The Kambos district of Chios, that place so full of scents and history, inspired the idea of creating a space to reveal and promote the story of the role citrus fruits have played here. Vangelis Xydas and Giorgos Plakotaris, both of whom were born and raised in Kambos, began their project in 2008, using a grant from the European Union, to found their company, Citrus Memories.
Vangelis Xydas had previous experience working in the processing of Kambos citrus at the Perleas workshop – also housed in a Kambos mansion – where he had been engaged in the preparation of Chios sweets.
The friends’ vision of a museum cum sweet shop has been successful on both counts.
The Museum, Citrus Memories, which is housed in a specially remodelled family mansion dating to 1742, was created with the aim of highlighting the history, cultivation, collection and distribution of Chios citrus fruits. When you tour the building and inspect its contents – maps, photos, tools, cultivation methods, packaging (each individual orange used to be wrapped in specially illustrated paper, some printed in gold in Italy or France), stories of the trade routes taken in past centuries – you realize that the oranges and unique tangerines of Kambos are what gave the district its singular economic and cultural character. Nowadays when oranges, tangerines and lemons are so common we take them for granted, it’s fascinating to go back to a time when they were an exotic luxury.
The Museum has been a tremendous success. It is now ranked the third must-see site on the island. And with reason, because the Citrus estate, apart from documenting the history of the fruits of Kambos, is virtually the only one in the area that is visitable. Walking through the beautifully maintained groves and grounds, the attractively restored buildings, you are transported to another, almost fairy-tale era.
The production side too has had enormous success. Using two estates with a total area of more than 40,000 square metres, Citrus produces organic fruit cultivated according to traditional methods and employs a staff of cooks who turn out confections of all kinds, jams, Turkish delight, spoon sweets, even perishable marzipan (amygdalota), all flavoured with citrus and other fruits grown locally.
You can buy them at the estate, at their shop in Athens, or at selected shops on the islands and mainland. The presence of Citrus at trade fairs is always impressive because wherever they go, they leave behind the Aroma of Memory.