Τea in capsules
by Steven Tagle, Content Creator, New Agriculture for a New Generation

Meet Tasos

Tasos Xristopoulos, 27 and newly married, lives in Vrinena Almiros, a village with 250 permanent residents located 60 kilometers from Volos. Tasos produces traditional Greek mountain tea, or tsai tou vounou (Sideritis raeseri). His family also owns 50 free-range cows, 300 free-range goats, and 400 sheep that they keep in the stable all year, cultivated in the traditional way. Both his parents and his mother’s parents are farmers, and the whole family works together in the fields. “We have 40 years of experience with the tea and with the animals. I helped in the fields and with the animals since I was little,” Tasos said. “I finished vocational high school, and after my military service, I took up work in the fields.” He owns 15 stremmata on Mount Othrys and rents 5 more. He is currently preparing 11 organic stremmata at 1100 meters, and the non-organic stremmata are at 600 meters. The entire production process is done by hand: weeding three times a year, the harvest from approximately 20 May - 20 June, drying the tea in a warehouse. They sell their tea to a trader, their milk to a creamery, and their meat to a butcher shop in Almiros.


Participating in the Medicinal and Aromatic Plant Program

Tasos first heard about the medicinal and aromatic plant program from the leader of a seminar series for new farmers. Of the 20 tea producers from Vrinena Almiros who participated in the program, he knew only two beforehand. One was Christos Mylonas, whose fields neighbored his. “One important lesson I learned last season was how to propagate tea from seeds instead of by cutting a part from the mature plant. Every four or five years, the crop must be renewed. The second and third years have the strongest yields, and after that, the yield falls.” 

Out of the 20 producers in the region, Tasos and Christos 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,[1]  and they are currently experimenting with various combinations of mountain tea with mint, chamomile, and other ingredients from Vrinena Almiros. “The second phase seems more difficult, but we have a great group, and I think we will do well,” Tasos said. 

As a result of his participation in the program, Tasos has also connected with representatives from APIVITA, a company that makes natural cosmetics from organic Greek products and is interested in buying his tea. “APIVITA wants organic tea, which must be grown naturally without fertilizer or additives,” he said. “I’m transitioning my fields so that we can work together. The process takes three years, and this will be the second.”

“Tasos has made an effort to get into organic farming,” said Falia Economou, director of the Medicinal and Aromatic Plant Program at the Agricultural University of Athens. “Now he’s found an entry into the market.” 

“I would like to have a stable production and be able to sell my tea at a good price,” Tasos said. “I am very thankful for all that the program has given me. I’ve learned many new things, and the teachers and my collaborators are great. I hope to continue working with them.”