On a recent scroll through my TikTok feed, I was intrigued to land on a video of one creator going olive oil tasting. Olive oil tasting? My head spun a bit, yet I was intrigued. I suppose I’ve never thought much about how olive oil tastes. In my world, it’s usually more of an instrument to prevent my vegetables from burning onto the pan rather than an asset to the dish itself. It was clear I needed an olive oil intervention, and I can’t say I’m too disappointed with what I’ve uncovered.
Culinary amateurs know that extra virgin olive oil is the standard. In order to achieve this designation, oil must meet stringent standards for acidity, means of extraction, and time of pressing — oftentimes not more than one day after the olives are plucked from the branch!
While many olive oil devotees suggest that extra virgin is best utilized in its raw form, such as on a nice hunk of bread, Better Homes and Gardens upholds that there’s really nothing wrong with using it in your cooking. Beware, however, that once the product hits the temperature of its smoke point, you’ll probably see some adverse impacts on the taste.
What is less widely known, however, is the range of other classifications that lie beyond our champion. Next up is virgin olive oil, the slightly more caloric and less flavorful sibling. To throw in some additional confusion, some products are labelled simply as “classic” or “pure” olive oil. This title is somewhat misleading, as items in this category are typically amalgamations with different types of oils. Another class exists in olive oil pomace, although this substance is not pure enough to be distinguished as olive oil itself.
Seeing as I was already rather astonished by this striking variety in the world of olive oil, the array of flavors was simply icing on the cake. Check out this smoky bacon version from The Olive Tap, this porcini mushroom variation from Oliviers & Co, or this blood orange one from Saratoga Olive Oil Co.
When it comes to tasting, there is, of course, an element of ceremony to be upheld. Popular restaurant group Eataly compares the art of tasting olive oil to tasting wine. Who knew that tasters make use of wine glasses and even swirl the oil around before sipping?
In my mind, olive oil is practically synonymous with the rolling hills of the Italian countryside. What I’m envisioning is something out of a mural painted on the wall of some suburban Olive Garden — sunny skies, superbly kept farmland, and sprawling branches as far as the eye can see. As of 2019, however, Spain actually leads the pack in manufacturing olive oil. Their output comes close to half of the entire global stock. Italy, on the other hand, accounts for close to 15% of that figure.
Sleek new producers are popping up all over the consumer landscape, like women-owned brands Brightland and Kosterina. With all of the fun little quirks and intricacies in the industry, who wouldn’t want to dive in?
Are you intrigued by the world of olive oil? Let us know in the poll below!
Cover Photo by Amber Engle via Unsplash
Does olive oil deserve more hype?