If you are a fan of high-quality extra virgin olive oil, you have probably heard of the New York International Olive Oil Competition (NYIOOC). It is the largest and most prestigious contest held to determine the world’s best extra virgin olive oils (EVOO). The first competition was organized in 2013 by Curtis Cord, the publisher of the trade journal Olive Oil Times which is a leading source of all information on olive oil. Ever since its founding, the NYIOOC has provided EVOO enthusiasts with a trustworthy and reliable guide of where to get the most excellent extra virgin olive oils. How? Its annual list of award winners contains the best brands and producers of olive oil that are worth checking out. And this year’s list features us: Ilias and Sons.
The 2021 NYIOOC is the battleground of 1159 olive oil samples from 28 countries around the world. Many of them are world-renowned brands from Mediterranean countries strongly associated with extra virgin olive oil. But that doesn’t mean that newcomers stand no chance of winning. In fact, this year’s contest is the first time that we entered the race. And against all odds, Ilias and Sons won the Silver Award for the 7Thirty Ultra-Premium Organic EVOO. The name 7Thirty refers to the product’s count of polyphenols, a category of plant compounds that offers various health benefits from immunity boost to protection against chronic illness. The abundance of polyphenols is one of many reasons why EVOO is such an enormous boom for health. The substances are also responsible for the bitter and peppery taste of EVOO that so many foodies are in love with. If those flavors are absent from the extra virgin olive oil you purchase from supermarkets and convenience stores, bad news, you have bought faulty or outright fake olive oil.
What made 7Thirty Ultra-Premium Organic EVOO such a charmer to the judges despite being relatively new to the market, asides from its supreme quality? The answer lies in its superior taste and sense. The olives used for producing 7Thirty came from my family’s ancient olive groves. But those groves aren’t just located anywhere: they lie in the rich, fertile land of Southern Peloponnese, between Greece’s majestic mountains and the azure Mediterranean Sea. Such a favorable geography plus the balmy weather full of sunshine (at least 300 days of sun every year) bestows a unique taste in 7Thirty.
Great natural conditions alone are not enough to make 7Thirty Organic what it is. This is where our hard labor comes in. The groves are comprised of 100% Korineiki olive trees, which gives out very high quality yield. They’re well-tended and ensured to bear high quality olives with the guarantee of our five generations of experience. Taking care of them is no easy job. There are no irrigation systems, so watering is done the traditional way. There is no machinery involved, either. The trees are hand-pruned, and the olives handpicked. Indiscriminate use of industrial fertilizers in non-existent in our groves. Only organic fertilizer is applied, in modest amounts, as we aspire to produce chemical-free, preservative-free olives. The olive fruits are hand-picked just before they turn ripe to ensure the best flavor and highest content of life-giving polyphenols. Because it takes so much care to produce, 7Thirty is a limited production. Only 200 liters of it is available. Our extra virgin olive oil is so good that by consuming it daily, my mother Maria Giannakos lived to be 108, causing a sensation in local press and once prompting a letter from Queen Elizabeth II of England herself.
Out of this year’s 1159 competitors, 790 brands won the Gold and Silver Awards for outstanding quality, for an overall success rate of 68 percent. This is a substantial increase from last year in which there were 881 entries and 584 winners, a record number of participants despite the global pandemic. The 790 winning brands have been added to an influential chart that guides millions of olive lovers, chefs, distributors, etc. Due to the current coronavirus pandemic, all entries were analyzed remotely by experts from 13 countries. Italy dominated the ranks with 211 awards, followed by Spain that won 104. Greece stood third thanks for 99 awards, one of which was Ilias and Sons’ proud contribution.