Perhaps 7-8 years ago, I saw a stunning mortar and pestle made out of olive wood at a fancy schmancy olive oil purveyor at Grand Central Station in New York. It was gorgeous. Beautifully proportioned, wonderful grain, and the perfect weight for crushing herbs and spices. From outside the shop, I confidently decided I would acquire it. But inside the shop, I turned the piece over and was shocked by the US$90 price tag! It was very nice, but not US$90 nice. Somewhat crestfallen, I left the shop and filed this “goody” away into a section of my brain where other items of desire such a flat-screen television or healthy, a fruit-bearing dayap tree might lurk indefinitely. Olive wood is extremely hard and often possesses a wonderful grain. Not many folks outside the mediterranean appreciate this, in the same manner that not many Filipinos would mention mango wood as one of their favorites (rather kamagong, molave, narra, tindalo would be more likely mentioned first). Mango wood also has a beautiful grain, though in much bigger streaks of black on brown… So during our recent trip to Athens, I was hoping there would be stores selling items made from olive wood…
There are a few olive wood stores in the typical tourist guidebooks to Greece, and I visited some of them, thrilled to see several interesting products, but surprised that the prices were still quite high. But while walking around the Plaka, I saw this little shop that seemed chock full of olive wood and their prices seemed a bit more reasonable, with the mortar and pestle at roughly US$30 or 1/3 the price of the piece I saw in New York all those years ago… The owners were actually in the store and incredibly charming and engaging. Turns out they had just opened the shop 3 days before, and were still in the “honeymoon phase” and willing to go the extra mile to make customers very happy. We ended up with a mortar and pestle, several cutting/cheese boards, a half dozen honey sticks (some for pasalubongs), and a custom designed olive wood bracelet conceived by The Kid, and made on the spot by one of the owners of the shop. Olives are reputed to “give strength” so this bracelet will hopefully give the kid “strength”… And the best part of this olive wood expedition? They gave the bracelet to the kid as a present, since we bought so much at the store (a Greek buena mano, as it were)…
They explained that olive trees are almost NEVER cut down or felled. Instead, they wait for really old trees to get pruned every 25 or so years and these yield relatively “substantial” pieces of raw material. However, really large pieces are extremely rare, unless a whole tree trunk becomes available. Each piece is hand made and often irregular in size. Even chopping boards are made to maximize the quality of the grain and size of the piece of wood, rather than a standard chopping board size. I love all of them. :) These guys have several shops outside Athens, but this one was their first in the city.
67, Adrianou Street
+30 210 322 2922