Extending from Lesbos to Ayvalık, the Sabuncugil family has been producing “the business they know best” for 100 years, namely olive, olive oil and soap. Deniz Sabuncugil says, “Juicing a fruit in the best way is the whole story”.
Can you tell us your story, what is the structure of your family business right now?
Those who moved from Greece to Turkey with the population exchange in the early 1920s were quick to discover the Aegean lands, which had the same climate, vegetation and fertile olive trees as where they came from. Here are the representatives of an olive oil culture, the oldest of which began production in 1937 under the name Sabuncugil. The Sabuncugil family, who migrated from Lesbos Island to Istanbul and then to Ayvalık, started to revive the art of olive and olive oil in Ayvalık. In Ayvalık, we have been affecting employment as much as we can from grandfather to grandchild for 100 years. As the fourth generation, we are at the beginning of the work now. By processing our own olive trees, we managed to become one of the most well-known brands of Ayvalık olive oil throughout Turkey.
You have a tradition of waiting from harvest to harvest…
After all our olives are used up, it takes about 3 – 3.5 months for them to be harvested with natural methods. Every year we share a new crop of olives. In fact, since there is no olive fabrication production, this process is very normal, but those who first met us would be surprised and say ‘what kind of trade is this’… But over the years, they started to welcome it naturally by making winter stocks. Apart from the taste of our centuries-old trees, olives and olive oil, “soap making”, which comes from our surname, is a separate happiness.
You taste it yourself
Every year, we bring the produce together with the tasters at our harvest festivals. With the advantage of being an olive oil taster and chemist, I can do both chemical and sensory analysis of crops. In October, we start the harvest with the period we call the first pressing. Sensory analysis, which is actually very important in olive oil, has gained importance in our country in recent years. All products of Sabuncugil are registered with Ayvalık Geographical Indication. The tasting, which is held with a closed panel, is done with at least 10 tasters. Olive oils with no defects are called extra virgin olive oil. We collect all of our crops from our olive groves, where we carry out good agricultural practices, as quickly as possible before the olive touches the soil, deliver them to the factory in crates, and turn them into olive oil untouched by the method we call cold pressing. Actually, juicing a fruit in the best way is the whole story.
5th generation is on the way
Will the fifth generation also be in the family business?
Ayvalık and Sabuncugil are now identified. We wish to transfer the trust to the fifth generation Erim and Eren Sabuncugil. Erim, who graduated from Yeditepe University Department of Business Administration in Istanbul, and Eren, who is still continuing his education at Yeditepe University, continues his education to take over the flag as the fifth generation.
Apart from your olive business, what are you working on in Ayvalık?
I am a member of the Ayvalık Chamber of Commerce Laboratory Board of Directors. We also support the training of young musicians with Filiz Ali on the board of Ayvalık International Music Academy. I am a founding member of Ayvalık Education Support Association with Mesut Ergin, the Mayor of Ayvalık.
How can we distinguish the fake?
Although the consumer seeks the best in olive oil and olives, adulteration is very intense…
Perfect olive oil has a high fruitiness, that is, it gives you the feeling that you have eaten the olive. The taste of our centuries-old trees is therefore unique to us. Unfortunately, the biggest surprise is experienced in black olives. In fact, the pit of the olive does not turn black as it ripens, and if it is exposed to chemicals during production, the pit is also affected. Green olives should not have a pickle taste. In fact, once the consumer’s palate tastes good, he now reacts to other spoiled tastes.