Why is Mastika so expensive?

Answered by Daniel Conrad

Why is Mastika so expensive?

Mastika, also known as mastic gum, is renowned for its unique flavor and therapeutic properties. It has been used for centuries in the Mediterranean region, particularly Greece, as a natural remedy for various ailments. However, the high price tag attached to Mastika can be attributed to several factors that make its production and harvest a challenging and labor-intensive process.

Limited Availability:
One of the primary reasons for the high cost of Mastika is its limited availability. The mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus), from which the resin is derived, grows primarily in the Mediterranean region. Specifically, it thrives in the southern part of the Greek island of Chios, where the unique combination of soil, climate, and environmental conditions allows it to flourish. However, the mastic tree is a slow-growing species, taking around five to six years to reach maturity. Furthermore, only female trees produce the resin, making the process even more selective.

Labor-Intensive Harvesting:
The harvesting of Mastika is a labor-intensive and time-consuming process. It requires skilled workers who carefully score the bark of the mastic tree to release the resin. This traditional method has been passed down through generations, ensuring that the resin is collected without damaging the tree. The resin then naturally solidifies into small droplets, which are collected by hand. This meticulous process requires patience and precision, contributing to the high cost of Mastika.

Seasonal Harvest:
Another factor that adds to the expense of Mastika is its limited harvesting season. Mastika resin can only be collected during the summer months when the resin droplets have solidified. This narrow window of opportunity, combined with the time-consuming process of hand-collecting the resin, puts additional pressure on the supply and increases the overall cost.

Environmental Factors:
The mastic tree is highly sensitive to its environment, making it susceptible to diseases and pests. This vulnerability adds to the challenges faced by growers and further restricts the availability of Mastika. Additionally, climate change and deforestation have negatively impacted the mastic tree population, reducing the number of trees available for resin extraction. With only about 200 mastic trees left on Earth, the scarcity of resources significantly drives up the price of Mastika.

Cultural Significance:
Mastika holds great cultural significance in the Mediterranean region, particularly in Greece. It has been used in traditional Greek cuisine, such as desserts and liqueurs, for generations. Moreover, Mastika has been valued for its medicinal properties, believed to aid in digestion and provide relief for various stomach ailments. This cultural attachment and the demand for Mastika as a unique and natural product contribute to its high price.

The high cost of Mastika can be attributed to its limited availability, labor-intensive harvesting process, seasonal harvest, environmental challenges, and its cultural significance. These factors, combined with the dwindling number of mastic trees, make Mastika a rare and precious commodity. Its unique flavor, therapeutic properties, and historical significance have made it a sought-after product, despite its expensive price tag.