Homer’s Iliad tells the story of mythic Greek soldiers like Achilles and Odysseus sieging the city of Troy in search of kleos—Greek for “renown” or “glory.” Homer’s exact birthplace is of scholarly debate, but some place it on the island of Chios. Now, roughly 29 centuries later, this same island would be a key site in entrepreneur Effie Panagopoulos’ own search for kleos.
Chios’ main claim to fame, other than Homer, is the production of mastiha, a type of resin gum derived from an eponymous tree and known as the “tears of Chios.” The European Union recognizes the superfood as a product of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), which can only be cultivated on Chios.
Panagopoulos, BC ’99, said she grew up in a Greek immigrant family in Boston and enjoyed mastiha by the spoonful as a dessert in her youth. In the summer of 2008, Panagopoulos had a fateful encounter with the flavor at a beach bar in Mykonos.
“I had a Proustian rush,” Panagopoulos said. “I tasted this alcohol that everyone’s doing shots of—all these American tourists. I try it and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I know this flavor profile. This is delicious. Why the hell don’t we have this in the United States?’”
After a winding career path following her graduation from Boston College, Panagopoulos had finally found her calling in life—to bring the distinctively Greek mastiha liqueur to the American consumer.
“When I had this eureka moment, I literally felt—and I feel still today—that this is my fate, that I am meant to do this,” Panagopoulos said. “I’ve never felt so strongly about this in my life.”
Panagopoulos graduated from Boston Latin School in 1995, where she studied Latin, Greek, and French. Then, as an undergraduate at BC, Panagopoulos said she took a theology course with Rev. Ronald Tacelli, S.J., who gave her an impactful piece of advice.
“I’m never going to forget this line,” she said. “He said, ‘Study what you love, and the career will follow,’ and I think it’s the best advice that I’ve ever received.”
Having developed a passion for languages at an early age, Panagopoulos majored in French with minors in Spanish and Italian in the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences. She aspired to become a U.N. ambassador, but Panagopoulos said she focused more on the social opportunities at BC and less on finding internships and preparing for her career. After growing up in an extremely strict immigrant household, Panagopoulos said she fully enjoyed her college experience because of the heightened sense of independence.
One of Panagopoulos’ college jobs introduced her …….