Selecting Your Olive Oil
In my travels around the world, particularly in the U.S., everybody seems to have an interest in olive oil. What makes an olive oil yellow and another olive oil green? What makes one olive oil better than the other? How do I know which Olive Oil is right for me? I will tell you what I've told them....
Olive Oil is a very complex juice. That's right, it's a juice. In fact, it's a fruit juice. And while it would take a talented chemist, with a fairly sophisticated lab, to reveal all the important characteristics of any one olive oil, here are some things you can look for when selecting your olive oil, without having a Ph.D. in science, just by looking at the bottle and under the glass.
The Oleic Acidity of any Extra Virgin Olive Oil should be printed on the label. The lower the acidity the better the olive oil is for your health (the more antioxidants). The Oleic Acidity of Extra Virgin Olive Oil ranges from 0% to 1%. Tassos® Extra Virgin Olive Oil is bottled at a maximum of .05%. Most years, we capture a much lower oleic acidity. However, this naturally changes from year to year. For example, on the 25th anniversary of Tassos, we captured less than .2%. That was a banner year by anyone’s definition.
As the oil ages, oleic acidity tends to creep up. So, try and get the freshest bottle you can find. Our best before date should give you an indication. Properly stored olive oil can last a very, very long time, but should be consumed within about 2 years from pressing for maximum flavor. That said, if it takes you 2 years to use 17 oz of olive oil, you probably don't like olive oil very much. Please don't call us and ask, "We've had this bottle of olive oil for 6 years, is it any good?" Throw it away and spend the money you save from not calling us on something you really want (and use).
Olive Oil should be free from any clouds or sediment (with the one exception of unfiltered olive oil). As an olive oil sits, any sediment will settle to the bottom. Simply, tip the bottle upside down and see what happens.
If you see a black cloud (or plume), then that means the oil is poorly filtered. That black cloud you see is dirt. It's not going to hurt you, but it's not the bottle you want.
If you see a white cloud (or plume), then that means the oil has been frozen. The white cloud you see is stearin, a wax sometimes used to make candles. Here again, stearin will not hurt you, and if you are going to add a lot of heat to the oil, then stearin will dissolve, but it's not the bottle you want. It’s important to point out that olive oil freezes at higher temperatures than water. The temperature olive oil freezes depends upon the quality of olive oil. Never, ever, refrigerate Tassos® olive oil.
If you see nothing (e.g., no plumes or clouds) and the oil maintains its clarity, this is the bottle you want.
By law, the origin of any olive oil is to be published on the bottle. Some olive oils are blended from oils of various qualities and from different countries. Tassos® Olive Oil is 100% estate bottled in Crete, Greece, and never blended. What goes into our bottles is the very best of our press and so is very consistent from one bottle to the next bottle in any given year.
Color doesn't really matter. Our olive oil is green but, being green doesn't necessarily make it better than a yellow olive oil. What I can tell you is that our olive oil is green because we use very immature olives; the concentration of chlorophyll is what gives it its green color. The darker green the olive oil is the more likely the oil is of higher quality than that of yellow olive oils. This is because most lighter color olive oils (from yellow to white) generally include refined oils (olives that have been heated to extract the maximum quantity of juice). In some countries outside of the USA, it is against the law to sell these refined olive oils as food. So called “refined” olive oils, I find to be somewhat misleading. Personally, I would skip the "Pure, Light, or Extra-light" (refined) Olive oils.
Incidentally, this also relates to the importance of "First Cold Pressed" or "Cold Extraction." When heat is added to the pressing of olives, the heat burns off the flavor and aroma of the olive oil. The bottle you want should say "First Cold Pressed" or more correctly, "Cold Extracted," since these days, no one has "presses" in the traditional sense.
But the Most Important thing is:
Taste. The olive oil that has the best taste for you is the olive oil that has the best taste. Just because one bottle is more expensive than another doesn't mean you should "prefer" that oil. Olive Oil is a lot like any other food or wine and is a matter of personal preference. Don't let anyone get snooty about his or her olive oil with you.
That being understood, Tassos® offers three different qualities of olive oil. All of them have low oleic acidity (much less than 5% at time of extraction), have “best before” dates to tell you when we bottled, are shipped, and stored in temperature-controlled environments (for maximum flavor, never cloudy), are 100% estate bottled (never blended) and, properly stored, will always be green in color. In my house, olive oil is so quickly consumed (by the liter), we’ve no need to store it. I will leave the best practices in storing olive for another time (post).
Michael at The Tassos Group