How To Buy Real Extra Virgin Olive Oil
However, by ignoring them, you will almost certainly buy some nasty stuff and then will tell that you do not like olive oil. And this is definitely not what we need.
So, the First Rule: Buy Extra Virgin Olive Oil Only in a Specialised Stores.
Of course, it’s better to buy olive oil from farmers. The thing is that you probably live far from olive farms, otherwise you would not be reading this article.
Why not at the supermarket? Because the chance of buying a fake olive oil in a supermarket is several times higher than in a gourmet or organic food shop.
Various sources say that in food retail chains the amount of fake olive oil is around 70%.
According to my personal experience the number is more than 90%, depending on the category of the supermarket.
For example, I never managed to find good olive oil in food discounters like Lidl or Hofer.
Second Rule: Don't Look for Famous Olive Oil Brands.When you are buying a car, watch or smartphone, a famous brand guarantees you quality. But that doesn't work with natural food.
The best olive oils come from small, family-owned companies that few people outside their region know about. These oil-makers simply cannot afford to perform poorly.
For them, this means ruining their reputation and losing all their customers.
The large, well-known olive oil producers are plants that do not grow their own olives.
They buy (as cheaper as possible) olives from farmers of different regions and sometimes even from abroad.
For example, some Italian factories buy olives from Spain for producing “Italian olive oil”.
As we already mentioned, one of the necessary conditions for extra virgin olive oil production is that the olives are pressed no later than 12 hours after harvest.
Some varieties of olives only live 3-4 hours after harvest. So no comments.
There is one more necessary condition - cold pressing.
When heated above 27 °C olives die, so instead of a healthy product rich in polyphenols and vitamins, you get carcinogens.
With cold pressing, oil production is only 10-15% so the product is expensive.
By heating the olives and adding solvent hexane you can increase productivity.
The problem is that this oil stinks so much that it is impossible to sell it.
To remove this smell all these chemicals are evaporated and artificial flavours are added. This process is named refining.
Move on. Add some real cold pressed olive oil to this hellish mix and - voila - we get something that can be sold as extra virgin olive oil.
If it is produced in tens or hundreds of tons per month, the cost are low enough. Accordingly, there is an opportunity to reduce the price and people will be happy to buy this shit.
Third Rule: Ask the Seller To Tell About Olive Oil in Their Store.
The more they know about features of different olive oil types, the higher is their competence. Usually, professionals do not stoop to trade in low-quality products, especially fakes.
Read the label, especially back label.
All contact details (web site, e-mail, phone number), olive varieties, harvest period, acidity, awards in exhibitions and competitions must be indicated on the label.
The more details oil-makers are ready to tell about themselves the more trust they deserve.
We are not posting here labels from supermarkets in order not to stain our web-site with this dirt.
(Once I brought a bottle of olive oil from supermarket to our shop, just to help our customers to compare it to real olive oil. I regretted this as soon as the first customer tried it after our products. He failed to keep it inside himself…)
Since then we don’t touch this stuff.
Ask the seller about region, producers family, olive varieties, harvest period…
Find out which types of olive oils are best for various dishes.
Ask if you can taste olive oil in their shop.
So we're getting close to the most fun part of our story.
Rule #4. Last But Definitely Not Least: You Have To Taste Olive Oil.
Yes, it is really critical to try it. Even if the bottle looks very attractive, you are interested in what is inside.
People (if we can call them that) who poison us with all kinds of shit have learned to fake everything: labels, color and even the smell of olive oil.
The only thing they don't know how to counterfeit is taste.
You can immediately detect the taste of fake olive oil, even if you are not olive oil sommelier.
Important: refrain from coffee, cigarettes and spicy food at least an hour before the start of olive oil tasting. You will need completely fresh receptors.
Pour some oil into a glass bowl.
It is advisable that the vessel be opaque so that you do not see the color of the oil.
The color of olive oil has nothing to do with its quality, but depends on the region, soil, harvest period, olive variety and the degree of oil filtration.
Therefore, olive oil sommeliers always use such bowls so that the color of the oil does not interfere with objectively assessing its quality.
Cover the bowl with one palm while warming it with the other. The taste and aroma begin to reveal at a temperature of 28 °C.
Make some circular motions.
Bring the bowl to your nose and inhale the scent. Hold your breath for a while so that you can completely immerse yourself in the aroma.
The smell must be natural. You may smell freshly cut grass or wild herbs such as rosemary or oregano. Perhaps you will catch the aromas of lemon, tomato or artichoke. Either way, the scent should be intense, natural fruity and pleasant.
If there is no smell, or it is heavy and musty, then it is not extra virgin olive oil.
By the way, do you know why real olive oil smells like herbs or fruits?
The fact is that the olive tree has a wide and powerful root system. This allows it to grow without water, extracting moisture and nutrients from the earth, reaching for the soil on which other plants grow. So olive trees absorb and transfer different tastes and flavours to their fruits.
Take a sip of olive oil but don't swallow it. Keep it in your mouth while inhaling air.
Try to determine the density and roundness.
When tasting real extra virgin olive oil you feel its natural, in-artificial taste.
Bitterness may appear and this is normal, especially with early harvest olive oil.
If you feel heavy and rigid, almost metallic shades then it’s time to stop, say goodbye and forget the way to this store.
You have just tasted pomace olive oil (Italians name it lampante), made from olive mill waste by heating the pomace and adding solvents.
When swallowing, pay attention to the sensation in your throat. Real olive oil must be peppery, from mild irritation to real burning and coughing.
These sensations are indicative of the high amount of polyphenols contained in real olive oil.
If you feel nothing, then this olive oil is not extra virgin, or it is too old and worn out.
Naturally, this oil should be refused, as well as a store offering such a product.
A Few More Things.
Olive oil is not a wine. It won’t get better if stored for a long time. (Although, it should be noted that not all wines get better with age).
Typically, olive oil has a shelf life of 18 months. However, you should be aware that the season for olive harvesting and olive oil production runs from mid-October to the end of December.
Therefore during new harvest honest sellers reduce prices for last year's oil, despite the fact that there is still six months before the expiration date.
So you have a choice: to save 15 - 25% or buy absolutely fresh olive oil, pressed from olives that were growing on a tree just a few weeks ago.
Olive oil should be stored in a dark, dry and cool place. It is advisable to buy oil in dark glass bottles or aluminum cans.
And of course, no plastic! Olive oil quickly absorbs all chemicals from plastic container. This will not only kill the taste of the oil but will also make it unsafe for your health.
Also, pay attention to the temperature in the store. The optimum storage temperature for oil is from 15 to 20 °C. Critical temperature is about 25 °C. Olive oil kept in such conditions within a month or two will completely lose all its beneficial properties.
It’s not easy to search and learn real natural products.
But when you find your type (or several types) of olive oil, you’ll understand that it is worth it. Your efforts will be rewarded with a palette of flavours that will accompany your dishes, making them new and different every time.
We invite you to share with us your experience in the comments to this post. You can also ask your questions, we are always happy to help.