The 76-year-old brand of the Levantine family

The 76-year-old brand of the Levantine family

Istanbul is hosting a very interesting conference, which started yesterday and will continue until tomorrow: The first international Levantine conference named “The Levantines: Commerce and Diplomacy.”

More than 30 scientists are participating in the conference with keynote speaker Philip Mansel, the author of the book, “Constantinople: City of the World’s Desire.”

Historically, the term "Levantine" was used in the Ottoman times generally for the region covering today’s Balkans, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and a large portion of Egypt.

Different ethnic groups in the Ottoman Empire, Catholic or Protestant merchants and diplomats from all places in Europe who settled here and married those who had settled here earlier, and - especially in later years - Europeans who settled in Ottoman lands, were all called "Levantines."

I will tell you about the success story of a 76-year-old brand of a Levantine family from İzmir. The Micaleff Family was providing food for the English navy in the Mediterranean toward the end of the 19th Century. One member of the Micaleff family liked İzmir among the ports he called and he settled in this city.

After many years, Anthony Micaleff from the same family founded the first branded, tinned olive oil of Turkey, Kristal in İzmir in 1938. Because the Maltese family came to İzmir by boat, a boat emblem was placed on the tin box. Today, the Kristal brand is known in many cities in Anatolia as the “brand with the boat.”

Businessman Lucien Arkas from another Levantine family from İzmir bought the majority shares and became a partner in 2007. The firm is a leading olive oil producer in Turkey, with its 50,000-ton capacity. It has pioneered in promoting the olive oil mostly consumed in the Aegean and the Marmara regions also in Anatolia.

We met Executive Director of Kristal Ümit Öztürk at the olive harvest festivities at Ayvalık, who told us the interest shown to the brand Kristal at the eastern city of Elazığ was so great that “If I lived in Elazığ, I could have easily been elected the mayor there.”

The brand is well known in Anatolian cities that are known to be not very fond of the Mediterranean diet identified with olive oil. Ümit Öztürk is preparing to explain in the eastern city Diyarbakır that baklava can be made with olive oil.

Why not? We tasted the Antep pistachio baklava cooked with olive oil, it was delicious and most importantly it was much healthier than the ones cooked with butter. 

When it is health in question, why not change some rooted cooking techniques and traditions?

Kristal, like other leading olive oil brands, targets the increase of olive oil consumption in Turkey.

Turkey, with its two kilograms of annual consumption per person, is way behind other producer-countries such as Spain, Italy, Greece and Tunisia.

Turkish olive oil, which has set out to conquer Norwegian, Russian, Chinese and Japan markets, its domestic market is still here waiting to be captured.