extra virgin olive oil
souri olive variety
Shorkk is proud to be showcasing Zejd’s extra virgin olive oil, a small-batch production from the north of Lebanon. Made from souri olives, a variety typical of the eastern Mediterranean. Its name comes from the Lebanese port city of Tyre, Sour in Arabic. In the Phoenician period Sour was a major trading centre of the ancient Mediterranean world. From here, the Phoenicians exported, amongst other things, olive trees. This olive variety, souri, reflects its trading history from the port city. Like their Phoenician ancestors, the Lebanese are still exporting olive oil from the eastern shores of the Mediterranean.
The olives are grown near the village of Beino, in the north of Lebanon. The village is nestled between 2 hills, in Arabic, beino بينه means “between”. The olive trees grow here at 550 meters above sea level, and stretch from the Mediterranean to the borders with Syria.
the man behind the oil
Youssef Fares is the owner producer of Zejd. Since his first memory of riding through his family olive grove on a donkey, a lot has changed in the way olive oil is produced in Lebanon. Since 2004, after learning the craft of olive oil production in Italy, Youssef has been shaping his brand, focusing on an export market to showcase the best of Lebanon.
Youssef supplements his olive production with olives from selected growers in the area. This provides an important source of income for farmers in the north of Lebanon. His focus is always on producing a superior extraction of extra virgin olive oil, quality over quantity.
extra virgin olive oil
The olive trees are ideally suited to the climate and terroir of north Lebanon, meaning there is no need for an irrigation system, they are “rain-fed”. The experienced team who in charge of the harvest are careful to avoid bruising the olives, which are processed the same day. This keeps the acidity level low and ensures maximum health benefits. They are “cold-pressed” and “mechanically extracted” (terminology which means the product can be called extra virgin olive oil). The result is a balanced, mild flavour with a peppery aftertaste. The view below shows a view from a drone of the harvest taking place in Beino in 2021. Large sheets of material are laid out to catch the olives while the team use sticks to shake the trees.
tradition and modernity
Although Youssef has modernised the way olive oil is processed, traditions are never far away. While the up-to-date machines standardise the quality and regulate the temperature important for extracting extra virgin olive oil, he is the first to admit the wisdom of his uncle. Fares, aged 92, keeps a careful eye on the olive groves, and it is his experience which Youssef seeks above all others. When we visited, hanging above the modern machinery, was an icon of the Virgin Mary and a blue stone to ward off the evil eye. There’s a place for tradition even in a modern factory.