Olive Oil Times


Tasting is believing. You can read about great olive oils, and their vast superiority over bad oils, all you want. You can hear folks talk about the subject, you can watch videos on it. But until you try first-rate olive oil for yourself – actually put the good stuff in your mouth, and compare that experience to the bad stuff you’ve eaten in the past – you won’t really get it. You won’t fully believe there’s a problem, or, in your heart of hearts, that all the fuss over bad oil is entirely justified.



Interesting book to read by Tom Mueller:

Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil

 Read more about what Tom Mueller had to say about South African olive oils after his last visit to the country.


Learn more about the Art of Tasting Olive Oil

The International Olive Oil Academy is offering courses to become a Professional Olive Oil Sommeliers. Take a look at their website to find out more.

 Watch video here on how olive oil is produced at Olyvenbosch


Olive oil is an oil obtained from the olive (Olea europaea; family Oleaceae), a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin. The oil is produced by grinding whole olives and extracting the oil by mechanical or chemical means. It is commonly used in cooking, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and soaps and as a fuel for traditional oil lamps. Olive oil is used throughout the world, but especially in the Mediterranean countries.


The olive tree is native to the Mediterranean basin; wild olives were collected by Neolithic peoples as early as the 8th millennium BC. The wild olive tree originated in Asia Minor in modern Turkey.

It is not quite clear where and when olive trees were first domesticated, but it is generally accepted that the first cultivation took place on the island of Crete. Archeological evidence suggest that olives were being grown in Crete as long ago as 2,500 B.C. The earliest surviving olive amphorae date to 3500 BC (Early Minoan times), though the production of olive oil is assumed to have started before 4000 BC.

Olive oil was called “liquid gold” by Homer. It was used in ancient Greece by athletes, who ritually rubbed it all over their bodies. Olive oil has been more than mere food to the peoples of the Mediterranean; it has been medicinal, magical, an endless source of wonder. It has also been the fountain of great wealth and power for the people of the Mediterranean.

Many ancient presses still exist in the Eastern Mediterranean region, and some dating to the Roman period are still in use today.


Among the many different olive varieties or list of olive cultivars there are: in Greece – Koroneiki, Lianolia, Chondrolia (aka Throumbolia), Tsounati, Patrinia olive and more.

In Spain, the most important varieties are the Picual, Arbequina, Hojiblanca, and Manzanillo de Jaen.

In France, Picholine; in California, Mission; in Portugal, Galega.

In Italy, the most famous varieties of cultivars are – Frantoio, Leccino Pendolino, and Maraiola.


The International Olive Council (IOC) is an intergovernmental organization based in Madrid, Spain, with 23 member states. It promotes olive oil around the world by tracking production, defining quality standards, and monitoring authenticity. More than 85% of the world's olives are grown in IOC member nations.

Olive oil is classified by how it was produced, by its chemistry, and by panels that perform olive oil taste testing. The IOC officially governs 95% of international production and holds great influence over the rest. The EU regulates the use of different protected designation of origin labels for olive oils.

Commercial grades

All production begins by transforming the olive fruit into olive paste. This paste is then malaxed (slowly churned or mixed) to allow the microscopic oil droplets to concentrate. The oil is extracted by means of pressure (traditional method) of centrifugation (modern method). After extraction the remnant solid substance, called pomace, still contains a small quantity of oil.

The grades of oil extracted from the olive fruit can be classified as follows:

  • Virgin – the oil was produced by the use of physical means and no chemical treatment. The term virgin oil referring to production is different from Virgin Oil on a retails label. (see next section).

  • Refined – the oil has been chemically treated to neutralize strong tastes (characterized as defects) and neutralize the acid content (free fatty acids). Refined oil is commonly regarded lower quality than virgin oil; oils with the retail labels extra-virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil cannot contain any refined oil.

  • Olive pomace oil – oil extracted from the pomace using solvents, mostly hexane, and by heat.

Quantitive analysis can determine the oil's acidity, defined as the percent, measured by weight, of free oleic acid it contains. This is a measure of the oil's chemical degradation; as the oil degrades, more fatty acids are freed from the glycerides, increasing the level of free acidity and thereby increasing rancidity.

Another measure of the oil's chemical degradation is the organic peroxide level, which measures the degree to which the oil is oxidized, another cause of rancidity.

To classify it by taste, olive oil is subjectively judged by a panel of professional tasters in a blind taste test. This is also called its organoleptic quality.

Retail grades in IOC member nations

In countries that adhere to the standards of the IOC the labels in stores show an oil's grade.

  • Extra-virgin olive oil comes from virgin oil production only, contains no more than 0.8% acidity, and is judged to have a superior taste. Extra Virgin olive oil accounts for less than 10% of oil in many producing countries; the percentage is far higher in the Mediterranean countries (Greece: 80%, Italy: 45%, Spain: 30%). It is used on salads, added at the table to soups and stews and for dipping.

  • Virgin olive oil comes from virgin oil production only, has an acidity less than 2%, and is judged to have a good taste.

  • Pure olive oil. Oils labelled as Pure olive oil or Olive oil are usually a blend of refined and virgin production oil.

  • Olive oil is a blend of virgin and refined production oil, of no more than 1.5% acidity. It commonly lacks a strong flavor.

  • Olive pomace oil is refined pomace oil often blended with some virgin oil. It is fit for consumption, but may not be described as simply olive oil. It has a more neutral flavor than pure or virgin olive oil, making it unfashionable among connoisseurs; however, it has the same fat composition as regular olive oil, rendering it the same health benefits. It also has a high smoke point, and thus is widely used in restaurants as well as home cooking in some countries.

  • Lampante oil is olive oil not suitable as food; lampante comes from the live oil's long standing use in oil-burning lamps. Lampante oil is mostly used in the industrial market,

  • Refined olive oil is the olive oil obtained from virgin olive oils by refining methods that do not lead to alterations in the initial glyceridic structure. It has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.3 grams per 100 grams (0.3%) and its other characteristics correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard. This is obtained by refining virgin olive oils with a high acidity level and/or organoleptic defects that are eliminated after refining. Note that no solvents have been used to extract the oil, but it has been refined with the use of charcoal and other chemical and physical filters.

Label wording

  • The different names for olive oil indicate the degree f processing the oil has undergone, as well as the quality of the oil. Extra-virgin olive oil is the highest grade available, followed by virgin olive oil. The word “virgin” indicates that the olives have ben pressed to extract the oil; no heat or chemicals have been used during the extraction process, and the oil is pure and unrefined. Virgin olive oils contain the highest levels of polyphenols, antioxidants that have been linked with bettter health.

  • Made from refined olive oils” means that the taste and acidity were chemically controlled.

  • Cold pressed or Cold extraction means “that the oil was not heated over a certain temperature (usually 80 degrees Farenheit) during processing, thus retaining more nutrients and undergoing less degredation.

  • First cold pressed means “that the fruit of the olive was crushed exactly one time-i.e. the first press. The cold refers to the temperature range of the fruit at the time it is crushed. It is important that the pressing temperatures be as low as possible.

  • PDO and PGI refers to olive oils with “exceptional properties and quality derived from their place of origin as well as from the way of their production”.