Olive Oils  What is EVOO?

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Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is a wholesome oil, rich in history and admired universally for the magnificent aroma and flavor it gives to food.  It is versatile, with many uses beyond the kitchen.


Commercial olive oil is graded and regulated, just like produce and meat.  The highest grade recognized is Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  EVOO must be extracted without chemicals or heat, have a positive fruity flavor profile, no taste defects and not exceed a given threshold of free fatty acid.  Here’s a good picture of the different grades and how they relate to one another, from Richard Gavel, an olive oil expert in Australia. For more info see his blog, Slick Extra Virgin


What affects the quality and characteristics of olive oil?  Olive oil varies greatly depending on where it is made, and from which varieties it  is made.  Quality and flavor also depend upon farming practices, growing conditions, maturity of the fruit at harvest, how it is processed and the way it is stored.  Of these, variety and maturity are key factors.  For an informative explanation see Paul Vossen, from the UC Cooperative Extension.


How do you taste and evaluate the quality of extra virgin olive oil?  Begin by understanding the positive and negative characteristics of olive oil, and how our senses work to perceive flavor through taste and smell.  Then learn practical measures for tasting the oil that allow you to focus on its flavor without distraction.  See these tasting tips from The Olive Oil Source and tasting expert Nancy Ash.


The International Olive Council (IOC) sets standards and regulates the quality of olive oil in most olive producing nations.  The California Olive Oil Council (COOC) supports olive oil standards and certifies extra virgin olive oils. In October 2010 the USDA adopted new standards for quality in US produced olive oil, which were initiated by COOC and are similar to those of the IOC.