Honest Toil is a small project run by Tom and Juli, who are based in the south of Kyparissia, which is on the west coast of Peloponnese in Greece. The reason we love Honest Toil is because their oil is completely unblended and unfiltered, made purely from cold-pressing raw Koroneiki olives which results in a deliciously vibrant olive oil.
As the olive oil is unfiltered, it contains the sediment from both the olive’s skin and pips, leading to the brand’s iconic green opaqueness with a gorgeously thick texture!
Honest Toil’s whole ethos is based upon direct cooperation with small-scale farmers and working with small businesses, from the delivery to the distribution of their oil.
Being a small-batch production, Tom and his family look after four small olive groves, harvesting them with the support of local farmers, family and friends every year.
They harvest the olives with traditional, low-impact methods using sticks with ‘propeller-like’ endings to remove the olives gently from the branches. The olives are then gathered into sacks and taken to the local village to be pressed.
Everything is pressed the same day it’s picked, allowing the oil to have an acidity between 0.2 – 0.3% – which is really impressive! The level of acidity in an oil is an indicator of how many beneficial qualities are left within the product. Therefore, the lower the acidity in an oil, the lower the oxidation…which means the oil contains a higher nutritional quality!
As both Tom and Juli have direct control over the process, they always have fresh olive oil available by January each year to purchase!
Supporting and Sustainability
Due to the team being so hands-on, sustainability is one the main cores for the business. For example, the olives are from small family farms, which are then hand-harvested using traditional methods that have been passed down for generations. This allows them to not cause any stress to the olive trees whilst also not disrupting the local wildlife to the area.
Additionally, the olives are pressed in family-owned village presses, where the oil is then packed locally. This way, the team can guarantee an income for the locals, from olive picking to the pressing of the oil, supporting the area economically.
Honest Toil like to sell their oil in bulk or in refillable containers to ensure there is less waste as possible. They also deliver in Budapest and Berlin by cargo bikes, which is believed to save around 5 tons of carbon emissions when replacing a diesel vehicle!
World Earth Day and Honest Toil
It is through actions like this in which supports World Earth Day. Celebrated on the 22nd April each year, this annual event is to demonstrate the support for environmental protection.
With Honest Toil, it was their aim from the very beginning to ensure that there is small carbon footprint, from the making of the oil to ending up on your kitchen table.
They encourage people to reuse their bottles, whilst prompting them to purchase the oil in either 3l or 5l cans – which significantly reduces the amount of packaging being used.
Within the UK, they are also supplying packaging free/zero waste shops since 2012. From this movement, they were able to team up with SESI Refill to create a circular refill system in which SESI deliver, collect and clear out 20l tubs and refilled with Honest Toil’s extra virgin olive oil.
Q&A with Honest Toil
We were lucky enough to sit down with Tom and discuss all things olive oil, from understanding the inspiration behind the brand, to learning how the project connects with the locals and families within the area.
Tom, we absolutely adore your extra virgin olive oil! Tell us, where did the inspiration to create your own extra virgin olive oil come from?
It was pure serendipity. We really never set out to start another olive oil ‘brand’ or even had any intention of starting a business… but after travelling a lot around the Peloponnese and taking part in olive picking here and there, it seemed quite obvious to share the fruits of our toil with friends and family further afield! We ended up moving to the Peloponnese 14 years ago and happened upon a little olive grove. When harvest time rolled around, we asked for guidance from our neighbours in the village. I still remember the sensation of tasting our own cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil for the first time. We’ve been chasing that same flavour ever since, it became that characteristic “Honest Toil” taste that people love so much: fresh and green with a grassy, peppery bite.
The colour is so vivid and bright! How is Honest Toil different to other olive oils?
Honest Toil is completely unadulterated. Unlike many mass-produced oils, it isn’t mixed with the previous year’s harvest or olive oils from other varieties or areas. It’s a homage to the koroneiki olive as well as the traditional growing and harvesting practices of the Western Peloponnese… it’s so far from the industrial methods of a lot of olive growing regions as everything is picked by hand. The olives are pressed the same day to preserve their freshness. During the pressing process, the temperature is strictly kept under 27 degrees so all the necessities for the much-coveted high Polyphenol content! The end result is a green, vivid, thick liquid that we don’t put through any further chemical or physical filters: this means that some residue of the olive’s skin and pips can be found in the final product, accounting for the characteristic unfiltered texture of Honest Toil… it’s really something special.
In the harvesting process, connecting with the locals and families is very important to you, why is this?
In the beginning, the oil from our groves was enough for Honest Toil, but as more people were wooed by the unique flavour we brought to the table, we realised that our production was not going to be sufficient. After some deliberation, instead of taking a loan to buy more land and expanding, we decided to cooperate directly with other local producers who already grow the same koroneiki variety and harvest their trees with the same traditional methods. This way, we guarantee an income for our neighbours, support local livelihoods, and make sure that the high-quality olive oil from these groves ends up directly in your kitchen instead of being bought up at rock bottom prices and mixed in with inferior oils by large-scale corporations.
It’s World Earth Day on April 22nd, are there any ways in which you are helping the planet?
We believe in locality, seasonality, and small-scale cooperation. Our work is so determined by the natural yearly cycle of the olive tree. This involves an element of unpredictability as to when we can actually pack the fresh harvest oil, but it also means we can respect the land, the weather, and the crop instead of working to unnatural schedules set by market demand.
In terms of locality, Honest Toil comes from a very specific small area (the villages around Kyparissia), so unlike its mass-produced counterparts, it never travels thousands of miles to get blended in with oils from elsewhere, eventually losing its provenance and personality.
We’re a really small-scale operation, not only in terms of locality, but also in terms of the scale of our business. This way we can have full control over the whole process from tree to table, and we are fully accountable for the quality as well as the sustainability of our product.
You must be busy running this project! What does a normal day in the life look like for you?
It depends on whether you catch us during the harvest season (October-December) or the rest of the year. Harvest season is always super busy for us, as it involves both aspects of Honest Toil: you might find me stuck in front of a laptop doing calculations or customs declarations, but it’s just as likely that I’ll be out in the field in muddy wellies picking olives, or down the village press glugging fresh oil with press masters Alexander and Sakis. The rest of the year is more chilled out and we are freer to travel around as olive trees are not that labour-intensive in the spring and summer. We travel a lot with the oil, connecting the Peloponnese with Budapest, where Juli is from, and England, where I’m from, as well as Berlin, where we also sell the oil.
What is your favourite dish to make using Honest Toil?
It has to be the Greek vegetarian dish called briam (μπριάμ), which is basically a bunch of the best Greek summer vegetables (aubergines, courgettes, tomatoes, potatoes, onions) soaked in loads of extra virgin olive oil, fresh tomato sauce, oregano and sea salt, slow-roasted in the oven with heaps of feta cheese on top, served with home-made bread. An ultimate people-pleaser! My Dad likes to make it for us every time we come back to Greece after a long time abroad; it really is the taste of home.
Name 3 things in the kitchen you can’t live without!
I’m not gonna mention the obvious extra virgin olive oil and good quality sea salt 😉 so it has to be: a big bunch of dried oregano from the λαΐκή (local market), feta cheese, and fresh tomatoes in the summer or sun-dried tomatoes in the winter.
A ‘delicious’ ending to the story…
You must be hungry! We created a gorgeous panzanella salad using Honest Toil’s olive oil, where we generously grilled artichokes to go on top with a gorgeous salsa verde to use as a dressing.
Looking to purchase a bottle of Honest Toil’s finest extra virgin olive oil? Click here to be directed to their main shop and add a bottle to your cart!
Make sure you have your Maldon Salt ready for this recipe! If you are running out, please feel free to browse on our Where to Buy Page to find your nearest store in which stocks our beloved Maldon Salt.
Lastly, we LOVE seeing your creations – please tag us on Instagram using the #maldonsalt so we can share your own culinary creations.