Unique, from taste to shape
Sometimes Greek Nature truly surprises with its gifts. A small evergreen tree growing in a specific area in the southern part of Chios, an Eastern Aegean island, seems to have just appeared thousands of years ago. Although found in countries around the Mediterranean Sea, only this variety produces the unique mastic sap. Somehow the ancients knew the tree was born for greatness. The mastic tree, Pistacia lentiscus, yields sap by making incisions in the bark forming translucent, teardrop shape chunks of resin, which is known internationally as Chios mastic. Hippocrates suggested its health benefits, the Genovese (14th century) built medieval fortresses to protect the sap from pirate raids, and the Ottoman Turks valued its worth as gold and generations of islanders have created an extraordinary gastronomic heritage based on the rare, aromatic spice.
Chios Mastika, PDO-certified Chios mastic, captures the flavor of celebration in Greek cuisine in the distinct taste of Christmas and Easter breads, such as tsoureki. But Chios mastic also turns every day treats into festive, tangy delicacies adding sensations to creamy rice pudding, mastic Greek spoon sweet, liqueur, almond cake and delicious pastries and rusks.
The taste, described as licorice and pine with a tinge of vanilla, is a flavor to savor.
Today, Chios mastic is a trendy, if mysterious spice, that is highly sought after for the shelves of modern kitchens and is also inspiring international cuisine.
The production of mastic has remained unchanged over the centuries. The traditional, walled settlements (Mastic Villages) built to protect the families cultivating the mastic are a reminder of the historical social and economic importance of the agricultural product to the community. Today, only 24 villages remain.
Harvesting extends from June to September when 10-20 incisions (‘hurts’) are made in the bark of the tree. The resin is then collected, rinsed in barrels and followed by a second cleaning by hand. One tree yields about 4.5 kg per season.
The Greek Breakfast of Chios offers you the unique opportunity to taste many products and specialties created with the valuable crystal ‘tears,’ of the native mastic tree.