MASTIHA Artisan Greek Bakery is built on roots, tradition and a passion for desirable ingredients.
What does MASTIHA mean? It is the sap drippings, or “tears”, from the mastic tree which grows on the north-eastern Aegean Greek island of Chios. This sap has been collected for thousands of years and used in many ways; medicinally, cosmetically, culinarily. The benefits and superfood properties of mastiha are profound and considered one of the oldest natural remedy ingredients in the world.
When used culinarily, the flavor is recognizably unique, but also difficult to describe. Slightly piney, a bit herbaceous, almost woodsy, similar bitterness to rosemary -- but also none of these flavors. One thing is for sure, once you taste it, you will certainly remember the flavor when experienced again.
In the early 1900s, my maternal great-grandparents immigrated from Chios, Greece to America. A young couple from a small island, they settled in a small town outside of Pittsburgh where they would eventually have seven children and own their own Greek bakery. Many recipes were handed down and preserved by their daughter Sylvia, who also preserved many of the Greek traditions she would then share with the next generation.
Baked goods were synonymous with aunt Sylvia’s home, a place where everyone would gather for the holidays, celebrations and general togetherness. It was a place of familiarity, comfort and family. Memories of sneaking up to the attic to nibble on butter cookies before Lent concluded, a large dining room table covered in layers of hand-stretched phyllo dough, the aroma of fresh bread filling the air -- waiting to be pulled from the oven and topped with butter and honey -- are some of the stories still shared today by my mother and her cousins.
Just like in Greece, when guests would visit Sylvia's house, they would be offered a glass of cold water with a spoonful of mastiha glyko, a sweet vanilla taffy-like confection flavored with the sap that would harden like a lollipop when swirled into the chilled, refreshing drink. This offering, among other “spoon” sweets, remains a classic Greek gesture of hospitality to this day.
Mastiha is favorable to many Greeks, especially Chians, compared to other aromatics or spices when it comes to flavoring baked goods. Tsoureki, the traditional braided sweet bread which is most popular at Easter, is one example that pairs beautifully and allows mastiha to delicately present itself. Other applications include cakes, cookies and preserves. More and more, mastiha is gaining popularity in the culinary world even beyond pastry.
I have always been inspired by local lands, the native goods grown there, and, how fascinating it is that nature knows how well native ingredients pair with one another.
A century after Yiayia and Papou began their new life in America, I was determined to start a company of my own which would highlight baklava, arguably the most recognized sweet treat in the eastern Mediterranean. A dessert that not only reminded me of my upbringing and special occasions, but also attracted me as a traditional food that crosses cultural borders.
Different sources for honeys, nuts and spices would determine from which part of the baklava-world a piece of this sticky, sweet treat would hail! For my Greek culture, walnuts and cinnamon take the stage, paired with a family honey syrup recipe.
When my journey began with baklava in 2011, I quickly recognized a strong desire for all types of Greek baked goods here in the nation’s capital. Farmers Market customers would frequently request “that cookie that my Greek neighbor would make” or “that phyllo pie we still dream about to this day from our honeymoon in Greece”. It was this moment I decided to become the DC area's leading Artisan Greek Bakery and evolve our menu beyond baklava.
Founded on a deep appreciation for heritage, culture and scratch made goodness, MASTIHA specializes in assorted Greek pastries, savory rustic phyllo pies, authentically crafted pita bread & small batch dips. Quality ingredients and old-world craftsmanship you can taste.
Welcome. We are delighted to share our craft with you.
Katerina V. Georgallas, founder & owner