The phrase “mastiha” was in virtually each sentence of our dialogue, with the maritime theme coming not too far behind. “I’d have been a sailor,” admits Yannis Mandalas, who was born and raised on the japanese Aegean island of Chios. “We had lots of sailors within the household. Somebody is lacking from virtually all our pictures. Solely not often was everybody collectively.” It was a life lived between the ocean that stored his individuals aside and the resin of the native Chios mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus), or mastihathat introduced them collectively. “It’s identified for its adhesive qualities, in any case,” he quips.
Mandalas is the CEO of Mediterra, an organization based in 2002 as a subsidiary of the Chios Affiliation of Mastiha Growers, and founding father of Greece’s first Mastiha Store. When he took over on the firm’s helm, he vowed to raise mastiha from a neighborhood product to a nationally and internationally famend one. He explored methods to complement and modernize its makes use of, to raise it into successful story, and to assist analysis and innovation. At present there are eight Mastiha Outlets throughout Greece and 5 overseas, the place, nonetheless, operations had been halted by the pandemic.
Two years in the past, you stated that mastiha was experiencing its glory days. Is that also true?
The tempo of progress didn’t ease in the course of the pandemic and exports are thriving. Demand from Asia and North America, the place it’s used primarily within the manufacturing of pharmaceutical merchandise, has been vital. Because the launch of the primary Mastiha Store 20 years in the past, we’ve hit our targets of doubling manufacturing and quadrupling the worth for the grower. Manufacturing stood at round 90 to 100 tons at first of 2000 and now it’s at almost 220, with demand being at greater than 260-270 tons. The situations are being developed for much more plantings in southern Chios and for extra growers. The soil can take it. There are a couple of points, just like the distribution of land parcels – it’s one factor to have 1,000 timber in 20 fields and one other to have them multi function. The tree inhabitants proper now’s near 1.5 million, regardless of the fires, setbacks and different issues.
There have been only a handful of mastiha merchandise after we had been beginning out 20 years in the past, the preferred of which – aside from chewing gum – was “ypovrihio” [literally “submarine,” a fondant eaten off a spoon and chilled in a glass of water]finest loved at a kafenio in the summertime! We began Mastiha Store out of a have to showcase its totally different functions. There weren’t that many in Greece on the time. We traveled across the japanese Mediterranean and watched what occurred when the mastiha arrived in nations like Lebanon, Turkey or Saudi Arabia. However Chios is the birthplace of mastiha and the one place on the planet the place it thrives. The connection between the tree, which might dwell as much as 150 years, and the individuals is essential. You could get 5 generations of the identical household tending to the identical tree. It’s a bond that’s troublesome to explain.
What do you discover so fascinating about it?
It’s a number of makes use of. Few plant-based merchandise have so many various functions. I’d dare examine it to vanilla, although mastiha additionally has pharmaceutical and therapeutic properties. What we do is spotlight all of its totally different sides.
How would you describe them?
Tradition, custom, magnificence, diet and well being. We may even name it a Greek superfood. Its contribution to the native economic system can be vital.
Does mastiha add to the island’s wealth?
Chios has at all times been a rich island, thanks primarily to transport. Having been on the crossroads of main service provider routes – Constantinople, Alexandria, Odessa, Marseille – it had households with workplaces in all these ports. Commerce and transport had been at all times the economic system’s pillars. The connection with the Genoese, who had been on the island for some 250 years, was dictated by mastiha. It influenced the connection with the Ottomans. It has mainly performed an vital position in shaping the island’s identification.
What have you ever discovered about mastiha since 2002 that you simply didn’t already know?
It’s a neighborhood product all of us love, with out realizing why. The creation of the Mastiha Museum [in 2015 by the Piraeus Bank Cultural Foundation] had an impact on the investments anticipated on the island, each personal and public. It’s a standard-bearer for anybody who desires to spend money on the island. It influenced the architectural design of many buildings, together with the Mastiha Analysis Middle, which we hope to inaugurate quickly. It is a personal group, a middle of utilized analysis, within the village of Kallimasia, the birthplace of the person who based the Mastiha Growers’ Affiliation in 1938, Georgios Stangoulis, an emblematic determine. Chios has a superb previous that we fall wanting in the present day. Our technology must do extra.
What has the journey been like to date?
It hasn’t been straightforward, however it wasn’t anticipated to be. Admitting that we knew little or no about mastiha was step one. The toughest factor was sharing the knowledge that this adverse state of affairs may change. That, for instance, mastiha may have many extra makes use of past ypovrihio or flavoring tsoureki bread. We’ve got references of it getting used as a magnificence therapy since Hellenistic instances. It began being utilized in cosmetics within the 1st century AD, then it appeared in medicines after which within the kitchen. From the seventeenth to the nineteenth century, mastiha appeared in all types of medicinal concoctionseach within the West and the East. Today, inroads are being made in cosmetology, similar to at Mastic Spa skincare, launched by the Sodi household, by homeopathist Maria Provata and by Benostan, which has a historical past of utilizing mastiha and continues to take action in the present day. The truth that mastiha is exclusive is each a blessing and a curse. You possibly can solely make progress with it once you share it.
Are you apprehensive in regards to the competitors?
Why ought to we care if some business produces a chocolate bar with mastiha, for instance? We would like as many good manufacturers as doable and, on the identical time, to maintain enhancing for personal half too. What we don’t like is unfair competitors, merchandise the place mastiha is used however not acknowledged.
We’d like a extra sturdy data marketing campaign about mastiha. We’re pleased when an enormous overseas cosmetics firm makes use of mastiha as an ingredient in considered one of its merchandise. Or when a Korean big buys mastiha to make dietary dietary supplements. We’d find it irresistible much more if as an alternative of shopping for the powder, they purchased our ready-made merchandise. And that is the large problem down the road.
Mislabeling is one other enormous drawback, particularly within the large historic markets. Throughout Turkey, the Center East and North Africa you can see merchandise utilizing resins that resemble mastiha and are labeled because the latter. It’s one thing that can’t actually be managed, although we do our perfect to make it as laborious as doable by altering our packaging usually to allow them to’t sustain with us. There aren’t lots of choices. The one actual resolution is that we export the completed product.