Mastic is a natural resin that comes from an evergreen small tree (large shrub) which is cultivated successfully in the island of Chios, in the Eastern Aegean Sea.
This evergreen tree called Schinos, belongs to the family of Pistachia. (Botanical name: Pistacia Lentiscus var. Chia)
The average growth of the tree usually ranges from 1.5m (5 feet) to 3,5m (11 feet) tall and it begins to produce mastic at the age of 5 to 6 years old. This tree, after about 15 years, could give 60-250gr of its resin which is called mastic. The average production per tree is 100gr. In very exceptional cases very large old trees can produce 400gr of mastic, or even a bit more. This amazing tree thrives only in the South part of Chios Island. In South Chios we find 24 villages that deal with mastic tree growing and production.
Different names used for mastic are: Mastic, mastiha, mastika, masticha, mastica mastix etc.
Since 1997, Chios mastiha has been identified as Protected Designation of Origin product (PDO) and has been registered in the relevant community list.
There is evidence that cultivation and exploitation of mastic originates in ancient years, during the Hellenistic period. Mastic was a gift for Chios and at the same time a curse since it has always been the bone of contention for conquerors. There is even a medieval legend that explains the reason behind this phenomenon, according to which the mastic trees started crying as an expression of lament when Agios Isidoros was severely tortured by the Romans on the island.
When Christopher Columbus visited the island in the 15th century, mastic had already become the trademark of Chios. From ancient times mastic has been used as a natural medicine.. Many Greek ancient writers refer to the therapeutic properties of mastic.
A leaf fossil from a mastic tree has been found dating six million years.
The Byzantine empire delivered the island to the Genovese on the 14th century. The Genovese managed to systematize production and trading of mastic. The Ottomans, successors of the Genovese, mandated the people of Chios to pay special taxes in kind (mastic). After World War I, mastic production declined and its value dropped. During recent years, systematic research, development and promotion have increased sales and reputation but also the price of mastic, so the growers revived their interest again.