I was recently interviewed for an article meant to guide consumers when purchasing olive oil. The Question-Answer format really provides clarity into some of the mystery surrounding olive oil – right from production to plate. And it always comes down to freshness – freshness that you can smell and taste!
What Does Cold-Pressed or First-Pressed Mean? Why is that a significant quality/feature of olive oil?
Cold Pressed means that the oil was extracted from the olives using a hydraulic press without the use of heat. The absence of heat helps preserve the oil’s natural flavours and nutritional quality.
First Pressed means the Olive oil was extracted in a single pressing, and there’s no second pressing as in the case of some other oils like seed oils.
These terms may be used to emphasize the quality of the oil, but they don’t really have any strict industry-standard meaning.
Walk us through the process of producing first-pressed and cold-pressed olive oil.
The production of extra-virgin olive oil begins with the careful harvesting of ripe olives from the trees. These olives are then washed and crushed into a paste, which is subsequently processed through a centrifuge to separate the oil from water and solids. The resulting oil is considered extra-virgin when it meets stringent quality standards, characterized by a low acidity level and exceptional flavour and aroma.
How would you describe the flavour profiles of fresh-pressed and cold-pressed olive oil?
High-quality extra-virgin olive oil boasts a diverse and complex flavour profile:
Fruity: It often exhibits a fresh, fruity aroma, which can range from mild to robust. These fruity notes may include hints of green apples, ripe tomatoes, or even tropical fruits.
Bitterness: Extra-virgin olive oil can have a pleasant bitterness that adds depth to its taste. This bitterness is typically found in oils made from green, unripe olives.
Peppery: A well-crafted extra-virgin olive oil may deliver a peppery or pungent finish, often perceived as a mild burning sensation in the back of the throat. This quality is more prominent in oils made from freshly harvested olives.
Herbaceous: Some olive oils exhibit herbaceous notes, reminiscent of fresh-cut grass, herbs, or even artichoke.
Nutty: In certain cases, extra-virgin olive oil can carry subtle nutty or almond-like undertones.
Do different regions have different tastes/flavours? What’s your favourite?
The flavours found in extra virgin olive oil can vary depending on the olive varieties used, (Arbequina, Coratina, Picual, Criolla, Lecinno, Frantoio etc), the region of production (either northern or southern hemisphere), and the specific methods employed during the extraction process. The diverse flavour profiles make extra-virgin olive oil a versatile and prized ingredient in cooking and for drizzling over dishes.
What quality standards do you measure up against in the production of your olive oil?
Quality standards for extra-virgin olive oil are established by the International Olive Council (IOC) to ensure that it meets specific criteria, signifying a high level of quality and purity and ensures that consumers receive a high-quality, unadulterated olive oil with superior taste and healthful benefits. Our standards include:
Acidity Level: Extra-virgin olive oil must have an acidity level of less than 0.8%. Low acidity indicates that the oil is made from fresh, high-quality olives.
Flavour and Aroma: It should have a well-defined flavor and aroma profile, often described as fruity, with varying intensities. The taste should be fresh and free from any defects.
Processing Methods: Extra-virgin olive oil must be produced using mechanical extraction methods without the use of heat or chemicals.
Purity: It should be 100% pure olive oil, without any adulteration with other oils or substances.
Organoleptic Evaluation: A panel of trained tasters conducts a sensory evaluation to confirm the oil’s positive attributes and the absence of defects.
Origin and Varietal Integrity: Extra-virgin olive oil should accurately represent its stated region of origin and the specific olive varieties used.
Packaging and Storage: Proper packaging and storage conditions must be maintained to prevent exposure to light, heat, and air, which can degrade the oil’s quality.
How do you educate consumers about the differences between first-pressed and cold-pressed olive oil?
There are many olive oils on the market that have not met our standards. Sometime olive oil will sit on a store shelf for years. It’s important to find a source you can trust where staff can speak with customers about the oils, their characteristics and uses. Our team are educated to represent the products we sell. We always have a full chemical and sensory analysis on every extra virgin olive oil we sell. We also know exactly where and how each oil was harvested and encourage customers to taste before purchasing.
What is the shelf life of your olive oils, and how should consumers store them for optimal freshness?
If stored under ideal conditions, a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil can retain its freshness and flavour for 18-24 months. Lower-quality oils may have a shorter shelf life. Over time, olive oil may gradually lose some of its unique flavour and health benefits, but it remains safe to consume even after its best-before date has passed.