A MAN who swapped Malvern water for Mediterranean olive oil has spoken of his mission to create the golden liquid.
Robert Powell was the chief engineer at the Malvern Water bottling plant at Colwall but now has successfully produced another product.
He moved to the Le Marche region of Italy three years ago, buying a farmhouse and olive grove called Casale Delle Rondini.
After learning the art of making olive oil, he is now selling his product commercially and is offering foodies the chance to adopt an olive tree.
Before working at Malvern Water, Mr Powell was at Metal Box in Worcester for 23 years, starting as an apprentice and rising up the ranks to become a shift manager, then later moving to the Colwall job.
He said: “My partner, Francesco Russo, is Italian and we had visited Italy lots of times so always wanted to live here.
“But because I wouldn’t leave my father who was in his 90s, we had to wait till he passed away.
“We decided the main olivegrowing region in Puglia was too hot in the summer, so picked Le Marche, which is in central Italy and also a very good olivegrowing area plus beautiful countryside halfway between the mountains and the coast.”
They bought an olive grove, but it had been neglected for decades and lots of work was necessary to bring it back into a state where it was productive. It took many weeks of hard work to bring the grove, which was overgrown with brambles and weeds, back into a usable state.
The help and advice of two knowledgeable locals, Dario and Luigi Caraceni, was invaluable in learning skills such as pruning and the secrets of how to make the oil.
Mr Powell said: “What followed was for Francesco an intensive course in the art of olive tree pruning.
“We knew what our goal was, to get these tired and neglected trees back to their prime, as they would have been some 70 years ago, when somebody cared enough to plant them so perfectly spaced apart to allow them to capture every ray of sunlight that was available.”
Mr Powell said the first harvest two years ago in the middle of November was a memorable experience, with friends and relatives all helping, sharing picnics and wine as they worked.
And the pressing of that first crop was even more memorable.
He said: “We waited at the end of the line, fresh crusty bread all ready to catch those first drops of amazing greeny golden liquid that now flowed into the containers that we had brought.
“We had done it, all that work had come to fruition in those tins of 100 per cent pure virgin olive oil that smelled so good and tasted like nothing else.
“We have spent the last three years perfecting our skills and absorbing the local knowledge.
We now want to share that knowledge and the end result with other discerning people who will appreciate a product that is so genuine and special.”
All the effort has paid off, with extra virgin olive oil from the grove now for sale, and for those who want to get more involved, the chance to adopt a tree. For £58 a year, you will get an adoption certificate, a photo of your tree, a personalised olive wood keyring, olive oil from your tree and a collection of special recipes.
VISIT OLIVIOTREE.COM TO FIND OUT MORE