Family Fare

Offering a selection of quality Greek olive oils and foods, an importer opts for paced and ­measured growth

Photo: Thisbe Organics founder, Constantine Marzavas 

GROWING UP IN London, Constantine Marzavas spent summer holidays in Thisvi, Greece. He learned how to tend the family olive groves from his grandfather, while his dad—a beekeeper—passed on the art of making honey.

Fast forward to 2004, and Marzavas—now married and employed as a heavy equipment operating engineer—was working in Athens as the country prepared to host the Summer Olympics. After the Games, the couple was part of a movement of young people drawn back to village life, ­looking to make a living off the land. “With the recession, a lot of ­people decided to go back to their roots,” he explains.

Marzavas and his wife, Elena, returned to London in 2009, bringing along a drum of olive oil from the family farm. While other guests took wine to dinner parties, they were more likely to arrive with a bottle of oil. Thanks to rave reviews, the ­couple decided to make the elixir available to a wider audience.

“I want to keep my supply consistent, so we’ve decided to stay a niche brand. We’re not a huge business, but the word is getting out” —Constantine Marzavas

In 2016, Marzavas launched Thisbe Organics to offer premium Mediterranean staples to London foodies. Angelos Italian Bakery & Market was the first to take a chance on the fledgling brand. “I gave [owners] Connie and Bruno a bottle of olive oil to try and they loved it,” Marzavas recalls.

Today, Thisbe Organics offers seven products—Thisbe Gold and Thisbe Green olive oil, Organic Olives, Honey Balsamic Vinegar, Wildcraft Oregano, Honey and Greek Mountain Tea—available at fine food retailers in London, Barrie and North York.

The company has attracted a loyal customer base through in-store samples. Marzavas—who still works as a heavy equipment operator—says he enjoys meeting people and sharing his love for the authentic flavours of Greece.

He also partners with professional chefs, including private chef, Eric Snidal. “I was introduced to Thisbe Organics at a food show in Toronto and instantly recognized the quality and flavour of the product,” Snidal says. “Having access to farm-direct products is something my clients notice and appreciate.”

As a small batch, farm-direct importer, Thisbe Organics may be as close as most Canadians can get to buying local without visiting Greece.

“Our olive oil comes from my family’s groves,” Marzavas notes. Thisbe Organics imports between 200 and 600 litres each year, depending on the harvest. Olives are picked by hand in the fall and brought to the mill the same day for pressing.

A friend gathers the oregano, which grows wild in the hills above Thisvi; the honey is produced by Marzavas’ father, who moves his hives to different locations in Greece each year. The current batch is pine honey from the Peloponnese. The Greek mountain tea comes from an organic farm in ­northern Greece, while the balsamic vinegar is produced on the southern island of Crete and infused with the island’s famous thyme honey.

“I want to keep my supply consistent, so we’ve decided to stay a niche brand,” Marzavas says. That doesn’t mean he has no plans to grow the business. Thisbe Organics recently launched an online store, and Marzavas is currently introducing the product line to Torontonians through the city’s upscale farmer’s markets.

“We have shipped to Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary,” he says. “We’re not a huge business, but the word is getting out.” Nicole Laidler

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