Perhaps you have noticed terms such as Extra Virgin, Virgin, Pomace, Cold Pressed and Pure next to the words Olive Oil on the bottles in the supermarket. Unless you are an expert in the taste, smell and feel of Olive Oil it can be difficult to know what you are purchasing, and labels can be misleading. There are a few things in the title that are a dead giveaway as to the quality of the oil itself.
Let’s start from the top:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (also known as EVOO). This is the King of all olive oils because it is the healthiest and of the utmost superior quality. It is from the first pressing of the olives mechanically extracted without the use of chemicals or excessive heat, and by law cannot contain any refined oil.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is legendary in the culinary world because it has no more than 0.8% acidity, it’s high in antioxidants and has a superior fruitiness. In some countries the extraction of Extra Virgin Olive Oil is less than 10% of the olive oil production, Greece however has an 80% EVOO production; the highest in the world. Yay Greece.
Moving further down the quality line we have:
Virgin olive oil - The name denotes that this oil has not undergone any refinement nor has it been mixed with refined oils; however the quality is compromised and it contains 1-4% acidity but it is still flavorsome with a natural aroma.
Refined/Pure Olive Oil - This type of Olive Oil is the most popular with the supermarkets and can be found in many different shaped and sized bottles. It is a very low quality refined oil usually from the second pressing of the left over pulp from Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It will have been refined with the use of charcoal and other chemical and physical filters to eliminate high acidity and defects in this second rate oil, a small amount of Virgin Olive Oil may have been added to add flavour.
And finally we arrive at Pomace Olive Oil/Olive Oil, which is very cheap and nasty, even if it was given away for free I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole. This is the scum of the scum left over from the food grade oil extraction mentioned above. It is solvent treated and of a very low grade hence the cheapness. I DO NOT recommend cooking with or eating this oil.
The olive tree has been cultivated for approximately 6000 years in the Mediterranean countries and has since spread to parts of America, Australia and elsewhere. The trees are very resilient and thrive in dry hot climates with mild winters and can grow on mountain sides, in coastal climates, on limestone and can even survive drought. The trees can live for centuries and if pruned correctly will continue to produce olives for just as long.
Some olive oils are somewhat sweet, fruity and mild tasting and others quite strong and aggressive with a touch of bitterness or pepper in them, or even very peppery indeed.
One of the greatest benefits of extra virgin olive oil is its antioxidant content and this can vary considerably. What is quite often misunderstood is the flavour of the oil in relation to its quality.
Agourelaio which literally translates to 'unripe-oil' is derived from the first harvest olives hand-picked to prevent bruising. It is prized highly as the best olive oil available in Greece because of its low acidity and high antioxidant content. These oils tend to have a robust flavour with hints of bitterness and are a lovely natural green colour.
Our Koroneiko Extra Virgin Olive Oil is extracted from the first harvest Koroneiko olives, it has a beautiful depth of flavour with a fruity aroma and peppery undertones, the deep green colour is just as you imagine Olive oil to be. Our current stock has an acidity of 0.22% which is exceptionally low and means the antioxidant levels are high making it a very nutritional oil indeed.
Strong tasting olive oils may not however correlate with your taste buds, therefore a milder oil might be more fitting to your personal expectations. In which case our Organic Manaki Extra Virgin Olive Oil is more suitable for the softer palate; a very smooth, mild, fruity olive oil which is a deep golden colour and has an acidity of 0.45%.
Early or late harvest:
Early picked olives give a stronger taste and flavour than you would find in an oil made from the same olives picked at the end of the harvest.
Delicate, sweet, subtle, gentle, mild, mellow, ripe and rich are all words used to describe lighter oils such as our Manaki variety which is extracted from end of harvest olives ripened on the tree.
Green, pungent, intense, bitter, piquant and aggressive are words used to describe stronger oils like our Koroneiko variety which is produced from early harvest unripe olives but is lower in acidity therefore higher in antioxidants.
First cold pressing: This phrase can only be used on Extra Virgin Olive Oils which have been produced at a temperature below 27oC using a traditional granite millstone and hydraulic press.
Cold extraction: This is the phrase which is used on Extra Virgin Olive Oils produced at a temperature below 27C using percolation or centrifugation systems.
Unfiltered: These oils have not been subjected to any filtration process. They tend to be thicker in texture but there is no difference in taste and flavour from their filtered counterparts.