Christos Mylonas, 25, born in Athens, lives with his parents in Vrinena Almiros, a village with 250 permanent residents located 60 kilometers from Volos. The village is known for its production of Greek mountain tea: 150 tons of tea are produced there each year.
Christos and his family moved back to Vrinena Almiros in 2002, when he was 8 years old. His father is a teacher with training in special education, who had for six years a blind student in Athens. Now he teaches in a primary school in Almiros, and his mother is a bank employee. Christos and his family own 70 stremmata of land, where for three generations, they have grown Greek mountain tea. “I remember helping my grandparents in the fields as a child, when I was 10 year old,” Christos said. “After high school, I studied agronomy in the Department of Agriculture, Plant Production, and Rural Environment of the University of Thessaly. I started to help out more with the family business. I’m currently doing my master’s degree at the University of Thessaly, focusing on mountain tea.”
Now Christos and his father work the fields. They grow 40 stremmata of organic mountain tea as well as oregano, mint, chamomile, and sage. The tea grows at the top of Mount Othrys at an altitude of 1200 meters and is harvested from the middle of May to the end of June. “My grandfather took the cuttings for our fields from the peak of Mount Othrys,” Christos said. “In Greek mythology, Othrys was home to the Titans during their ten-year war with the Olympian gods. They hurled parts of the mountain at Olympus and hid in the gorges of the mountains when Zeus threw his thunderbolts.” The family uses only natural fertilizers and grows, harvests, dries, and packages the tea all by hand, in the traditional way. This natural process is certified organic in both the US and Europe. They produce 6-7 tons of tea annually.
Participating in the Medicinal and Aromatic Plant Program
“The program ‘New Agriculture for a New Generation’ has helped me decrease the cost of production and increase the quality of our product,” Christos said. “It has also helped me to market our herbs, to make contacts with new customers, and with product certification.”
In 2009, Christos and his father started to sell their herbs abroad. Their first customer was in Canada. Now they have more than 10 international customers in the USA, Germany, Italy, France, and Japan. “Sending our products within the EU is easy, but the first few times we sent outside the EU was a little difficult. We needed to obtain many certifications and controls, like an FDA registration number. We’ve found our customers through some exhibitions abroad, or online. Last December, during the program, I started the company Mountain Herbs to facilitate exports.
Out of the 20 tea producers in the region, Christos and his friend Tasos Xristopoulos were two of the five selected to continue to the second phase of the program, where they will receive advanced training to turn their tea into an innovative product that they can bring to market. They intend to produce capsules with special blends of mountain tea and other local aromatic herbs that can be used in an espresso machine, and they are currently experimenting with various combinations of mountain tea with honey, mint, chamomile, fruit, and other ingredients from Vrinena Almiros. “The goal is for us to all work together to form new products,” Christos said. “How many grams of tea? How much mint? We’re still searching for the combinations that will give the best taste.”
“Greek mountain tea is still not well known outside of Greece,” Christos said. “In the last three or four years, it’s started to get recognition. We’d like to make the tea known all over the world.”