Mastic

Mastic – one of the most important and typical plants of Chios Island. We had the chance to see and take part in some of the steps to produce Mastic, the “white gold”  which many tourists and inhabitants buy and love so much.

But it is a really long procedure from the small Mastic drops until you have soap, tooth paste or your favorite shampoo. That is why we want to take you on a small journey through the world of Mastic.

The first step, as an inhabitant of Chios Island told us, is to peel the skin of the Mastic tree because then the tree secretes the Mastic. For better results they put a white material on the ground. The Mastic drops fall on the ground and become hard. All these steps are usually done during April, May and June. Afterwards they collect the Mastic from the ground. But it is not so easy as it sounds now. You can not just take all the drops from the ground. There are many leaves, branches and small insects with which the drops stick together. So the people have to separate the Mastic from these things which they do during the whole year. You can find many people on the street. One good example is the village Mesta in the south of Chios, which is often described as the roots of Mastic.It takes a long time to separate the Mastic from these things -  that is why many people, as the next step, clean it with a sieve because then small particles like earth fall down. When they have cleaned everything they divide it in different qualities. For example there is the bad quality which can be summarized as the material where the Mastic and the branches really stick together. The better quality is the material consisting of Mastic and leaves. Here it is easier to separate the Mastic drops from the leaves. And the last material is for example the material where the drops are almost separated and there are just some really, really small branches inside.
And after dividing the Mastic in different groups the next step is to separate the Mastic from these materials and put it in small pots. Important is that Drops with green or yellow particles can not be used because they are from the year before and old. Drops surrounded with a dark material are kept because the churches use it for the liturgy.
The other drops are cleaned with a spiky knife to remove the dust and dirt.
It is very important to clean the Drops really in-depth because afterwards they give it to a company which produces soap, chewing gum and many other things out of it. When the Mastic arrives at these companies they scan each drop with a special machine to see dirt, dust and small animals - and even the smallest particles.  Afterwards they produce many products which are sold all over the world.
A really nice experience for us was to clean the Mastic and we recognized that this work can not be done with machines because the Mastic is very sensitive and it breaks fast. And moreover you have to work very detailed because the price of the Mastic depends on the clarity of the drops.
All in all mastic is very important for Chios island because the people working with Mastic have an exercise for the whole year – clean the fields, peel the trees, collect the Mastic Drops, separate it in different qualities, clean the Mastic drops and finally send it to the companies. It was very interesting for us to take part in this process and at the end we can tell you that the taste of Mastic is very special - but special means not bad. We liked the taste and enjoyed these hours deep in the Greek culture.