Where does Olive Oil come from? Olive trees! The Mediterranean region’s climate is ideal for the growth of olive trees because of its long, warm, dry summers, and low temperature (but not freezing) in the winter. The more production, the more consumption! Italia is third in the world’s ranking of the highest consumption rates of olive oil!
Italy uses the “I.O.C” olive oil classification to distinguish levels of quality. For example, the highest level of extra-virgin olive oils characteristics include cold pressing of the olives, it contains <0.8% acidity, it may not contain refined oil, and it has a superior taste. The following categories are virgin-olive oil, pure olive oil, and olive-pomace oil. (Learn more here).
How can you tell the difference? Well, for my Mediterranean Diet course we took a field trip to the nearby town of Offida to learn how to officially taste olive oil. There is a three-step process that is used to taste olive oil….
- Nasal- place the tasting cup underneath each nostril and identify “fruitiness, bitterness, pepperiness, acidity, etc”
- Tasting- take a small sip of oil and gently move it around your mouth for taste
- While the oil is still in your mouth inhale sharply to aerate it in the back of your throat.
If you feel a burning sensation in your throat you are aerating the oil correctly!
Characteristics of the oil observed during the tasting can help determine which classification it falls under. The two oils I tasted in Offida were both extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), which is the highest quality and healthiest olive oil available. EVOO has been shown to decrease cholesterol levels and in turn decrease risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and the development of blood clots. So basically, EAT UP! ‘Cause it’s good for you!