06 Nov

Passion for olives reaps success

When Prue and Grahame Taylor were searching for a retirement hobby 12 years ago, they found their answer in olives.

By Melanie Allan,

The pair sold their successful textiles importing business in 1997 and threw themselves into their next venture.

The idea of planting olive trees on their four hectare plot on Waiheke Island stemmed from a taste for olive oil they had developed while travelling in Italy.

“It was more by accident rather than by design,” Mr Taylor says.

“It was a case of having something to do in our retirement and olives virtually grow themselves.”

The couple were foundation members of the Waiheke Olive Group which meets every so often to share experiences and knowledge.

“There were lots of like-minded people all learning the ropes together,” Mrs Taylor says.

Sharing information and advice was a refreshing change to the fashion industry ‘where you wouldn’t tell your opposition anything’, Mr Taylor says.

It took four years before the 170 trees were producing enough olives to make oil. The first batch pressed to just one litre of oil which the Taylors treasured.

The couple now produce close to 1000 litres of olive oil each year, adopting the brand name ‘number 29’ – inspired by their Waiheke street number.

On harvesting days in April and May, friends come from as far as Christchurch to hand-pick olives in return for one of Mrs Taylor’s fabulous lunches and some olive oil.

The olives are then taken to the Waiheke presser and turned into oil, which is stored in stainless steel tanks for a couple of months to settle.

The Taylors do most of the bottling and labelling themselves.

“It’s more of a hobby than a true business,” Mr Taylor says.

“It mostly covers its costs.”

The pair spends about two-thirds of their time at their Waiheke bach and the rest at their home on Tamaki Drive in Mission Bay.

They are looking forward to showcasing their oil and pickled olives at the Waiheke Island Olive Festival on Saturday and Sunday.

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