Buying Olive Oil
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW WHEN YOU
BUY OLIVE OIL
When you buy olive oil in the United States, it’s important that you know the quality of the product you’re purchasing. At Temecula Olive Oil Company , we produce only fresh, extra virgin olive oil on our Southern California ranch using time-tested techniques.
Since the time of ancient civilization, olive oil has been used for a myriad of cooking, health and beauty purposes. Also since ancient times, in order to meet the high demand of those who buy olive oil, this coveted fruit juice was frequently adulterated so that supply could be increased. Quality was sacrificed for quantity. Today is no different.
As you might imagine, many olives must be pressed to produce a small yield of olive oil and the production requires time. The fruit must be hand-picked at the exact right time to deliver the perfect flavor. The olives are then crushed into a paste within twenty-four hours of being picked and hand-pressed to separate the liquids from the solids. Finally, the liquids must be naturally clarified to separate the oil from the other liquid by-products. This first pressing of olive oil is called extra virgin olive oil, which is the purest, most nutrient-rich form available, therefore providingthe best health benefits.
When you buy olive oil, you should know that real extra virgin olive oil is produced using the time-tested method just described. It is never heated or infused with other oils. In 23 countries, the International Olive Oil Council (IOOC) governs the quality and classification of olive oils and only true extra virgin olive oils – defined as containing no more than .8 grams of oleic acid per 100 grams of olive oil – are allowed to be marked as extra virgin olive oil. However, in the United States – not an IOOC member country – the USDA only began to recognize olive oil classifications in late October of 2010. Moreover, olive oil producers are not required to obtain USDA approval before labeling an olive oil as “extra virgin,” so just because the label claims to be extra virgin olive oil does not mean that the olive oil inside the container meets USDA or IOOC standards.
In fact, many imported olive oils that are labeled as extra virgin olive oil are diluted with safflower, canola, soy, hazelnut and other oils to extend the supply and reduce the cost, allowing for mass production. Since 99% of olive oil sold in the United States is imported and the USDA does not require its standards to be met before a producer labels olive oil as extra virgin, you may not be getting the quality product you believe you are when you buy olive oil, but instead an inferior, diluted version. Nancy Curry, co-owner of Temecula Olive Oil Company with Catherine Pepe, comments that when customers who visit TOOC’s tasting rooms ask why the olive oils are so expensive, “They’re asking the wrong question. What they should be asking is, ‘Why is the other stuff so cheap?’”
Something else to be aware of if you buy olive oil, is that the enemies of olive oil are heat, air, light and age. It is important for the temperature during pressing to be below 35 degrees Celsius, so that the fruit juice is not degraded. Although heating the fruit will produce a higher yield of olive oil, true extra virgin olive oil can only be produced when the olives are cold pressed to prevent decomposition, the way olives are pressed at Temecula Olive Oil Company. Additionally, olive oils bottled in dark bottles with long, narrow necks, like those TOOC uses, minimize exposure to light and air. Many mass-produced olive oils are packaged in clear bottles with short necks, which allow greater exposure to light and air, causing premature degradation.
Furthermore, all of Temecula Olive Oil Company’s olive oil bottles are hand-dated and every bit of olive oil produced every season is sold, whereas mass-produced oils are frequently sent to distribution centers to sit for six months or more before being shipped to retailers. Most grocery store bought oils are actually rancid before the consumer ever has a chance to buy olive oil.
Of course, the true test of quality to those who buy olive oil is taste. Extra virgin olive oils are judged by the IOOC not by color or scent, but by taste. They are sipped from dark blue glasses that are tapered at the top, so color cannot be determined. They must have noticeable levels of fruitiness, bitterness and pepperiness and not any level of sixteen officially-defined taste flaws. TOOC’s artisan food creator, Thom Curry, is a Certified Master Taster by the IOOC, which is another reason you can trust that the quality of TOOC’s olive oils is always 100% fresh California extra virgin.
Take a look around our website to discover the delightfully fresh selection of premium extra virgin olive oils, balsamic vinegars and artisan foods that will bring joy to your taste buds, or stop by one of TOOC’s tasting rooms to sample all of the season’s extra virgin olive oil offerings. Warning: You’ll have a difficult time chosing just one!