What is an "Extra Virgin Olive Oil?"

What is an "Extra Virgin Olive Oil?"

All olive oil is not created equal.

The phrase "extra virgin olive oil" is widely used, but what exactly constitutes an extra virgin olive oil? The production process as well as chemical attributes dictate whether or not an olive oil qualifies as extra virgin.

According to the International Olive Council, extra virgin olive oil must be obtained solely from olives, not mixed with oils from other sources, and must not be treated other than washing, decanting, centrifuging, and filtering. During production, the temperature of the oil must not exceed 86°F, or it will begin to degrade.

The chemical make up of an oil is essential in determining whether or not it qualifies as extra virgin. Extra virgin olive oils must not contain more than 0.8% oleic acid and a peroxide value of less than 20 milliequivalents per kilogram, figures ensured through official testing of chemical compounds. To simplify this industry jargon: the peroxide value indicates the degree to which the oil has been oxidized, so a high value indicates a degraded oil; oleic acid is a fatty acid that is associated with many health benefits, including reduced heart disease. Additionally, chemical testing also detect how packed-full of antioxidants an EVOO is, as measured by the oil’s polyphenol count.

To truly benefit from these nutritional and medicinal properties, it is necessary to ensure that the extra virgin olive oil in your pantry is in fact what it claims to be. In the United States, no regulations exists to guarantee the product inside of a bottle labeled “extra virgin olive oil.” Lack of regulation and labeling laws has led to fraud within the olive oil industry. Fraud manifests itself in a variety of ways, most notably by blending olive oil with other types of oils, such as canola oil, to reduce the cost of production. With this degradation comes the diminution of most of the oil’s healthful properties.

To avoid these misnomered “extra virgin olive oils,” seek oils that list important information, such as country of origin, olive type, and chemical makeup of the oil, including polyphenols and free fatty acidity. Examine for a crush date listed, too. A crush date is the date of production, and an oil generally maintains its freshness and nutrients up to 18 months from that date. In our shops, you’ll find this information listed on each varietal, ensuring you’re getting the highest quality olive oil that’s true to it’s “extra virgin” name.