What to look for when buying olive oil, by Tom Mueller

From Tom Mueller’s blog – EV (Extra Virginity) – Truth in Olive Oil

Key concepts

  • Olives are stone fruits, like cherries and plums.  So real extra virgin olive oil is fresh-squeezed fruit juice – seasonal, perishable, and never better than the first few weeks it was made.
  • Bitterness and pungency are usually indicators of an oil’s healthfulness.  Sweetness and butteriness are often not.
  • There are 700+ different kinds of olives, which make thousands of different kinds of oil.  Asking “what’s the best olive oil?” is like asking “what’s the best wine?”  The answer is, “depends on what you’re eating it with.”
  • Know the when, who, where of your oil:  When it was made (harvest date), who made it (specific producer name), and exactly where on the planet they made it.
  • Read my book Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil
    to understand the bigger picture about where olive oil, great and bad, comes from, and who is making it.
  • Like everything on Extravirginity.com, this guide is work in progress, and will be upgraded soon.

Buyer’s guide

  • Unlike many wines, which improve with age, extra virgin olive oil is perishable:  like all natural fruit juices, its flavor and aroma begin to deteriorate within a few months of milling, a decline that accelerate when the oil is bottled, and really speeds up when the bottle is opened.  To get the freshest oil, and cut out middle-men who often muddy olive oil transparency and quality, buy as close to the mill as possible.  If you’re lucky enough to live near a mill (in California, but now also Texas, Oregon, Georgia, Arizona and Florida – and of course throughout the Mediterranean, Australia, South Africa and beyond), visit it during the harvest to see how olives are picked, crushed, stirred, and spun into olive oil.  I’ve included many profiles of millers and oil makers in the US, the Mediterranean, Australia and elsewhere to be found in my book Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, which captures their remarkable craftsmanship and perfectionism despite a day-to-day struggle with fraud.

…for the rest of the report, please click here.