Mastic (mastiha) of Chios is an aromatic resin (gum) obtained from the mastic tree. Although mastic trees grow in many Mediterranean countries, they produce little or no mastic, except for those of south Chios.
Therefore, Chios island is the only place in the world where this kind (Pistacia lentiscus var. Chia) of tree grows. This is probably because of the volcanic composition of the soil and the climate.
Mastic tree ("skinos") is an evergreen bush, 2-3 meters tall, which grows slowly and lives for over 100 years. After its 5th year, mastic production starts.
In order to produce mastic, people cut the bark of the tree in several places. Mastic drops gradually fall on the ground from these cuts, in small blobs (mastic tears). At first, mastic is sticky and fluid but after two weeks it becomes solid with a crystalline appearance. People then collect it from the ground, and after that, they clean it up from leaves and small rocks. Cleaning up mastic is actually a very tedious and time-consuming process.
The villages of south Chios, the only place where mastic trees grow, are called "Mastichochoria" (Mastic-villages). Mastic trading is one of the main sources of income for local people.
Thanks to its rich, aromatic flavor, mastic has been well-known for centuries. It has been used for fresh breath and teeth cleaning, as the first natural chewing gum of the ancient years.
Nowadays, scientists have proved that mastic acts against diseases of the digestive system, has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory action and is a natural antioxidant.
However, it is mostly being used as chewing gum, perfume for pastry and for mastic liqueur.