Olive Oil Categories, Myths and Facts
All you need to know about Olive Oil categories and benefits
According to the International Olive Oil Council (IOOC), virgin olive oils are the oils obtained from the fruit of the olive tree solely by mechanical or other physical means under particular thermal conditions that do not lead to alterations to the oil, which has not had any further treatment other than washing, decantation, centrifugation and filtration.
EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL: Virgin olive oil, having a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid of at most 0.8%, free of organoleptic defects (aroma and flavor), and of highest quality since it retains all the characteristics of the fruit. Among its main features worth mentioning: oils with fresh flavors and herbaceous taste, balanced sensations of bitterness and sharpness, beneficial to one’s health.
VIRGIN OLIVE OIL: Virgin olive oil has a free acidity in terms of oleic acid of at most 2% and exhibits some slight defect in aroma and flavor, which can be stale, fusty or of other kind.
REGULAR OLIVE OIL: Virgin olive oil with a free acidity in terms of oleic acid of at most 3.3% and exhibiting more than one organoleptic defect and more pronounced than in the case of virgin olive oil.
LAMPANTE VIRGIN OLIVE OIL: Virgin olive oil unfit for consumption, with a free acidity in terms of oleic acid higher than 3.3% and/or exhibiting poor organoleptic characteristics with sensory defects such as rancid, fusty, vinegary, moldy or other. It is intended for industrial refining or technical uses.
REFINED OLIVE OIL: Refined olive oil is the olive oil obtained from regular or lampante virgin olive oil by refining techniques with no modification to the initial glycerin structure. Its free acidity in terms of oleic acid content is at most 0.3%. Refined olive oils do not have the health properties of extra virgin olive oil because of the removal of healthy compounds such as polyphenol during the refining process, as well as aromatic compounds that give the flavor and taste characteristics associated with quality olive oil.
OLIVE OIL OR PURE OLIVE OIL: A blend of refined olive oil and a small portion of virgin olive oils fit for consumption (extra virgin or virgin.) Its free acidity in terms of oleic acid content is at most 1%.
POMACE OLIVE OIL: It is oil obtained by applying diluents or other physical processes to pomace oil; the following are part of that category: Raw pomace olive oil (pomace oil refined for making fit for human consumption); refined pomace oilve oil (raw olive oil obtained by refining techniques); pomace olive oil; (oil composed by a blend of refined pomace oil, and virgin olive oil fit for human consumption).
The Extraction Process
The PRODUCTION STAGE of olive oil begins with the olive harvest, which takes place between May and July in the Southern Hemisphere and October and January in the Northern Hemisphere. This should be done with special care to protect the fruit. The production system has to allow collected olives to be processed in processing plants (mills) in less than 24 hours to preserve the oil contained in them.
Thereafter, the grinding step is performed, in which the olives are crushed to form a thick paste that is the input to the MIXING stage, consisting of kneading; agitating the olive paste to cause the oil droplets to group and form a continuous oily phase.
Thereafter, the EXTRACTION STAGE follows, consisting of spinning the olive paste into a decanter or a horizontal centrifuge device that separates oil from other components of the fruit: pomace (solid) and vegetation water liquid. The extraction process may comprise two stages if the oil is separated from all the other components at once, and three stages if the oil is separated one by one from the three components. The resulting oil is processed by a vertical centrifuge, disposing of the remaining water.
At this point, the resulting product is fit for human consumption; but in order to eliminate any solid element remaining from the previous stages, the oil is put through a filtration system. After filtration, it is stored in stainless steel tanks for subsequent PACKING, SHIPPING, and MARKETING.
The optimum process that olives go through from harvest to bottling enables producers to obtain fresh, tasty, and aromatic extra virgin olive oils.
The aromatic quality of olive oil is one of the factors most valued by consumers, as other vegetable oils (grape seed, marigold, soybeans, rapeseed, etc.) do not have this feature as a result of the refining process.
The characteristic aroma of olive oil is delivered by a group of complex and volatile compounds, which are analyzed by the senses through organoleptic assessments during OLIVE OIL TASTING.
During the tasting of olive oil, samples are placed into standing opaque blue glasses since they are not a key factor in the resulting oil color; then they are capped, smelled, and tasted. Between each olive oil tasting, it is customary to grab a bite of a green apple and have a sip of water to wash away the flavor. Tasting is performed with oil at around 28° Celsius to elicit the volatile aromatic compounds. The tasting process is comprised of the following stages or phases: Smell, Taste, Equilibrium, and Harmony.
The most positive features, or more important attributes, of olive oil are the following:
FRUITNESS: The set of varietal characteristics of healthy and fresh, green or ripe olives.
BITTERNESS: The tasting sensation from very green olives at the tip of the tongue.
SPICINESS: A pungent sensation in the throat.
FRUITNESS: From other fruits: Apples, Tomatoes, Plantains, Almonds, and Artichokes.
GREEN: Sensation of green leaves, fresh trimmed grass, figs, and others.
The set of unpleasant sensations, or most common defects, of olive oil are the following:
STALE: Smell and taste or flavor from oil that has undergone an oxidation process.
FUSTINESS: Flavor of oil obtained from olives that have undergone a process of anaerobic fermentation, due to prolonged storage of the fruit before processing.
MOLD: Flavor of oil obtained from olives that have developed fungi and yeasts, due to prolonged storage of the fruit before the extraction process.
WINEY/VINEGARY: Flavor of oil that resembles that of wine or vinegar, due to aerobic fermentation.
DREGS: Flavor of oil that has been long in contact with the bottoms fermented storage tanks of olive oil.
Tips and Myths on olive oil
PREFER OLIVE OILS WITH NO OLIVE SMELL: Olive oil should have fresh and herbal flavors and balance between bitterness and spiciness, but never taste like table olives. That means the product has a pomace defect, which diminishes its quality; therefore, it can't render all the culinary goodies and health benefits associated with it.
USE IT IN ALL MEALS: One myth is that olive oil is not good for frying and that sunflower oil or other oils are better suited. However, olive oils withstand higher temperatures much better, and foods absorb less fat during frying, which translates to healthier meals.
CONSUME IT TO KEEP YOU HEALTHY: It is rich in polyphenol—chemical components with antioxidant properties present in vegetables—that have been identified as helping to prevent cancer. Furthermore, it also protects the arteries; its chemical composition—high in mono-saturated fat acids, namely, oleic acid (around 70% content,) and low in saturated and poly-saturated oleic acid—makes it more healthy, elevating the level of good cholesterol, and lowering the level of bad cholesterol.
KEEP IT AWAY FROM LIGHT: There is a widespread belief that olive oil should be kept in clear containers; it is quite the opposite. As a light-sensitive product, olive oil should be kept in dark containers.
KEEP IT WELL LIDDED: Beyond the color or transparency of the recipient, the most important aspect is to keep the product well lidded in order to preserve olive oil’s tastiness and health benefits.