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Chios Mastiha: History and cultivation

Chios Mastiha is the brand product of Chios. It is a unique in the world natural aromatic resin, product of the mastiha tree (pistacia lentiscus var chia), that grows only in the southern part of Chios island. It has multiple uses in the food and drinks industries, as well as in pharmaceutics and cosmetics and its production and trade is a main pillar of the local economy. Chios Gum Mastic Growers Association is the exclusive manufacturer and distributor of natural Chios Mastiha, both in Greece and abroad.

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Mastiha cultivation is not a simple case. It follows the same traditional steps for years. Despite technological advances and use of new tools, the basic steps of the cultivation, which is organic, remain the same: preparation,, kentima, collection and cleaning.
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The preparation

The preparation  involves the cleaning and leveling of the ground under the mastic tree creating a smooth surface which is called “the table”. The table is covered with a white powder of calcium carbonate, which does not affect the natural and chemical substance of mastiha nor its cleanness. It is important that the surface is as clean possible, because the mastiha that will be collected in the end will be cleaner too.

The Kentima or Kentos is the most important phase of the cultivation process. At this stage, the producer carves the mastic tree’s trunk with a special sharp tool, creating a wound from where the resinous sap is produced. This happens more than once from mid July to late August.

The Kentima

The Kentima

The collection

The collection

The collection takes place after the mastiha is solidified. It also happens gradually. First the largest parts called “pita” are collected. After that, the mastiha that is on the trunk and tree branches is collected. The harvest is stored in cool places until the cleaning process starts.

The cleaning process is a copious and long process. Every producer aims to deliver the cleanest possible product to the Chios Mastiha Gowers’ Association. Soil and leaves are fist removed and then the product is rinsed with water and it is laid out to dry. Traditionally, at this stage women take over. In groups and helping each other, the women of mastiha villages in Chios check every grain of mastic that has been collected, removing any foreign parts with shapr knives, In order to pass the time during this monotonous and laborious work, they often share stories with each other, turning work into a social gathering.

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The cleaning process

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Plan your visit to the villages of Mastiha (Mastichochoria) in the south. Get to know the locals, learn about mastiha cultivation, a unique knowledge that has been inscribed in the UNESCO list of intangible heritage. Chios Mastic Museum showcases the production history of mastiha and its processing and trade, integrating it in the cultural landscape of Chios. The production and use of Chios Mastiha are an important part of the local identity and culture. In getting to know Chios Mastiha, one will get to know Chios island.

 For more information, visit the website of Chios Mastiha Growers’ Association.

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