Greek baked goods, coffee and olive oil

A typical Greek breakfast consists of a strong coffee – made in a specific way, that they call Greek coffee – and koulouri (a thin circular bread, coated with sesame – or less commonly poppy, sunflower or pumpkin – seeds) or kritsinia (sesame seed coated bread sticks). They are a common part of cuisines all through the Ottoman empire and you’ll find each country has their own unique take on them.

On our day in Thessaloniki, we casually stopped for a Greek coffee at a place called the Blue Cup. They (easily) twisted our arm into having an espresso instead, as that is what they are known for. We weren’t disappointed, an incredibly well balanced shot from Monte Alegre in Brazil, served with an explanation of the bean and the origin. After, somehow the simple task of buying some coffee to take away with us, led to an incredible lesson – in particular – on how to make Greek coffee from the skilled and knowledgeable staff, but also an insight into how they make the cold brews, an end result that tastes like a cold tea with coffee notes. We were very impressed.

You’ll also find Greeks queuing to get their hands on the well known spanakopita (feta and spinach), tiropita (feta) and kotopita (chicken), filled pastries made with phyllo – all part of the börek family.

As we all know (and if we don’t, we should) the Greeks are famous – and rightly so – for their olive oil. In fact, the Italian consumption per capita of olive oil exceeds their production, so they end up importing a lot from Greece and will then mix them yet still call it Italian. In our time in Greece we sampled many, each with their own unique characteristics, depending on varying factors, the largest being geography. The Greek olive oil differs from that of the Spanish and Italians in that it is a darker green, a little more ‘grassy’ and contains more polyphenols, an antioxidant that helps reduce some health problems (due also in part to the high content of monounsaturated fats), including coronary artery disease and the fight against diabetes.

Although Cretan olive oil is supposedly the best – with the average person consuming nearly 30L per year! – offering earthy, dark coloured oils with strong aromas and low acidity levels, Paul’s favourite olive oil on the trip was one we unassumingly picked up from a supermarket on Zakynthos. Made from island olives, it was a dark green colour, earthy with a smooth after taste. Zsu’s favourite was the ‘Noah’, an organic, cold pressed Extra Virgin olive oil from Crete that was light in colour with hints of green apple. An amazing oil with incredible depth and complexity. 

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