Green or yellow olive oil – how do you know which is better?
There is a lot of confusion about what is the best EVOO and it’s not getting any easier to discern the best olive oil (EVOO); between the premium (very expensive) , Organic, PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), PGI (Protected Geographical Indication), single grove, limited quantity, award winning, Green, Yellow, low acidity, cloudy, clear, just to name a few. I am sure this list will grow as I go along.
Today I will deal with the first 3 types of EVOOs.
What is Premium EVOO?
Premium – This designation is most commonly used to refer to award winning EVOOs usually based on the taste (organoleptic analysis) from a panel of judges trained to discern the minute changes in taste that offer clues to the EVOOs freshness, well rounded aroma and taste qualities. These oils are usually sold in upscale bottles with excellent high end label designs. They justify the higher pricing using words like limited quantity, organic, low acidity, single grove, sometimes they are numbered 1 out of 1000. There are excellent olive oils to be found in this category, but finding them may get expensive.
Ultimately the best olive oil should be the one that contains the highest levels of health promoting compounds.
Sensory Assessment is intended to provide an expert taster’s assessment of the oil in areas critical for producers and marketers:
• Marketing language descriptive of the oils’ organoleptic properties;
• Determination of oil profile or style:
• Mild, Medium or Robust, detection of defects,
• Early detection of rancidity.
Unfortunately, as it is often the case, the EVOOs the panel of judges assess may not be the EVOOs that are sold under the premium, award winning or exceptional organoleptic analysis label.
Recently Tom Mueller author of Extra Virginity tested a range of olive oils sold as premium and found a significant number were adulterated.
New Standard for EVOO
There is a new standard of EVOO emerging, not yet based on sensory assessment as is understood up until now, but rather on the high level of the Polyphenols, mainly oleacanthal and oleoacein. I hope that organoleptic analysis will soon include these EVOOs as they are discovered.
These two key polyphenols can finally be quickly and easily measured in a single test. This is a new standard for organoleptic analysis for EVOOs as well, since they tend to have a highly pungent and bitter taste. This type pf EVOO is most easily recognized by its peppery effect on the throat when swallowed on its own; If it makes you cough its good for you. There is room for an organoleptic analysis here as well because some olive oils milled under high heat and are considered “burnt” display a very peppery effect on the throat but without the broader taste quality of true EVOO. They tend to be more mono syllabic.
The unscrupulous can always mix the burnt oils with others in order to mimic the peppery effect on the throat. Staying ahead of the unscrupulous is a constant battle. This is the main reason informed consumers are turning to independent single grove, Organic and or PDO/PGI sources for their high quality EVOO.
Organic Olive oil
There are numerous articles written about the superior health benefits of organic olive oil, the superior taste and the absence of chemical additive residue. They tend to be produced in smaller batches under stricter conditions. These are the first reasons to support the organic olive oil groves. There is another even more important reason to choose organic EVOOs and that is the olive growers themselves.
Organic Olive Growers
Olive growers that choose to employ organic farming tend to be more well balanced individuals. The reason is very simple; in order to use organic methods of farming you have to shift your character in regards to how you approach nature. Instead of an adversarial relationship of eliminating the problems like pests you learn to control their population and find creative ways to dissuade them from affecting your crop. This is more akin to a negotiation strategy of do less harm instead of constant warfare with nature under the rule of: us against them. Organic farming not only produces a superior EVOO but has an additional benefit of breeding better human beings, more gentle in dealing with problems, less authoritative, living in harmony with nature and people around them. To me, this is the most important benefit to organic farming. This aspect is not talked about enough but is clearly evident when you have the opportunity to meet and spend time with organic farmers and their families. Lastly they are the least motivated to adulterate their product. Most of the time they sell it to the consumers or to retail outlets prepackaged with little chance of giving any middlemen the opportunity to adulterate it or mix it with non-organic EVOO .
PDO (Protected Designation of Origin)
• PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) – covers agricultural products and foodstuffs which own their specificity to the geographical area and are produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area using recognised know-how.
• PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) – covers agricultural products and foodstuffs closely linked to the geographical area. At least one of the stages of production, processing or preparation shall take place in the area.
This is a positive designation for the European Union for the smaller independent olive growers. Especially those who are in certain regions that are known for producing quality EVOOs. In the Hellenic Republic, there are a great deal more PDOs that need to be recognized, but due to the diminished resources or stagnating entrepreneurial spirit and economic pressures they have not applied for this designation. They continue to sell their EVOO in bulk to mostly Italian buyers.
Additional testing results
Soon we will have more results from the latest batch of testing to be announced by Dr. Magiatis from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Faculty of Pharmacy. Hopefully this quick and accurate measurement of oleacanthal and oleoacein in EVOO will become more readily available to more growers in Greece and around the world. The test itself is less than 15 minutes, and costs less than $100, but lack of resources and trained personnel cause delays. Hopefully this will be solved soon.
Interview with Dr. Magiatis on Vimeo: vimeo.com
My main objective of this website is to promote Hellenic EVOO to the general public and assist the growers to better market this valuable national symbol of greatness.
The information presented can be easily used to assess the quality of any other EVOO you may find sitting on the shelf. There are many high quality EVOOs on the market today.
To be Continued…
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