What is extra virgin olive oil? Learn everything you need to know about olive oil and its health benefits.
Q: What does “Extra Virgin” mean?
Traditionally produced “Extra Virgin Olive Oil” (EVOO) is made from the first pressing of the olives; it is, essentially, the juice of the olive. Technically, “extra virgin” is a grade of olive oil, usually indicating the highest quality oil that is distinguished by its naturally low levels of free oleic acid. To qualify as “extra virgin,” an olive oil must have a free acid count of less than one percent.
The single most important piece of information for the consumer to determine is the harvest date of an olive oil. Olive oil should be treated like fresh fruit juice, as it is highly perishable. It is always healthier and more flavorful when consumed close to its crush date. As an oil ages, it tends to lose a lot of the magnificent health and flavor properties that make it such an enjoyable product. It is common practice for grocery store oils to have a “best by date”. This is an arbitrary date, determined by the producer/bottler and it really does not provide the consumer with the information they need. On a side note, never buy oil in clear glass or plastic, as olive oil is highly susceptible to UV degradation!
Q: What does “varietals” mean when referring to olive oil?
Varietal means different types of olive trees that produce various olives. For instance, it is designating an oil made entirely or chiefly from one variety of olive, like koroneiki olives or the hojiblanca olive.
Q: What does “first cold pressed” mean?
This is an outdated and overused term in the industry. It often leads to more confusion on the side of the consumer. “Cold Pressing” is referring to the temperature at which the olive paste is malaxed, in order to extract oil. Like almost every other aspect of the industry, these claims are unregulated and loosely applied to almost every oil on the grocery store shelf. In order for an olive oil to be considered, “Cold Pressed”, it must be processed below 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Many producers choose to process their oils at higher temperatures, in order to extract more oil from the olive paste. However, as the temperature of the paste is increased during the milling process, the quality and integrity of the oil is jeopardized. Our average production temperature is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. As a result of processing at a cooler temperature, our yield goes down but our quality goes through the roof! In addition to heat, the amount of time the olive paste spends in the Malaxer, has a significant impact on the finished product. Over processing, yields more oil but also hurts the quality of the finished product.
Q: Is “cold pressed” olive oil better?
Yes, “cold pressed” refers to the technique used to extract the best oil from the olive. To get the highest quality oil, the presser cannot use any heat. Cold pressed olive oil is of superior quality because it retains not only all of its sensitive aromatic properties, but also the antioxidants and nutrients that are often diminished by the high-speed machinery and elevated temperatures used in modern oil extraction methods.
Q: Which country makes the best extra virgin olive oil?
The truth is, you can make wonderful oil everywhere and you can make terrible oil everywhere and California is no exception! That is not to say that micro-climate conditions, soil quality & other agronomic factors do not have an impact on oil quality. However, country of origin should be towards the bottom, in terms of importance. Let your taste buds, the harvest date and your knowledge of oil chemistry guide you!
Q: Does the color of olive oil indicate quality?
An oil’s color mainly indicates the level of chlorophyll in the olive when it was picked. Early harvest olive oils, for example, are made with young olives that yield a greener color. Late harvest olives generally produce oil with a buttery, golden hue. If your traditional grocery store-bought olive oil stays bright green 1-2 years later, you will know that they added food coloring. We do NOT add any coloring or preservatives to enhance the quality of the olive oil.
Q: Does olive oil improve with age?
Unlike wine, olive oil does NOT improve with age. As olive oil gets older, it gradually breaks down, the acidity level rises, and flavor weakens. Extra virgin olive oil keeps better because it starts with a low acidity level, but it should ideally be consumed within 3-4 months of opening the bottle but can be used when stored properly up to 12 months after harvest. We have seen well made, excellent oils, hold up over a year! Lower quality olive oil has a higher acidity level and must be used even more quickly.
Q: What is the difference between fused and infused oil?
We produce both fused and infused olive oils. When oil is fused, this means the olives were crushed with the fruit or vegetable, simultaneously. Fused oils tend to have wonderfully true, rich flavors! Our blood orange, lemon and Chili pepper oils are fused! Another term for fused oil is Agrumato. Agrumato olive oil is made by crushing newly riped olives with whole, fresh fruits, herbs or vegetables at the time of crush.
More than 90% of the world’s fused or agrumato olive oil is made in the Northern Hemisphere. Because agrumato is typically made from ripe olives at the end of the season, the window for crushing in the Northern Hemisphere is in the winter, usually between mid December and late January. With few exceptions, many fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs are unavailable during these cold winter months. More often than not, when one sees a product claiming that it is an agrumato chili oil or agrumato basil oil, the mill is either adding frozen or freeze dried product to the olives at the time of crush, or simply misrepresenting the process and actually infusing olive oil after the fact which would actually be called “infused.”
Conversely, when oil is infused, the all-natural, organic flavors, are added to the oil after the olives have been crushed. We use the infusion method when we have flavors that may be impossible or too difficult to crush with the olives, for one reason or another. Others in the olive oil industry, they infuse olive oil as an attempt to cover up poor quality, defective, old oil. Unfortunately, regardless of what flavoring is added to poor quality olive oil to mask it, the rancidity, fustiness and other negative attributes will still be evident underneath. Furthermore, synthetic chemicals and artificial flavoring are often used as the flavoring agents because they are more cost effective than, the 100% organic, all-natural essential oils of the actual fruit, vegetables, and herbs we use.
We have hired actual scientists to test our products to bring you the highest quality of products with the most nutritional benefits. Our chemists help drive our ultra-premium, consistent formulations of our infused extra virgin olive oils. The infused extra virgin olive oils that we make will use the freshest extra virgin olive oils available in our collection that are most aesthetically compatible with the natural products we use to flavor them with. This simple mandate requires that the chemistry, freshness and quality of our infused olive oil are second to none. We are not in the business of flavoring a single oil from a single hemisphere. We painstakingly move our infused collection to coincide with the fresh crush. It is a labor of love that we hope you find evident in the flavor, freshness and quality of our products.
Q: What does Ultra-Premium mean?
Ultra-Premium (UP) is a new category of olive oil that distinguishes the highest quality olive oil in the world. The UP standard was created by Veronica Foods in response to the growing need to separate high quality extra virgin olive oils from what dominates the so called “gourmet” and “premium” olive oil markets, as well as the broader category sold in mass markets the world over under thousands of brands and private labels. The absurdly low standards created and fostered by numerous trade associations and government agencies responsible for policing them has only contributed to the confusion and misinformation. EU producers are actually given a perverse incentive in the form of government subsidies to keep their oils in storage until market conditions improve. This practice clearly demonstrates the governmental complicity with retailers and bottlers to sacrifice quality for price. Lack of enforcement and testing by these trade associations and governmental agencies has led to a marketplace dominated by inferior oils and rife with adulteration. These practices by some of the world’s largest olive oil producers and bottlers have led to a steep decline in prices of extra virgin olive oil and are driving quality oil producers out of business.
The self-serving overemphasis on “Where” extra virgin olive oil is produced continues to dominate perceptions at the expense of the far more significant “When, What, and How” the oil is made. The UP standard has as its principal barometers Chemistry and Freshness. These two underappreciated variables can be objectively measured, quantified, and certified. Since the highest quality EVOO comes from high quality fruit coupled with high quality production processes, the UP standard encompasses strict requirements for both the end-product and the production process.
No matter how high the quality of fruit and production methods used, the best olive oils in the world are never as good as when they are fresh. There are no standards for shelf-life of EVOO, and the current IOC “best buy” date is intentionally misleading and utilized at the whim of the retailer and bottler. When a quality EVOO is fresh, there is significantly more positive sensory attributes detectable by the palate. As any EVOO ages, it naturally oxidizes losing positive sensory qualities as well as inheriting defects. Newly developed tests can objectively quantify the “Freshness” of an EVOO at various stages in its lifecycle and are referred to as the “Fresh Pack” tests encompassing both the Diacylglycerol Content (DAGS) and Pyropheophytins (PPP).
The UP standard is reserved for the finest extra virgin olive oils in the world, as such, the UP grade exceeds all existing European, Italian, Spanish, Greek, North American, Californian, or any other standard for the grade known as extra virgin olive oil. In order to qualify for the UP grade, the extra virgin olive oil must meet or exceed a comprehensive set of Production, Storage, Transportation, Testing, Chemistry, and Organoleptic requirements as set forth in the following document. Instead of placing an overemphasis on what is less important (Terroir) to the detriment of the most critical factors (Chemistry and Freshness), the UP program is intended to reward farmers for producing high quality oil. The UP program is intended to promote Fair Trade practices and help create a demand for a higher quality product thereby increasing the value.
Q: I noticed in your store there are labels showing whether an olive oil is mild, medium, or robust. What does this mean?
Robust: A term describing the highest level of flavor intensity of olive oil. When an extra virgin olive oil is robust it will be high in antioxidants. This will give the oil a desirable bitter and peppery finish. These oils are our favorite and we use them in every dish. Even our kids love them on pasta in lieu of butter. We love the fact that these are high in polyphenols and are EXTREMELY healthy to consume.
Medium: A term describing the mid-level of flavor intensity of olive oil. You can use these oils for any cooking application or raw use, like salad dressings. They are grassy and somewhat fruity with a small peppery kick from the antioxidants.
Mild: A term describing the lowest level of flavor intensity of olive oil. These oils will be delicate and smooth, yet bright with floral or fruity notes. Grassy flavors blend with notes of green banana or green apple peel. These oils are great for cooking fish or eggs and in salad dressing or hummus.
COOKING WITH OLIVE OIL
Q: Can I cook with olive oil?
This is a common misconception and one of the most frequently asked questions we receive. In fact, HIGH QUALITY EVOO is the most nutritional oil to cook with and new studies have shown that using an EVOO high in phenols (antioxidants) for cooking & baking applications leads to a significant reduction in oxidation and the inhibition of harmful byproducts over other vegetable oils or olive oils lower in phenolic (antioxidant) content! The majority of the oils we offer are high in phenolic content, high in oleic acid (the healthful MUFA) and low in FFA (free fatty acid). There is a direct correlation between FFA and smoke point! The lower the FFA, the more the oil can be heated before it reaches its smoke point. (See Our Chemistry Key)
However, there is some truth to this misconception. Low grade and the vast majority of the olive oil available in the grocery store, is relatively unstable under high heat and we wouldn’t advise cooking with it. If cost is the issue, come try one of our 200ml bottles of EVOO, it only costs $9.95. We consider it the best bottle of oil you can find for under 10 bucks! EVOO can be used up to its smoking point of 400° F, and some varietals can be cooked at even higher temperatures. EVOO is also good for sautéing (300° F) or for sauces.
EVOO is excellent in marinades and vinaigrettes, and makes a wonderful finishing oil to drizzle over your dishes. It is a flavorful and nutritious alternative to cooking with butter or margarine.
Q: Can olive oil be used for frying?
Absolutely, Ultra-Premium EVOO can withstand frying temperatures up to 400° F without breaking down. I would not recommend cooking with any olive oils bought at traditional grocery stores since they are already “cooked” to be bottled for long shelf life and that causes breakdown of the polyphenols. Once you then cook with that oil, it breaks it down even further which could in turn make it toxic similar to using other Vegetable oils.
Q: Can I replace butter or margarine with olive oil?
Yes! Next time a recipe calls for butter, replace it with a high quality olive oil—not only will your food taste better, but it’s also a healthier way to eat. We even offer a Certified Organic Natural Butter Extra Virgin Olive Oil that gives you the flavor of butter with the health benefits of olive oil.
Use this simple chart to convert butter quantities to olive oil quantities:
1 teaspoon Butter = ¾ teaspoons of EVOO
2 teaspoons Butter = 1 ½ teaspoons of EVOO
1 tablespoon Butter = 2 1/4 teaspoons of EVOO
2 tablespoons Butter = 1 ½ tablespoons of EVOO
¼ cup Butter = 3 tablespoons of EVOO
½ cup Butter = ¼ cup + 2 tbsp of EVOO
1 cup Butter = 3/4 cup of EVOO
STORING OLIVE OIL
Q: How should I store olive oil?
Because of EVOO’s high monounsaturated fat content, it can be stored longer than most other oils, as long as it’s done properly. When choosing your storage location, remember that heat, air, time, and light are the enemies of olive oil. Store extra virgin olive oil in a dark, cool cupboard away from the stove and other heat-producing appliances. Refrigerated olive oils will solidify and turn cloudy. Return them to room temperature to restore their fluidity and color.
The best storage containers for olive oil are made of tinted glass to help keep out light; porcelain and stainless steel are also acceptable. Containers should have a tight cap or lid to keep out unwanted air. Olive oil should never be stored in reactive metals, and we recommend staying away from plastic containers, as well.
Q: How long will olive oil last?
This question completely depends on the quality of the oil you are starting with, as well as the conditions in which it is being stored. We have seen well made, excellent oils, hold up over a year! However, we suggest using your oil within a year of the day it was crushed. We also urge customers to consume the bottle within 3-4 months from opening. Unfortunately, the Olive oils in grocery stores don’t label the crush date, only expiration dates. The reason why their oils last 2 years has to do with a “pasteurization” process that strips out much of the health benefits and adding various chemicals / processing that allows the oil to last up to two years if kept tightly capped in a cool cupboard and away from direct light. Just because they have a long expiration date on the bottle doesn’t equal “quality.” The good news is, we harvest from two hemispheres, giving our customers a unique opportunity to enjoy the freshest oil in the world, year around!
Hemisphere Sourcing: We source olive oils from both the northern and southern hemisphere. Each half produces once a year making our oils as fresh as possible. The first part of the year is Northern sourced and includes countries like Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy and the US (California). The last half of the year is Southern sourced and may include South Africa, Australia, Chile, and Argentina.
Q: Should olive oil be kept in the refrigerator?
It isn’t recommended. When refrigerated, most extra virgin olive oils become cloudy and thick. While this doesn’t harm the oil, as with wine, extended refrigeration can result in diminished aromas and muted flavors, even after the oil warms back to room temperature. We recommend storing your oil in a cool dark place. Although, freezing an extra virgin has been known to extend its shelf life, constantly changing the temperature (for immediate consumption) can mess with the chemistry and create condensation on the inside or the bottle.
Q: Why do your Extra Virgin Olive Oils come in dark bottles?
It’s a question of quality—dark glass protects the oil from the deteriorating effects of light. This is also why many health products come in brown bottles, wine is bottled in dark green glass, and clear, glass milk bottles have been replaced with opaque cartons.
Even a few weeks of light exposure will accelerate the aging of olive oil. To slow this process, it’s a good idea to store your oil in a dark, cool cabinet instead of on a countertop, which is likely brighter and warmer. Absolutely never buy olive oils in clear glass or plastic.
Q: What are the health benefits of EVOO?
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is an important source of antioxidants. The most important are polyphenols, antioxidants, and tocopherols (Vitamin E). There are as many as 5.5 mg of polyphenols and 1.6 mg of Vitamin E in every tablespoon of olive oil (15 ml). The total proximate of antioxidants is 7 mg in every 15 ml of olive oil. It is important to note, not all labeled grocery store EVOO contains these antioxidants due to the adulteration that is all too common with many of those oils.
Many studies have been completed showing evidence that extra virgin olive oils with a high polyphenol count aka “antioxidants” help fight against many diseases such as cardiovascular disease, blood pressure & cholesterol issues, arthritis, pain management, weight management due to their anti-inflammatory properties. Some studies are indicating that high polyphenol count EVOO as a “good fat” will help with depression and anti-cancer benefits. A Mediterranean diet rich in UP EVOO is associated with healthier aging and longevity. Our motto is: Healthy eating is quality living!
Consumption of UP EVOO with polyphenols of a minimum of 300 or greater olive oil has been associated with:
Reducing total cholesterol and increasing the “good” cholesterol high-density cholesterol (HDL-C), which has a protective effect on blood vessels.
Improving sensitivity of cells to insulin, which helps to prevent Metabolic Syndrome. Preventing Metabolic Syndrome is important, because the syndrome increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
Decreasing risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and Alzheimer’s disease.
Q: What are polyphenols?
Polyphenols are a class of antioxidants found in a variety of foods, like red wine, tea, chocolate, coffee, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. Antioxidants are now widely touted for their ability to combat the effects of aging and other health conditions. All extra virgin olive oil should have at least a slight burning sensation on the end. In reality it is a “healthy burn,” this means it is high in polyphenols. One of the main health benefits associated with fresh extra virgin olive oil are polyphenols. The higher the phenol content, the more pepper and the more bitterness the oil will have. For most people, bitterness and pepper is an acquired taste. However, we see people gradually move up the intensity ladder and eventually begin to enjoy robust oils.
Q: What are the nutritional facts for Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
One tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil contains 120 calories, 14 grams of fat, zero cholesterol, and zero sodium.
77% of the fat in extra virgin olive oil is monounsaturated (more depending on the varietal of the olive), 9% is polyunsaturated fat, and 14% is vegetable-derived saturated fat. Studies show that when substituted for saturated fats, monounsaturated fats lower blood cholesterol, especially the harmful, low-density lipoproteins (LDL), while protecting the good, high-density lipoproteins (HDL).
Extra Virgin Olive Oil also contains the antioxidants beta-carotene and Vitamin E, as well as phenolic compounds tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol. EVOO contains no salt and is naturally cholesterol free. It is recommended to consume a minimum of 2 TBSP a day when taking for health benefits such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
All of our olive oils are certified organic, and verified to be non-GMO, Kosher, and Gluten-Free. All our olive oils and balsamic vinegars are gluten-free and prepared in gluten-free facilities. Additionally, many of our olive oils are certified kosher by the Orthodox Union.
We also have available a complete list of allergen information for our olive oils, detailing which allergens are present in both the product and the manufacturing facility.
Q: Does olive oil contain cholesterol?
No. In fact, olive oil is a monounsaturated fat, which reduces the level of LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) and some studies have shown a positive effect with consuming high polyphenol 300+ count of EVOO to assist in increasing the HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) which protects the arteries from cholesterol build-up.
Q: Does olive oil contain trans fat?
No. Olive oil contains no trans fat.