The Inquisitive Olive series would be incomplete without a feature on our founder, Katerina (Katina) Mountanos - the most Inquisitive Olive of them all. We love learning about her childhood in Greece and what makes her tick in the wellness world.
TIO: Katina Mountanos
The Inquisitive Olive: Katina Mountanos
Katina Mountanos is the Founder & CEO of Kosterina. She started Kosterina after picking up some "Greek extra virgin olive oil" at a local supermarket in the US that tasted absolutely nothing like what her family produced back in Southern Greece. She became obsessed with bring healthy, authentic Greek extra virgin olive oil to the US market, and Kosterina was born.
Wife, Mother, Olive Oil Sommelier
Katina in Koroni, Greece.
Kosta & Katina (#kosterina) with their daughter, Ellie, in Greece.
Katina in the olive groves - Greece.
Pre-teen Katina in Greece with her brother, Peter, and their parents.
Katina with her daughter, Ellie, in front of her grandmother's house in Koroni, Greece.
By the time I was 10 years old I was able to navigate London Heathrow airport alone to make the transfer for a flight to Athens. My mother worked for a large European airline, which was probably the most defining aspect of my childhood. It offered my family an incredible opportunity to travel from our small NYC suburb to Greece several times a year. And it was a gift to so deeply experience my dad's hometown, Koroni, nestled neatly on the Mediterranean Sea.
To me, this idyllic village has always represented true Greece. I'm not sure if I can capture in words the sound of the sea, the smell of salt, and the taste of olive oil, but I'm willing to try. I consider myself lucky, and I want to share the remarkable treasures of southern Greece the best I can. Koroni, and the memories my family and I have created there, are interwoven with everything we do at Kosterina.
So how did I come to the world of wellness? My children brought me here. I got there through my pregnancies – trying to eat and live healthier for myself and my children. It's incredible how much more I paid attention to what I was eating when I was responsible for making a small human.
Favorite food? Makaronia me kima – a Greek version of spaghetti Bolognese.
Favorite self-care treatment? 20 mins in the sauna.
Favorite yoga pose? Pigeon.
Favorite place to travel? Greece.
Favorite part of your day? Early morning enjoying my first sip of coffee with a book or my laptop.
What’s your passion? What makes you feel most alive?
I really love entrepreneurship and creating. I love the process of creating something out of nothing, particularly brands and products that are authentic to me.
Where do you live, and what do you love about your home/hometown?
I spent nearly 20 years living in Manhattan and London. After having our third child, my husband and I realized our NYC apartment was no longer going to cut it - we were going to need more space. We recently moved to the New York suburbs of Long Island, not far from where I grew up. In some ways, life in the suburbs is much more idyllic and easy-going but there is much I do miss about the city. I look forward to a time when my children are a bit older and I can take them on excursions to the city.
You’re an expert—that’s why we’re interviewing you. Tell us about your wellness journey and credentials.
Over the past few years, after becoming pregnant with my first child, I began to question the ingredients in foods I ate and in the beauty products I used much more. I was shocked to find out that everything from the olive oil I bought at the store, to the skincare I was putting on my face each night was filled with ingredients I couldn't pronounce or didn't know. So, I became obsessed with simplicity and clean living in all forms. I started going back to my roots as much as possible and began to think of Greece and the Mediterranean lifestyle.
What inspired you to pursue your area of expertise?
My love for my small idyllic town in Greece, Koroni, coincided with an olive oil sommelier course I decided to take.
I came to learn a lot more about the health benefits of pure extra virgin olive oil which led me to launching Kosterina. Working to grow the brand every day certainly pushes me to consider products with clean ingredient lists more and more.
Drop us with some knowledge. What’s the one fact, insight, or story about your area of expertise you’d like to share?
Taking a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil each morning signals to your body to burn fat for fuel instead of glucose. Yes please!
It all started when I read the story of the scientist, Dr. Gary Beauchamp, who discovered one of the primary antioxidants in olive oil. He found the link between olive oil and ibuprofen while at a molecular and physical gastronomy workshop in 1999. He went to a conference in Sicily and took part in an olive oil tasting. As he felt the familiar burning sensation at the back of his throat, he likened it to Ibuprofen.
Dr. Beauchamp and his team discovered that the culprit of the spicy burn was what they named oleocanthal, a phenolic chemical. While oleocanthal and ibuprofen are not chemically similar, the researchers found that they have similar anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce the risk of cancer and degenerative and cardiovascular diseases. The compound is found to be somewhat more potent than ibuprofen—and is more effective at preventing inflammation. They found that oleocanthal in olive oil may be one of the main reasons the Mediterranean diet leads to longevity.
Is there a wellness myth you can bust for us?
Fat is good for you!
CULTURE & RELATIONSHIPS
What values did the people you consider family instil in you?
Humility, hard work and family is everything.
What’s your cultural or ethnic heritage, and how does your background inform your approach to wellness?
My Greek American upbringing brought me to love the Mediterranean diet.
Food is love, so tell us: What’s a comfort food that you associate with family?
Makaronia me kima is a Greek version of spaghetti Bolognese.
Do you have a home remedy or family secret you’d like to share?
Honey, Greek mountain tea and chicken soup cure all symptoms of the common cold.
What sparked your wellness journey?
I had 3 children in 3 years and became really focused on cleaning up my diet both during pregnancy for the health of my children and post- pregnancy in order to get back in shape. But it’s an ongoing journey!
What part of your morning ritual helps you start the day on the right foot?
A teaspoon of high-poly extra virgin olive oil + Coffee with cashew milk.
What’s your favorite place to unwind?
This is a toss up between Koroni, Greece (truly a place to turn off and unwind) and Mykonos, Greece which results in “unwinding” in a different way – via dancing on tables until 3am.
Do you have rituals before bedtime? How do you unplug?
A cup of Greek mountain tea and the latest wellness book on my nightstand.
Take us with you on a grocery shopping trip. What’s always in your cart (real or virtual)?
Whole Foods Market online delivery. My cart includes tons of organic veggies, grass-fed beef, Siete tortillas, and of course Kosterina EVOO, balsamic and dark chocolate bars.
What’s the one ingredient or spice you can’t live without? Why?
Extra Virgin olive oil of course. Sorry, couldn’t help it!
How do you “treat” yourself?
Chocolate! My favorite is our Almond Butter & Vanilla EVOO Dark Chocolate Bar.
How do you enjoy your Kosterina Extra Virgin olive oil?
Literally over everything.
What are your favorite fitness resources/favorite workouts?
Peloton bootcamps are my favorite workouts these days – they alternate 10-15 minute sessions of HIIT with strength training. I’ve been trying to incorporate more weight training into my routine.
Say you only have 10 minutes to squeeze in a workout. What do you do?
10 min abs class on the Peloton app or go for a walk with my daughters.
Do you have a scent, sound, or taste that helps you relax?
Yes, my nightly tea ritual.