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Steve Kriaris, President of KOLONAKI Group of Companies had the great pleasure of touring the home of Halvas Drapetsonas. He shares his experience with us in this post so that we can understand what makes Halvas Drapetsonas so special and unique.
This summer, I had the pleasure of going behind the scenes and visiting the halva capital of Greece. Halva is a traditional Greek and Middle Eastern dessert made from tahini (sesame paste). Halvas Drapetsonas, located in Pireus, Greece, has been making halva since its inception in 1924. At their production plant, I experienced how halva is made by hand at the only workshop in Greece that has continued to make halva the traditional way since the early 1900s.
Simply put, it's an art form.
Halvas Drapetsonas have stayed true to the craft even if enlisting in modern technology would yield more production. For them, it's about taste and quality, not mass production, and it's about carrying on the art form.
The small production plant and store are still where the family set up shop after fleeing Asia Minor in 1924. The original building was made from wood and was also the family's residence. This area is known as Drapetsona and is located right at the edge of Piraeus port in Athens. Its location was an obvious choice when considering the traffic that flowed in and out of one of Europe's largest ports. The halva is still made in the exact location five generations later, using centuries-old methods passed down to the next generation.
The same process for almost 100 years.
The process begins by sourcing the highest quality sesame from Greece. The tahini base is only as good as the quality of the sesame used, and Halvas Drapetsonsas only uses the highest quality ingredients. Once the tahini is complete and at the proper temperature, they begin creating the sugar-based sweetener. This base is blended in a silo-type mixer for over two hours until the consistency needed for the required "stretch" is achieved so that the sugars never tear apart. One of the things I learned while watching the production was how the temperature of each ingredient and the room itself had to be very warm. The proper temperature allows the cohesion of all the elements to come together and produce a masterful delicacy.
Knives are strictly forbidden in the shop. At Halvas Drapetsonas, it is customary to "cut" each portion of halva by hand, and using knives would sever or harden the natural elastic fibres of the halva. Instead, it is portioned off by hand, handled by master halva makers who use special techniques to extend the fibres (klostes).
In addition to the above experience, I had the pleasure of speaking with the only five Halva Masters in Greece. Every one of them has trained for over five years to become a Master Halva Maker. They start the day at sunrise and begin their craft by hand, adding in the exact amount of each ingredient and implementing their personal touch to blend, toss and roll over the halva every time.
A batch of halva batches never exceeds 65 KG, which is the maximum that one Halva Master would be able to create with each batch. They continue to keep the handmade craft front and center.
The recipe is simple: three essential ingredients, sugar, water, tahini, and then the added flavour of cocoa, pistachios, or almonds, but the technique is complex.
Halva, the traditional Greek pastry enjoyed all year round in Greece, the middle east and the Balkans, is now available for consumers to enjoy across North America. Visit KolonakiFineFoods.com to purchase directly or to find a retailer near you.
KOLONAKI Group of Companies