Isle of Olive, London

posted on: Saturday, 20 July 2013

Inside Isle of Olive in London

Paulina and I in front of their fresh tea selection

The dictamo and mountain tea blend, ahhh

Greg's family Olive Oil:  get yours quickly - it's not for sale anywhere else in the world!

Earlier this year I read a New York Times article called The island where people forget to die about the Greek island of Ikaria. The people who live there enjoy an extraordinarily high level of health and longevity, with many well over 100 years old. Their health in part seems to lie in their Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil and vegetables, locally produced goat milk and honey.

Ikaria instantly came to mind the other day when I stopped by Isle of Olive in London Fields. It's a mecca of quality oil, olives,  greek yoghurt and honey. As soon as I walked in the door my nose was immediately drawn to their display of fresh tea herbs: calamint, dictamo, sage, oregano, thyme, St John's wort and lavender. 

'These can't all be from Greece can they?' I blurted out to the lady next to me who happened to be the store owner, Paulina. She looked at me incredulously, 'But of course they are!' and then proceeded to describe the ins and outs of sourcing each item. 

The Calamint is from Tripoli, Dictamo is from Crete and always grows next to rock formations so you need to hike to get it, the St John's Wort is from the Peloponnese and while the Oregano grows everywhere you need to know exactly where to look to get the one with the white tips.

We got chatting and Paulina explained that the different blends can be used for different purposes: if you want to feel energised, relax, improve your mood. I try the Dictamo and Mountain Tea blend. I like the unusual taste and it instantly makes me feel calm. 

Keen to find about more about their olive oils, I ask Paulina which is her favourite. She likes their variety from Lesbos which has a full bodied, fruity flavour. I love that they treat their olive oil with the same seriousness the French reserve for wines. 

I test a few different types but my hands-down favourite variety is actually produced by her partner Greg's family farm in Central Greece. This oil has only ever been shared with close family and friends, but Greg's father has allowed its sale for the first time at Isle of Olive. I've never tasted anything like it. It starts out smooth then fizzes on the tongue in an amazing after taste. 

But despite their extensive varieties of oils and teas, Paulina tells me it is actually their strained Greek yoghurt that has garnered a cult following among locals, regularly selling out. 

'And we almost didn't stock it,' she admits. As I look over at my friend who is hastily stocking up on the creamy yoghurt for herself - there's only three left! - I think we're all glad that they do. And I hastily get one for myself too. 

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