NIKOLAOS GIOTIS, Cheese products traders
Our company’s history begins in the 1950s with Alexis Giotis, who was from Sklivani in Ioannina. Alexis Giotis ran three dairies in the villages of Sklivani, Peta and Perdika. Epirus has always been known for producing exceptional cheese products. Alexis Giotis maintained 3 production units, which were well known for producing high quality products. As time went by, the next generation took over and his son Nikolaos Giotis, and later Panagiotis Giotis, worked in Athens where he developed and promoted the GIOTIS company.
As the company developed, it became prominent and was transformed into one of the largest companies involved in trading cheese products in the entirety of Greece! Today, Panayiotis’ son, Nikolaos Giotis, continues his ancestors’ work with great care and love. We market and distribute fine cheese products throughout Greece, drawing on our many years of experience and our knowledge and specialisation. We only offer fine products that fully meet customers’ needs and the most interesting Greek cheeses, that have a great aftertaste, and which are loved by all our customers!
The history of cheese
The word “cheese” is believed to be Indo-European in origin. However, irrespective of its exact etymology, historical sources show that mankind has been making cheese since ancient times. By making cheese, people had an animal source food that could be kept without being chilled. As we know, cheese is made by concentrating milk solids in such a way that they can be kept for some time without losing their nutrients. Short-life milk is the first food taken by newborn infants, it is exactly what an organism needs at the beginning of its life! And because of this, mankind tried to invent various methods to prolong the life of milk and of the nutrients contained in it. Amongst other things, he took the milk and concentrated it, shaped it and turned it into… cheese!
The history of cheese begins in 8,000 BC, on the Iranian plateau where ruminants – goats and sheep – were domesticated for the first time. A thousand years later, in the North of Europe, the first herds of cows were kept by nomads and used for meat and milk. During the fourth millennium BC, goats and sheep began to appear on the shores of the Mediterranean.
In Greek mythology, milk from grazing animals first appears in the story of Zeus who fed on milk from the goat Amaltheia. Also, according to myth, Zeus wanted to make his son, Hercules, completely immortal. To achieve this, Zeus wanted his wife Hera to nurse Hercules. But Hera was so jealous that the child was not hers that she refused. Zeus was very angry and ordered the heavens to open and start raining down milk to nurse the child.
In the Odyssey, Homer makes many references to Polyphemus who was a shepherd and a cheese-maker! Polyphemus seems to have been very fond of his animals and although he could eat Odysseus’ comrades, he could never bring himself to eat his own sheep. Homer even describes the small cheeses that matured in the cave! Generally, in both the Odyssey and the Iliad, there are references to “αίγιον τυρόν”, which means goats cheese.
Aristotle and Dioscorides were the first to describe the way that cheese was made, and from Ancient history onwards there are many sources which give information on cheese-making. There is a reference to a place in the Athens Agora (ancient market) which was entirely devoted to cheeses. Fresh cheeses were sold by weight and matured cheeses were sold by the piece. Soldiers were given cheese to eat almost every day – and they faced extremely strict punishments if they dared to sell it! There are sources which tell of a ritual feast in Sparta that included cheeses. More specifically, there was a coming of age ritual celebration during which the young men had to find food that had been hidden in difficult places. And some of these hidden delicacies were cheeses!
As sources show, the Romans were great cheese-lovers and amazing cheesemakers! One of the cheeses they made was LUNA. This cheese weighed one tonne and was two-meters in diameter! When the Romans were conquering Europe and the known world (as it was at that time), their sentinels were stationed all over the Empire. These sentinels had to survive, especially when they were forgotten about – as happened quite often! Because of this, the guards gathered flocks of sheep and goats so they could use the animals’ milk and meat. But they also made cheese, and the local peoples learnt the art of cheesemaking from these Roman sentinels.
There is also evidence of cheese being made in Greece during the Byzantine Empire. And this is where vlachiko cheese and myzithra cheese come from! These cheeses were mainly eaten with vegetables by the lower classes. European travelers and many Arabic texts also bear witness to the spread of cheese-making in Greece. Crete, in particular, is mentioned for the excellent cheese it produced, while Chania was named “TYPOPOLIS” (cheesetown). In addition, the Turkish Commercial Code refers to Greek cheeses, such as kalathi cheese from Limnos!
During Ottoman rule, cheesemaking continued to be common. A large number of livestock were farmed in mainland Greece and on the islands. More and more different methods were used to make cheese, and as the population moved these secrets of cheese-making and the art of making matured cheeses moved with them.
By the end of the 19th century, and then in the newly established Greek state, livestock farming was seen as being particularly important for the country’s economic development. The government turned abroad to find renowned cheesemakers who could teach the young Greeks about making cheese. And this is how Raimondos Dimitriadis, and the other famous cheese makers such as Zygouris and Polychroniadis who followed him, arrived in the country. Gradually, throughout the country, young people were trained in the art of cheese making. Later, as the Greek state continued to develop, the School of Agriculture was founded and farmers were also taught the art of cheesemaking. Also, the National Milk Committee was set up to promote the interests of cheese makers.
Consumption of cheese around the world
Europe is the “home” of cheese, as two-fifths of the world’s population do not drink milk, eat cheese or, in general, consume dairy products. One example of this the fact that is there have never been ruminants in China which were farmed to meet people’s individual dietary needs. As far as cheese consumption is concerned, Greece is ranked first in the world – with Greeks eating 23 kg of cheese per inhabitant per year. France follows with 22 kilos, while the Germans only eat 8-10 kilos each per year. The Japanese seem to be in last position, as they only eat 800 grams of cheese a year!