Olives: All olives start out green and turn to black or dark purple. When the olive is green, they are very tasty but do not have that much oil. When the olive is black, the tastes are less intense and they are very oily. A lot of people think that the colors represent two different types of olives but they do not. Because black, fully-ripe olives contain more oil than green ones, it is cheaper for a grower to concentrate on black olives because they produce a higher yield of oil. Part of what makes O&CO. unique is our demand placed on our growers that they harvest the olives as early as possible…green, young, and still full of flavor. This is more expensive for the grower, but ensures a high quality product.
Olive Types: Over 100 types of olives are used world wide to produce olive oil, each one possessing unique characteristics. For example, the Hojiblanca variety from Spain is known to produce a delicate oil with a slightly citrus flavor, while the Frantoio variety, found in the Italian region of Tuscany, is known to offer a rich taste reminiscent of artichokes. Some olives are particularly suited to the production of oil, others make better table olives (ex: Lucques) and others are good for both (ex: cailletier and Nocellara del belice). Some olive oils are made of one single type of olive. Example: the O&CO. Mantinea & Avia that is composed of 100% Koroneiki olive. Many olive oils are a mix of several varieties of olives and the result will change according to the proportion used. (Example: The two O&CO. oils from Sicily are made out of the same three varieties of olives: Biancolilla, Cerasuola and Nocellara del Belice but in different proportions, which yields two different oils.) The varieties of olive used are fundamental for the final quality of the oil. Each variety has its own characteristics. For example, the Italian Frantoio produces hot peppery oil, while the Spanish Arbequina produces a softer and sweeter oil. Overall, a superior olive oil is made thanks to the producer's expertise of the different olive varieties. If the strengths and weaknesses of the varieties are known, the best mix and percentage of each olive can be determined. The result will be an olive oil with no defect and a richness in taste and quality.
Oil Types: There are 4 types of oil that, apart from their gustatory qualities, can only be distinguished from one another using physical/chemical indicators such as their levels of peroxide and oleic acid. These types are extra virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil, olive oil containing a mixture of refined and virgin olive oil, and pomace oil. At O&CO., we select only extra virgin olive oils. After its superior taste is verified, the oil's acidity level (not to exceed 0.8%) and quantity of oleic acid must be checked; its peroxide indicator must also be as low as possible.
"What is Extra Virgin?": 'Extra' is the highest grade for olive oil; the best you can buy. The virgin oil produced from the mechanical pressing described above may be called 'extra' if it has less than 0.8% free oleic acid, and if it exhibits superior taste, color and aroma. Thus, the 'extra' in extra virgin olive oil means 'premium', or simply, 'the best.' An Extra Virgin oil must receive 6.5 to 9 (from a scale of 0 to 9) by a professional taster. Extra virgin olive oils are not processed or refined. They are not chemically altered in any way. It is essentially 'fresh squeezed' from the fruit of the olive tree, without alteration of the color, taste, and nutrients or vitamins. Because of the integrity of the product, and its antioxidant components, olive oil will keep longer than other vegetable oils.
Differences in Extra Virgin Oils: Not all extra virgin olive oils are the same. Like wines, extra virgin olive oils can vary dramatically in taste, depending upon the producer of the oil, the type and quality of the fruit that is pressed, the time of harvest, the weather during the growing season, and the region (nature of the soil) from which the olives were produced. Connoisseurs generally use the following adjectives in appraising extra virgin olive oils: mild, semi-fruity and fruity, depending on the flavor of the olive that can be detected. Further, some oils, such as the finer oils from Tuscany and Southern Italy, have a peppery finish that many appreciate. One extra virgin olive oil is not necessarily better than the other. It is primarily a question of personal taste and preference.