We are thrilled to have recently added Golden Groves, Australia’s newest organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil brand to the Hellenic Museum Shop. An ode to Mediterranean living, Golden Groves brings its sun drenched, cold pressed, organic olive oil into Australian homes.
The small family business, founded by Greek-Australian sisters Katianna and Yianna Velos, shares their family's first-class oil from olives that have been grown and collected by their family for generations on Greece’s Mani Peninsula.
Legend says that it was on the small, rocky island of Kranai in Mani, that Paris of Troy spent his first night with his abducted lover, Helen of Sparta, the most beautiful woman in the world, a tryst that sparked the Trojan War…
We were lucky enough to speak with Katianna and Yianna ahead of the arrival of their delicious Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the Museum Shop. Sharing a love for food, travel and storytelling, the sisters discuss the origins of their Australian brand and it’s deep Greek roots that capture the art of living through food, family and friends.
You started Golden Groves in 2021. Did COVID spur a decision to launch your own business?
Golden Groves, like so many other businesses, was born unexpectedly during COVID times. We are both entrepreneurial by nature, but if someone had told us two years ago we would be launching an olive oil business, we wouldn’t have believed them! The business came about organically, during a time when so much of what we enjoyed prior to COVID was impossible. Socialising and dining out at restaurants were some of the things that people missed most during COVID, and we were no different. Food is at the heart of how so many people across the globe relate to each other. During a time when we were stripped of our ability to connect face-to-face, we saw people return to the simple pleasures of home cooking and the joy that this experience of sharing and enjoying food brings.
Katianna began cooking on Instagram and sharing it during lockdown as a hobby. As part of her cooking series, she emphasised the importance of the provenance and quality of olive oil when cooking. Being Greek, olive oil is a staple in most of her recipes, naturally. Our family had always imported olive oil for our own consumption, but when Katianna shared online that the olive oil we used at home was from our family’s groves in Greece, people were enthralled! Our groves are located in a tiny seaside village on mainland Greece and our friends in Australia wanted to try it for themselves. Requests for bottles of our oil started pouring in, and that’s how we came up with the idea of bottling our family’s recipe into 750ml bottles, as opposed to the traditional 18L tins that are intimidating to most people due to the size.
We loved being able to share a piece of Greece and our family history with Greeks and non-Greeks alike. Our oil is an ode to our strong Greek roots and to have a business that perfectly encapsulates our love for Greece, with a modern Australian identity is what inspires us to continue growing our business. Sharing our passion for the Greek way of life, through food and design, and particularly for our region of Greece, Mani, is something that strongly drives our creative ambition.
Are your backgrounds within the food industry?
Both of our backgrounds are very different to the food industry. Yianna has a background in finance and Katianna has a background in law. We have both worked numerous corporate jobs throughout the years, during and after our studies, but feel that the platform our degrees have given us to explore and pursue our business both creatively and commercially has been immeasurably valuable.
Was it difficult launching the Golden Groves business without being able to return to Greece?
Although we would have loved to go to Greece to perform a reconnaissance before launching the business, we were very fortunate to have family and friends in Mani that we communicate with regularly who assist in harvesting the olives and pressing the oil. Quality is everything to us and having people on site who you can trust and who understand the direction of your business is extremely important. Luckily, with all the technological advancements in recent years, it is relatively easy to communicate with people even in rural parts of Greece. Speaking the language is a true asset as well.
What are your thoughts on the olive oil currently available in Australia?
We believe that there are some great olive oils available here in Australia both from local and international producers. However, olive oil fraud is rampant all over the world, including Australia. Olive oil is incredibly nourishing and its health benefits are well documented. Many producers, however, adulterate their oil by mixing it with inferior seed oils in order to sell a higher volume of olive oil at a lower price point. It is sometimes difficult to ascertain the quality of the olive oil on the shelves at the supermarket, as even ‘light’ olive oil that is intended to have a less intense flavour is actually mixed with cheaper oils that promote inflammation in the body. We are blessed to live in a country like Australia where we have access to such great produce and a variety of oils. It’s great to see the Australian olive oil market continuing to grow, but consumers should take care not to be duped by brands selling ‘premium’ extra virgin olive oil that is in actuality a blended inferior olive-seed oil hybrid. You can do this by checking the back of the label, which should list the ingredients as ’100% extra virgin olive oil’.
What differentiates your olive oil?
Our olive oil is unique in that all the olives are handpicked and collected by our family from groves that have been in our family for generations. Our olive oil is mono cultivar, made from koroneiki olives, a variety of olive native to Greece and specifically for olive oil. Often, olive oils you find on the shelf are blended with other varieties of olives from different regions. This means that you aren’t able to trace where your olive oil comes from. For us, knowing where our food comes from and the face behind our food is very important. Also the quality is of the highest calibre: early harvest, cold pressed, certified organic and extra virgin to preserve the flavour and nutritional value of the olive oil.
What's your favourite dish to make with your olive oil?
We love to use olive oil in and on absolutely everything! A particular standout however are the ‘travihtes pites’ which is a flat dough fried in olive oil, until the dough becomes golden and pillowy. These pites are a specialty in the Mani region and are typically served with local cheeses or honey. When our mother was a child, she and her family used to eat these as snacks whilst collecting olives from our family’s groves.
We love your branding – how did you go about creating Golden Groves’ visual identity?
We were very particular about our branding as we really tried to capture the essence of Greece through our own (Australian) lens, whilst also paying homage to our traditional ties to the country. Happiness is at the core of what we do. We wanted to relate this through channelling a sun soaked, Mediterranean inspired, yet pared back artistic feel through our branding. Greek design is classic and grand, yet still feels somewhat understated when compared to some of its European counterparts. We sought to combine elements of the sun, the sea and the land as although these are the elements that exist everywhere in the world, are most beautiful to behold within the parameters of Greece’s borders. Classic Greek motifs such as the Greek key re-invented in a modern, funky manner is emblematic of our classic Greek roots, without reaching for a kitsch caricature of the Greek identity. Simplicity is also a factor in our design processes. We gravitate towards warm, bright colours that evoke a sense of happiness in order to relay the warmth and vibrance of a country like Greece, when it comes to its people and its climate. We also had the great privilege of working with Gemma Leslie, a Brisbane-based artist who understood the essence of what we were trying to convey through Golden Groves from the brand’s inception. We feel very fortunate to have worked with someone as talented as Gemma to capture our vision for Golden Groves through her unique, yet recognisable illustrations. Gemma is also the founder of Food for Everyone, a culinary poster shop, and so truly understands the food space.
What is the future for Golden Groves?
The future for Golden Groves is big! We see it as a brand with limitless potential. At the moment, we are offering 750ml bottles of olive oil but we have teamed up with artists and professionals in Greece and Australia to work on a new line of products both in the food space, and also unrelated entirely to food. We believe that food and fashion are synonymous in today’s day and age and we hope to bring people a brand that inspires them, invigorates them and nourishes their body and soul, inside and out. In the food space, we are currently planning lots of events with fabulous creatives across Melbourne, Sydney and Byron Bay. We’re also working on expanding our networks in the retail and restaurant space. Connecting with and working with creatives, chefs and restaurateurs has been such a rewarding experience and we hope to keep growing the Golden Groves network both domestically and internationally.
Do you have a fun fact about olive oil / the making of oil?
Our olive oil is an Early Harvest, meaning that the olive collection begins in October and ends in December. The Early Harvest cultivation process means that the olives are collected before they are fully ripe. This process preserves the nutritious properties of the olives, such as their naturally occurring polyphenols, which are then transferred into your oil.
We love profiling local artisans who embody our ethos of colliding old and new Hellenism. Thank you for your time Yianna and Katianna! We can’t wait to drizzle the Golden Groves Extra Virgin Olive Oil on our next dish. You can shop a 750ml bottle in the Hellenic Museum Shop now.