4 excellent eco-logical greek stores

Eco-conscious shoppers in Athens now have plenty of top quality option when searching for the perfect accessories, jewellery, clothing, and home decor items. As with vegan-vegetarian restaurants and stores selling Greek and global natural, organic cosmetic products, more and more stores catering to the ethically-minded are sprouting up around the capital. Here we showcase our top choices!

Convert Art (24-26 Pallados, Psyrri)

Used tyres, used inner tubes and electronic materials are skilfully up-cycled to create super-stylish and original convertible bags, wallets, belts, and jewellery. Created in 2012 by designer Marina Griponisioti after she found inspiration from the disposable items she found in a garage, this is Greece’s first upcycling company, with a choice of over 400 designs. You can also check out Convert Art’s online store on Etsy.

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Trash4Flash (9 Voulgaroktonou St, Nea Smirni)

Plastics, metals, rubber and other materials are upcycled to create necklaces, earrings, neck-wear, cufflinks, and bracelets that may not suit every taste but certainly present a singular style.
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Plastikourgeio (Asklipiou 51, Exarcheia)

Both a shop and a mini-factory/lab, this store follows the eco-philosophy of the global Precious Plastics movement and sells alternatives to plastic as well as their own upcycled plastic creations. With a plastic shredder, 3D printer and other machines the owners have created themselves, as well as collaborations with creative Greek designers, they showcase some exciting eco-options in jewellery, home decor, and accessories. Here you’ll also find bamboo dining sets, stainless steel straws, handmade lunch-bags and other trendy utilitarian items that don’t need to be dumped after use.


Living Green (Harilaou Trikoupi 53, Exarcheia)

In this innovative, brightly-lit and thoroughly-stacked store you’ll find everything from home decor items to children’s construction toys and other games, sophisticated gardening equipment like a rollable compost basket and sprouting jars, cosmetics, jewellery, lunch bags, office accessories, and hobby items. The store has a chain in the northern suburb of Kifissia as well as an online store.

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fast food + vegan? sure thing!

Vegan Nation Athens salads
Vegan Nation serves several green and pasta salads daily. This one is with mango and cashew nuts.

Until recently in Athens, if you were looking for fast food, there are chains like Grigoris and Everest, Goody’s and MacDonald’s, neighbourhood bakeries of all styles, serving all kinds of pies, and of course a souvlaki shop around every corner. Now there is also Vegan Nation, located right across Monastiraki Square, where the focus is packaged, meat and dairy-free foods, showcased on cool shelves to be taken out or casually eaten at one of the two tables outside the tiny store. From vegan sushi to one of Greece’s most lauded meat dishes, moussaka, this place offers plenty of no-frills yet tasty options (with several ethnic cuisine twists) to tourists and locals seeking guilt-free fast food indulgence.

Vegan Nation is brand new to Athens and not only – its owner, Alex Potter, who worked with vegan chef Nikos Gaitanos to create the menu, claims that it is the first in the world of its kind.

The Experiment:
I visited with a friend Cassandra Wagstaffe who co-owns her own restaurant, Cafe Boheme in Kolonaki, Athens and whose diet is mostly vegan, and our preschool-age children, to sample a few dishes. Not everything on the menu was available as what the chefs create changes from day to day, and sitting at the table you aren’t handed any plates or glasses – as the idea is to keep it as fast-food-basic as it gets.

There are no freshly made drinks on the menu (and no alcoholic drinks either), although there are several cold-pressed fruit and vegetable juices made in the morning and refrigerated for sale. One of our kids was fast asleep and the other (mine) did not take to the “popular moussaka” – he actually announced that he preferred the one his yiayia gives him. He spat out the soutzoukakia, probably because they were strongly seasoned with spices like cumin, which many kids his age are not very keen on, but he was thrilled by the cheesecake (which has a base of Oreo cookies)  and the strawberry-chocolate-peanut butter smoothie.

Vegan Nation Athens I'm Very Well Thank You Sushi Moussaka
The vegan fast food restaurant’s two most popular dishes du jour – Sushi Combo and Moussaka

I tried the Sushi Combo, a few forkfuls of the above-mentioned moussaka and soutzoukakia, as well as a salad with mango and cashew nuts and the cheesecake. Everything was tasty, and for a fast food place, very satisfying to my adult palate (although my friend and I agreed the moussaka was actually quite stodgy, and I found the sushi rice mushy – though I imagine keeping sushi rice to the perfect texture when it’s sitting on the shelf can be a challenge, considering it’s a food that has to be eaten immediately after preparation).

Vegan Nation Alexander Potter kitchen
Vegan Nation owner Alexander Potter in the kitchen with friendly chef Alexandra.


Conclusion:
Like many others, I am overall excited to discover that an initiative like this has been born in Athens, and Potter seems to have a strong vision for how he intends to develop and improve upon every aspect. I laud Potter (also a gracious host, BTW) for having the grit to launch something like this in crisis-slammed Greece (something we discuss in the interview below), and also commend him for pushing forth with a truly original idea that has already received a very positive feedback and I’m certain has a bright potential for dynamic expansion in Greece and abroad. As for finding the ideal savoury dishes that my preschool kid will love, I will definitely go again and try other options! Cassandra’s comment on the Vegan Nation experience was: “A nice concept, well organized, clean, fresh and instant food at an economical price. A great option for vegans on the run, or for grabbing lunch between work or shopping in the city.”

INTERVIEW WITH VEGAN NATION OWNER ALEX POTTER

Q: In a nutshell, how do you define Vegan Nation as a concept and what it actually offers?
AP: A 100% all vegan on-the-go eatery serving a full spectrum of freshly prepared hot and cold multi-ethnic, neatly packed and exquisitely presented meals along with desserts and cold pressed juices that can all be taken away or consumed on the premises in an enjoyable and refreshing atmosphere.

Q: Please tell me a little about your own connection to the vegan diet & lifestyle.
AP: I grew up in a vegetarian/vegan household so it’s in my DNA in many ways.

Q: Having lived in so many countries, why did you choose crisis-hit Greece for opening this business?! 
AP: Even though I am half Greek, I never grew up Greece. I would spend summers here when I was younger so I am familiar to some degree with the area. I ended up starting a venture in the digital media sector two years ago in full crisis Greece and was traveling back and forth between Los Angeles and Athens. While spending time here I saw that despite the country being in a crisis there was still ongoing demand both from the tourists as well as the locals especially in the food and beverage sector. Before going ahead with the shop I compared different markets including London and Los Angeles. From a business perspective I found Athens to be where it made most sense for this new venture.

Q: Who is your target audience? 
AP: Greeks, Foreigners, Vegans, Non-vegans, Vegetarians etc. It’s really geared to appeal to everyone’s taste (vegan and non-vegan alike) and everyone’s wallet size.

Q: What’s the feedback so far from your Greek clients?
AP: Amazing. I see a twinkle in their eyes when they set eyes on the store. They all love the concept, the menu, the food, the taste and the prices. For Greek vegans it’s a haven.

Q: Please tell me about your menu – what is the objective in what you serve?
AP: It’s about filling a gap in the market and serving great dishes from a wide variety of cuisines at very reasonable prices. I am a strong believer that one should be able to have amazing food without having to necessarily pay a high price for it.

Q: Do you do deliveries as well?
AP: We are already gearing up to start delivery come September. Orders will be available directly by calling our store and also through E-food.

Q: What do you aspire to in the future for Vegan Nation? 
AP: We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response from everyone again from both Greeks and foreigners. An important amount of them have expressed on their own that they want Vegan Nation in their home country and in their local neighborhood. Humbly, we are working towards the opportunity of making that a reality.

Q: What do you really want our readers to know about Vegan Nation?
AP: That we are changing the dynamics in diversity of food being offered and the way it’s being offered with a unique and tasty 100% all vegan on-the-go wide selection menu.

 

 

 VEGAN NATION INFO
Ermou 86, Monastiraki
Tel: 21 0322 6226
Hours 10:00AM – 6:00PM

queen of herbal teas

PRODUCT REVIEW: ANASSA TEA

I’ve always been a major fan of fresh herbs – used to season foods, give salads the perfect flavour and steeped in hot water to make a heartwarming tea. Whenever I can, I pick my own, or just buy bunches at the local markets and traditional or bio Greek stores. The soothing quality of a cup of hot herbal tea in winter or iced tea in summer is delightful, and knowing that herbs have so many health benefits just adds to the pleasure.

 

Right now I’m crazy about ANASSA tea. To be honest it was their beautiful packaging that first drew me to their fragrant and tasteful blends. Starting with the outside, I liked see modern, sleek and minimal light grey metal boxes with illustrations of Gods; my favourite blend, Happiness, is represented by Pegasus, the divine winged horse, and contains a lovely and uplifting mix of savoury Mountain Tea (shown to have as many antioxidants as green tea), fine Mint, intense Sage and Lemon balm. Then upon opening the box, you’ll get an elevating whiff of aromatic herbs, and inside see something completely unique – a packet of biodegradable tea bags and a bunch of thin wooden sticks you can thread through them to rest on the top of your cup. And talking of cups they have even designed a glass mug with the word “δες” inside, meaning “see”, which reflects beautifully on the sides as you drink.

Anassa’s creators, Aphrodite Florou and Yanna Mattheou

Anassa (pronounced with an accent on the first ‘A’, and meaning queen in ancient Greek, but, cleverly, also meaning ‘breath’ when pronounced with the accent on the second ‘a’) was the brainchild of duo Aphrodite Florou and Yanna Mattheou, whose motto is: “Live Organic, Pick Greek, Enjoy thoroughly!”. Both with a solid background in managerial positions, they have successfully combined their love of nature, passion for medicinal and aromatic local herbs, and an inherent desire to work with 100% organic small producers around the country on fair trade terms with their marketing savvy and top of the range designers.

The herbs are handpicked and the clearing is done manually so as to preserve all valuable ingredients. They are then dehydrated in the most modern conditions in order to retain the aroma and vivid colours as well as precious essential oils. Apart from the multitude of information gathered about Greek herbs since ancient times in herbal bibles such as the Materia Medica, Mattheou  and Florou also worked closely with a scientific team in selecting the herbs they would be using and the blends they were creating. So here’s to a regular cup of their excellent tea!

DID YOU KNOW… Greece is endowed with 6,500 different species and subspecies of plants, 1,600 of them endemic, found now here else the world.

 

 

 


 

vegan food scene, athens

Chocolate dessert served at Melikrini by pastry chefs Vegan Fairies


In the early 1980s in Greece, vegetarianism was an alien concept and a good excuse to mock someone mercilessly.
However, in the last decade in particular (perhaps also due to growing interest in alternative therapies and exercise like yoga) Greeks have become familiar with the vegetarian ideology and practice, and more recently the vegan diet too. That said, the Greek diet has a broad variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes, and the religiously faithful go on several vegan fasts per year, some as long as 40 days. Yet, the presence of meat, and in huge varieties, has taken centre-stage on the family table.

Avocado

The Original vegan hotspot in Athens, Avocado is run by Eraj, whose wife Vivi runs NYSY Studios yoga school right across the street. It’s also next door to Four Seasons organic mini-market so this whole area on Nikis Street has become a health-lover’s go-to place. The (organic) food here is nutritious, delicious and worldly – from Kimchi Wraps to coriander-topped Dahl or vegan sushi and avocado pizza, there’s something for everyone. The juices, teas and smoothies rock too, and if you’re in a hurry and nearby it’s well worth grabbing lunch in a glass here in the form of protein shakes or other superfood kicks. Also suitable for families (there’s a changing table in the women’s bathroom), work lunches and take-out.

Melikrini

A more recent arrival, with a Sacred Geometry-directed design by healing architect Lydia Yannopoulou. The dinky Exarcheia vegan hangout serves soothing , freshly made and superfood-packed, homemade soups (cold in summer and steaming hot in winter) , salads, tarts, snacks, desserts and a choice of hot and cold drinks. There are plenty of raw options too.

Lime Bistro

Run by two chefs who turned vegan a few years ago and then felt they had to open a restaurant to share their culinary inspiration with the wider public, Lime in Gazi has recently expanded by creating a pleasant back garden as well as having a funky interior imbued with shades of blue. Vegan burgers, a daily raw tart of the day, soups, power smoothies and salads (try the raw carob-‘dako‘ rusk tomato salad with creamy almond ‘myzithra‘ cheese), mouthwatering excellent desserts, and truly warm and friendly service.

 

Mama Tierra


Mama Tierra serves a broad variety of ethnic vegan and vegetarian dishes inspired by Latin America, India, the Mediterranean and Middle East, with hearty everyday dishes such as (mushroom) burgers, colourful fresh salads, and soothing soups. The ingredients used are all sourced from small, local, organic producers.


Yi

A raw menu almost exclusively based on uncooked cuisine. More of a cafe than a restaurant, Yi produces its own nut-and-seed “butters” and “cheeses”, and more. Mouthwatering “I can’t believe it’s raw!” desserts like hazelnut mousse and crepes. The focus is to create light, allergy-free dishes – lactose, gluten, sugar and dairy free, and of course non-processed. They make their own nut and seed butters, grow their own sprouts, and use marinades that effectively break down the tough fibres of some foods. Their specialty is hot (with hot water added, not boiled) and cold soups and their most popular dish is the Burrito platter for two.

NB. Raw and vegan cuisine has become a cool phenomenon that modern & especially younger Greeks are warming to, something to which the budding presence of health food stores, organic street markets and workshops by top level vegan chefs like Nikos Gaitanos.

Yi’s Burrito Platter — it’s raw!!!


INFO:

Avocado: 30 Nikis, Syntagma
• Tel.: (+30) 210.323.7878

Melikrini: 14 Asklipiou (Panepistimio metro),
Tel. (+30) 2155458787.

Lime Bistro: 23 Dekeleon (Kerameikos metro),
Tel. (+30) 2103474423.

Falafel House: 23 Athinas St (Monastiraki metro),
Tel. (+30) 2103234183

Mama Tierra: 84 Akadimias
Tel.: (30) 211.411.4420

Trivoli Vegan Kafeneion: Marinou Antipa 107a, Ilioupoli (Ilioupoli metro stop), Tel. (+30) 2114050120.

Yi: 69 Grigoriou Lambraki, Glyfada
Tel.: (+30) 210.964.8512.

Zahari kai Alati
38 Athanasiou Diakou St, tel. (+30) 2109244322.

TFL kale snacks

TFL could be said to have altered a lot of people’s dietary and culinary perspectives during their past six years of action in Greece, and probably not as an indirect result, there is now a growing movement in the vegan circles, with more and more vegetarian/vegan restaurants opening up, more grocery stores selling vegan-friendly products, and the opening of the capital’s first raw food cafe (Yi, in the southern suburb of Glyfada), which Troo Food’s Danae Tsekoura also helped set up.

Meeting TFL inspired me to attend some of their workshops in raw cuisine, usually taught by Danae. I loved learning the far more creative ways of putting together and enjoying raw ingredients to create delicious, health-boosting and colourful dishes, and despite realising that I will always like the art of cooking stuff too much to go completely raw, I relished discovering various raw food techniques, above all that of dehydrating foods. I developed a lingering crush for Danae’s Excalibur dehydrator and still long for one of my own today, dreaming of the day when I can concoct my own raw snacks. Meanwhile I will have to stick with the ones I can buy. And fortunately some of them are really good (though to be honest, a little too pricey for me to buy regularly).

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Curious to try out Troo Food’s new Kale chip range, I received Kale chips in three flavours (Mustard, Spicy and Cheezy) and kale crackers in two flavours (Cheezy and Mustard).
Favourites: The Spicy Kale Chips and the  Cheezy Kale Crackers.
NOTE: The cheese effect in the crackers is created with crushed sunflower seeds, cashew nuts and nutritional yeast (one of those ingredients I could never bring myself to use – I’ve very wastefully bought and chucked out this Vitamin B12 -rich product twice – but now I got a new idea of how great it can be.

Extra bonuses: Greek olive oil & Himalayan salt are used.

By Alexia Amvrazi

four seasons of fresh bio food

Souvlaki may still be one of Greece’s most popular and accessible (street) foods, yet for health-conscious foodies, Athens has become an increasingly easy and exciting place to live and shop in. Today, practically every neighbourhood in the city has at least one bio shop or food stores selling a decent choice of traditional, pure, healthy, ‘home made’ style foods. Then there are the weekly local laiki green grocer’s markets where if you do your research and talk to sellers, you can usually find ways to get the “good stuff” brought to you – fresh farm eggs, the best varieties of seasonal fruit, vegetables and herbs, and more.

There are numerous by now for good quality and reliable organic produce in Athens, but one that has consistently remained popular throughout the years, and not by chance, is Tessereis Epoches (Four Seasons) on 30 Nikis St just round the corner from Syntagma Square. The substantial variety (over 3.500 products) of fresh, dried, frozen, canned and dry foods, as well as ecological household cleaning products and cosmetics, mainly from Greece but also from around the world, and the friendly, helpful and highly knowledgeable staff, serve to make it a highly desirable shopping destination.

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The bio store opened in 2004, when the bio food scene was still very quiet in Greece as demand was still very low – today, it’s always busy with people trying to tailor a better diet and healthier lifestyle for themselves and their family. The mini-market’s owner, Vassilis Souvatzoglou, who helps run the family business with his mother and brother George, says: “Our target goal was and still remains to rediscover lost essence of foods, and find out about new ones. We are a team of young people that are specialized in organic products and love what we do.”

At Four Seasons you’ll find fresh, seasonal produce by small producers from around the country, sometimes sold at delightfully affordable prices – locally-grown foods like rare mushrooms, avocados and kale in winter, huge bunches of asparagus in spring, strawberries, courgettes and more recently even Cretan papaya, mangoes and passion fruit in summer. Souvatzoglou says: “Daily we are offering small producers the opportunity to grow and provide their products to a larger group of buyers, while supplying our customers with some of the best that Greek nature has to offer.”

te3Souvatzoglou adds that he has witnessed a significant shift in how Greeks eat in the last decade: “Nowadays, people are searching for quality foods and are more cautious about what they eat. This outlook has led to the creation of a new scene in Greece.” Vassilis and his team make ongoing research into the food industry a priority, travelling far and wide to meet producers at the very places where they live and farm, seeking out quality produce. “We constantly travel around Greece and internationally to discover new ideas and healthy habits. Our main purpose is to promote healthy living and enjoy good food. That is why we always aim to be one step further and create our local food revolution.”