From Tree to Table: The Journey of Olive Oil Production

From Tree to Table: The Journey of Olive Oil Production

The journey from a little green olive amongst a majestic olive grove to the beautiful Saratoga Olive Oil bottle on your dinner table is a pilgrimage that requires many hands and many important decisions.  In this blog, I will detail some of the vital steps that this little green olive takes on its journey to your dinner table. Let’s travel to where it all begins…...

  1. When to harvest the olives is an important decision.  Do you want a robust green EVOO or a delicate fruity EVOO?  It comes down to not only the type of olive, but timing.  The earlier an olive is harvested, it will yield a more robust oil.  A later harvest produces not only more oil, but a milder more fruity oil as well. When the timing is right, the tree is shaken and the olives fall onto a net.  This is collected and the branches and leaves are removed.  Watch Trees Getting Shaken:  Video

  2. The Olives are brought from the fields to the mill where they are washed thoroughly and separated from excess debris.  Timing is so important in this step.  Olives should be brought to the mill for extraction within 24 hours.  In the past, farmers would bring their harvest to the town COOP mill and the EVOO produced would be divided up proportionally to the farmers’ yield.  This still happens today in some areas around the mediterranean.  It is a day of celebration!  Watch Olives Getting Washed:  Video

  3. At the Mill the washed olives are then crushed to form an olive paste.  The olive skin and seed are crushed together.  The temperature should be around 77 F degrees to avoid oxidation or decomposition.  Today, olives are crushed and then malaxed. Malaxing is an extremely important phase in olive oil extraction. Malaxing is when the olive paste is subjected to a slow, continuous kneading to disperse the emulsions formed during the crushing process. Prior to the use of high tech machinery, olives were crushed using heavy stones and pressed using handmade mats.  The Olive Oil industry has come a long way since those days!  The term, “First Press Cold Press” is actually an outdated term!  Olives are not even pressed anymore and the word “cold” just means that no heat has been added.  Here’s a video of a modern malaxer:  Video

  4. After the paste is formed, a centrifuge is used to separate and decant the vibrant fresh green EVOO.  Again, the temperature should be around 77 F degrees for this process (this varies slightly based on the varietal). 

  5.  From here the EVOO is ready to be tested for quality purposes as well as to be sure that it meets the strict standards to qualify as an EVOO.  At Saratoga Olive Oil Company all our EVOOs are tested for polyphenols, Free Fatty Acids, Oleic values, DAGs and PV levels.  In short, we are making sure you have the healthiest and best tasting EVOOs in the world.  Here is a short video of a company in Australia and the tests they run that are similar to those at Saratoga Olive Oil Co.:  Video

  6. After we determine that the EVOO is the best, we then need to get it over to the United States safely.  Our number one goal is to keep the olive oil fresh!  What is the kryptonite to EVOO? - time, heat and oxygen.  Therefore, we take great strides to obtain the EVOO quickly in a light and oxygen deprived container.  The EVOO Is stored in stainless steel tanks using inert gas at a temperature no greater than 64 F degrees.  These tanks also act as a decanter using gravity to separate any excess impurities or solids.  When it is ready to be shipped, the EVOO is placed in food grade totes of varying capacities and shipped directly by sea to the United States or trucked in from our California farmers.

  7.  Upon landing in the United States, the bulk containers are broken down into manageable 10L containers or about 2.6 gallons of EVOO.  From these easily lifted containers we are ready to fill our dark green Saratoga Olive Oil bottles.  At Saratoga Olive Oil Company we still manually fill all our bottles at our Warehouse in Moreau, NY using a vacuum machine.  This enables us to quickly clean and change our flavors multiple times a day if needed.  After all, we have over 40 different flavors of olive oil beyond our varietal EVOOs that we need to keep stocked on our shelves!

  8. Last, but not least, in the journey of olive oil, we are proud to be able to offer you the freshest and highest quality EVOO via our online store or at our tasting shops in Saratoga Springs NY, Burlington VT and Lake Placid NY. 

I hope you enjoyed the journey of your bottle of Saratoga Olive Oil and have received a glimpse into the many hands and decisions that are made along the way.  The best part of the journey is the many personal relationships that we make around the world and the wonderful customers that we get to meet. 

The Braidwood Family visiting an Olive Grove in Tuscany

We hope you continue to enjoy our EVOOs and we thank you so much for being a customer!