Which Olive Oil is the Best for you?

Find out the answer below

Olive OilCredit: Flickr - CC BY 2.0The best olive oil is the one you like the most! Forget about consumers' reviews or gurus' testimonies. All of them can lead you to a certain path but that doesn't mean that you have to agree with their final choice. Choose your olive oil like your wine. Experiment with various types from different countries until you find the best for your palate.

The sacred tree of the ancient times, symbol of peace, offers to humans for centuries, two key nutrition ingredients: Olives and olive oil. Nowadays, the precious – according to several famous international researchers – fruits and their derivative, inspire an inexhaustible array of culinary creations. Knowing a few basic facts about this product it will definitely be helpful for your search on the best one that is suitable for your tasting standards.

How the Best Olive Oil is Made

The set standards that ensure the best production

Olive OilCredit: Wikimedia: CC BY 2.0The harvest of olives begins in November. Best olive oil derives from ripe – still green or a little reddish but certainly not fully ripe – olives. The task can be done either by machine or by hand. This is the point where the first quality aspect of the best standard issue emerges. The usage of machines injures the olives and the final product is inferior in taste than the hand-picked olives.

For quality reasons, the olives are put in dry, wicker baskets in order to aerate well. Preferable height should be up to 12 inches. Olives start fermenting very quickly. So, it is best to get them to the mill without any delay, preferably within 8 to 24 hours after collection.

In the mill the olives would undergo first the cleaning processes. Foreign particles are removed mechanically and then they are washed with fresh water. Next they will be put in a grinder in order to create the olive paste. (For best olive oil heating paste is out of the question). Then the olive paste will be pressed in order to separate water and oil from the fruit mass. Finally the water will be separated from oil using a centrifugal separator.

After coming out of the mill, the produce evolves and changes very quickly. During the first two months, it will get better, its flavor will strengthen and its taste will start losing the characteristic bitterness that it carries.

Even the best olive oil, after the first 6 months, will diminish in aroma. It will mature, the flavor will be good, but will lose a lot of its initial aroma. And remember: There is no olive oil that is improving with time – it’s not wine after all.

The final product must be stored in a shady and cool place (ideal temperature is between 59 – 65 F / 15-18 C). In order to retain its best possible qualities, it should be consumed within the first 2 years from its production date.

A Wiiner from the #1 producer worldwide - Spain

NY Times "Best Choice"

Zoe Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 33.8 Fl Oz
Amazon Price: $11.99 $7.54 Buy Now
(price as of Jul 23, 2015)

USDA Grades

Clarifying the terminology of the labels

Extra Virgin Olive OilCredit: Wikimedia: CC BY 2.0Before you buy a bottle of olive oil from the shelf, it is best for your own sake to read and understand its label. First by recognizing the different grades you will understand price levels. Second you can check the acidity which is a main quality factor. Country of origin will also help you detect differences of flavors.

The United States have their own USDA olive oil grade standards (NOT exactly the same as International Oil Council – adopted by Europe). The major grades are as follows:

Extra Virgin:
The highest grade and of course the best product (…and the most expensive). It derives from the first mechanical pressing of the fruit (meaning no chemicals used or hot water applied). It has excellent flavor and aroma and no defects. Its color range is from golden green to bright green. Its acidity is less than 0.8 gr. per 100 gr.

It is also produced with the same characteristics of extra virgin oil. It has a reasonably good flavor and aroma and 0-2.5 defects. It is less mild than extra virgin due to a higher acidity level that reaches 2 gr. per 100 gr.

It is not fit for consumption without further processing. It has a very poor flavor and aroma with 2.5-6 defects. Its acidity level measures more than 2 gr. per 100 gr. It must go to a refinery for further process.

Olive Oil:
It’s a blend of refined and virgin oils. It has acceptable flavor and aroma. Its acidity level is 1 gr.
per 100 gr. The refined product has very little vitamin E content. That’s why producers need to add virgin olive oil to pass on some flavor, color and aroma into the blend.

It is created by using chemicals and heat to “fix” the Lampante product. It becomes almost flavorless and odorless. The acidity level is less than 0.3 gr. per 100 gr. after the process is finished. It is suitable in the food industry mostly, especially when the flavor of such product is not needed. It has a higher smoking point which makes it also good for high-heat cooking.

The Italian Choice

Italy is the #2 producer worldwide

Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 68 fl Ounce
Amazon Price: $50.20 Buy Now
(price as of Jul 23, 2015)

Choosing the Best Olive Oil

How the proper tasting should be done

Olive Oil TastingCredit: Flickr: CC BY 2.0Whenever you can find a chance to “taste before you buy” olive oil you should take the advantage. The best qualities are pretty expensive. So, by tasting various brands and country origins you will round up your knowledge about the different types of tastes that exist in the market.

Unfortunately, most of the times, you won’t be able to taste the product before buying it. Rule of thumb: Buy a small bottle of an unknown product and follow the given tasting steps below at your premises:

  1. Put a little liquid in a wine glass (tulip-shaped) and turn it gently around the glass to cover well its walls. 
  2. Smell it. You will discover the aromas of the fruit, reminding spices or aromatic plants. These are the nature's aromas sealed in the juice just as with wine. 
  3. Put a small amount in your mouth. Hold it for some time on the front of your tongue and then at the back. This is the "final judgment". 
  4. Now answer the question: “Did you like its taste and aroma?”

The Greek choice

Greece is #3 producer worldwide

Iliada Extra Virgin Olive Oil Tin, 3 Liter
Amazon Price: $48.35 $29.95 Buy Now
(price as of Jul 23, 2015)