GEORGE & CYPRUS DELIGHTS
Captured by The Recipe Hunters in Cyprus
George is proud of his land, the products they have, and the traditional items they produce. He is a pioneer by action who wants Cyprus to be a leading country on an international level. He believes in Cyprus, it’s people, and reviving the old traditions!
In 1895 George’s great grandfather, Sophocles Athanasiou, traveled through the Greek Islands where he learned to make the Greek confectionary sweet called "Loukoumi." Loukoumi is a little jelly that is made from sugar and cornstarch and decorated with various colors, flavors, fruits and nuts. Sophocles fell in love with the confection and with the laborious art behind its making. Wanting to share the sweet back in his hometown, Geroskipou, Cyprus, he decided to start a shop that specialized in Loukoumi. Within 5 years the village became known for the sweet. Since the village was nestled along a main road, Loukoumi became a highlight for anyone traveling through the island.
How did George become involved in the family business?
"My father was studying medicine in 1964 in Naples, Italy, when his father suddenly died. My father left his studies and returned to the village to take care the family business. My father, my grandmother, and his sisters all chipped in to take over my grandfather's role within the company and soon enough I was next in line. When my father and I received news of a new highway being built that would surpass our village, we decided to invest in new infrastructure and create a factory that would focus on making the Loukoumi on a larger scale to export them to other countries. Luckily, I had studied business and was well-prepared to make the transition.
After doing a lot of hard work, I received the appropriate permissions, designed the factory, met with regulators, and was finally able to open the factory and new business in 2007. This marked the beginning of a new era for Aphrodite's Delights (the name of our company). At Aphrodite's Delights, we are able to produce in large quantities without the use of any additives or preservatives. Although we commercialized the loukoumi making, the integrity of the Loukoumi has remained intact and true to Cyprus. I wanted to use products in our Loukoumi that were indigenous to Cyprus. That's when I set out planting hundreds of carob trees on a local farm so that I can one day use my own carob in the Loukoumi."
Proud to be Cypriot. Honoring your land and it’s products:
"During the opening of my factory, the Cyprus delights became the the first Cyprus product to be of Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). Shortly thereafter, our sugared almonds, "koufeta amygdalou geroskipou," became the second PGI in Cyprus."
What is your next project?
"My next biggest project is the Mastic Gum of Paphos. It is extracted underneath the bark of the mastic gum trees. The locals chew mastic gum for it’s flavor and for it’s homeopathic ability to ease stomach pains. In Eos, over 5,000 families use Mastic Gum to make a variety of products including natural toothpaste. In recent years, mastic gum has slowly been forgotten, because processed gum is so readily available. People started to import the mastic into Cyprus rather than produce it themselves from places like Iran. I believe that we must embrace our traditions and figure out ways they can propel us forward as a country. I want to promote this product as being indigenous to Cyprus and sell it throughout the world for other people to enjoy. Thats why I recently planted 650 trees at a local farm. "
Explain to us why so many people refer to your Loukoumi as a Turkish Delight?
"Loukoumi is a product manufactured in the Mediterranean and North Africa. In the 1950's, C.S.Lewis, an English writer, published the book Chronicle of Narnia, in which she referred to the loukoumi as Turkish Delights. From that moment onwards, the whole world referred to the product as such. My father started to use the term “Cyprus Delights” to counter the Turkish name, but I felt that we should go back to the original Greek name when filing for the PGI (Protected Geographical Indication). The PGI helps protect the authenticity of our product and our family tradition. When someone asks what is the difference between Turkish delights, I say we know exactly what is put into our product and the process because the tradition started in our small village and has remained the same way ever since. Turkish delight has no set process, no consistency, and can be done in a variety of ways using different products including glucose. "
“I know my grandparents and their parents would be proud of honoring them with these marks that tie their products to our land!”