I walked the “perivolatha” with my grandfather Panayiotis. He showed me, just like his grandfather Antonios showed him, how premium olive oil was made. I quickly fell in love with the family tradition and would spend summers with my grandfather in the village. In my teenage and college years, I found myself traveling to this land more frequently, always in time to help my grandfather harvest our olives. I cherished the days when my grandfather would take me to the old stone press, and show me how the oil was made.”
Peter has established Liokareas Greek Olive Oil, a Pittsburgh-based importer of his family’s product from Kalamata, and hopes to share what he calls “some of the best extra virgin olive oil in the world,” with consumers in the U.S.
And he couldn’t have picked a better time.
With numerous scandals plaguing Italy, the market leader in olive oil exports globally, Peter’s goal is to share Greek extra virgin olive oil with the world and inform consumers— overwhelmed with labels like “organic” or “non-genetically modified” that these standards come naturally at Liokareas.
“Back in the old country,” Peter said. “This is what we have been doing for hundreds of years, and ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ is just the way things are done.”
He added, “At Liokareas, we continue to do things the same way that my great-great grandfather, Antonis Liokareas was doing in 1870, and this is what we will continue to do.”
Some would call Peter an entrepreneur, but the Pittsburgh native is just doing what five generations of Liokareas family members have been doing before him — keeping an ancient tradition that his people and all Greek people have been known for for thousands of years.
In 2013 Peter took his then one-year-old son Yianni to the village to be baptized in the same church where generations of the Liokareas clan were baptized before him, and his second son Nicholas would follow soon after.
Since then he’s already introduced both boys to the perivolatha, familiarizing them with the way of the land in order for them to carry the Liokareas olive oil tradition into the next generation.
Peter is slowly expanding his products into the greater Pittsburgh region, seeking wholesale and retail partnerships with shops and grocery stores, while simultaneously shipping nationwide to customers via the company’s online shop.
He said hopes some day to expand into the larger markets of New York City, Chicago and even to the West Coast.
About Liokareas Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Liokareas Extra Virgin Olive Oil is made from Koroneiki trees, considered “the queen” of olive trees because they produce smaller olives with a dense and full flavor. Liokareas is 100% pure Koroneiki, made only from the family’s orchards and never blended with other types of lower quality oil, as many big Italian producers have been caught doing.
The olives are pressed as soon as they are harvested. Leaving olives harvested for days before they are pressed can cause the skin to wrinkle, and acidity levels to rise. Also, Liokareas never uses pesticides — all of the company’s orchards grow naturally and are harvested by hand.
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