Do you know what the difference is between Virgin and Extra Virgin Olive Oil? Do you know if Pure Olive oil is better than Virgin? It’s clear that not all Olive Oil is created equal, but it’s sometimes not clear exactly what the distinctions are. In this blog post, we’re going to explain the different types of olive oil, sharing the grades of oil, and the qualities oil has to possess in order to meet each grade.
The International Olive Council Standard
To give you a little background, most countries use the International Olive Council (IOC) standards. The IOC has a United Nations charter to develop criteria for olive oil quality and purity standards. In the United States of America, the USDA has specific criteria for their own classification system. At Zeitouna, we follow the IOC standards. In fact, our olive oil is certified and complies with international standards (UNI EB ISO 22000:2005 CATE) and we are CISQ Certified, which is part of IQNet (International Certification Network).
1-Extra Virgin Olive Oil
This is all we sell. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) must be produced according to strict production methods, and the product itself must meet a very exacting standard for taste and chemical composition. For this reason, it’s the highest quality and best tasting Olive Oil, as well as being the one which offers the most health benefits.
IN A NUTSHELL, EVOO MUST:
- Be a product of the first pressing of very fresh olives. Normally they’re pressed within 24 hours of harvest.
- Be extracted using mechanical means, with no chemical or heat processes.
- Have a low acidity level, below 0.8%
- Be defect free in terms of taste and aroma.
The flavour of EVOO is distinct to each olive grove, and much like a wine expert can recognise where grapes in a wine were grown, an olive oil connoisseur will recognise regional subtleties. For example, Spanish oils are typically golden yellow and nutty, Italian oils are more green and herbal whilst French oil is light in both colour and flavour. Of course, we think the flavour and character of Northern Lebanese olives are especially delicious!
ABOUT ZEITOUNA PREMIUM EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
Zeitouna Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil is ISO certified & SGS HK tested, Zeitouna Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil is made exclusively from Sourani Olives (named after the city of Sour, Tyr in Lebanon) grown in one region in the north of Lebanon.
Zeitouna Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil is produced from the season’s very first pickings of olives harvested in early October, where green olives are hand-picked at their optimal point of ripeness and directly transported to be pressed after branches and impurities are removed. The olives are then cold-pressed immediately & bottled without adding any additives, chemicals or solvents.
This high quality Zeitouna Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil is green in colour with a rich texture & buttery taste. It is characterised by its complexity of aromas just like a bouquet of flowers and by the softness & smoothness on the pallet with a buttery and peppery finish.
Zeitouna Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil has a maximum acidity of 0.25%, nearly 4 times better than International standard.
Zeitouna Extra Virgin Olive Oil is also ISO certified & SGS HK tested, Zeitouna Extra Virgin Olive Oil is made exclusively from Sourani Olives (named after the city of Sour, Tyr in Lebanon) grown in one region in the north of Lebanon.
Zeitouna Extra Virgin Olive Oil is produced from hand-picked deep green and black olives harvested from late October and directly transported to the press after branches and impurities are removed. The olives are then cold-pressed immediately & bottled without adding any additives, chemicals or solvents. This high quality Zeitouna Extra Virgin Olive Oil is green in colour with a rich texture & buttery taste. It is characterised by its intense aroma of fruitiness and fresh cut grass. Its taste is lightly bitter and peppery.
Zeitouna Extra Virgin Olive Oil has a maximum acidity of 0.45%, nearly 2 times better than International standard.
Acidity level is crucial in determining the grade of EVOO. The best olive oils have lower acid levels. We’re so proud of our delicious oil, with an ultra-low acidity level, even below 0.8%.
3- Refined Olive Oil
This is where it starts to get a little bit more confusing, as lots more terms start getting thrown around. The following oils fall into the ‘refined’ category. So what does that mean?
Refined oils have been helped along with chemicals like acids and alkali treatments and heat treatments in order to squeeze out as much oil as possible out of the olives. (Or even the pulp left over after mechanical pressing after the production of Extra Virgin and Virgin oils!)
Of course, this results in low-quality oil, lacking in the vitamins and compounds that give olive oil both its delicious flavour, rich aroma and wonderful health benefits. Sometimes producers will use the bland oil to blend with high-quality extra virgin or virgin oils. The resulting oil retains very little of the qualities of a pure EVOO!
Let’s take just a moment to consider the word ‘pure’. Surely that’s a good quality oil? Terms like pure’ and ‘100% pure’ can be used to label refined olive oil. It’s not the same as EVOO, and it certainly isn’t a marker of good quality.
You might see the term ‘light’ used too and this is a refined oil. The term ‘light’ is in reference to the colour and flavour of the oil. It’s not got a lower fat content and in fact, offers far fewer health benefits than EVOO. Light oil may have undergone a filtration process which removes lots of the natural colour, aroma and flavour. You can filter the finest EVOO (although we prefer to keep the flavour in!) however you might want to choose a light olive oil if you plan to use it in your baking or cooking when you don’t want the complex and distinctive olive oil flavours. The light version has a neutral taste and a higher smoke point.
4- Olive Pomace Oil
The lowest grade of olive oil is Pomace oil. This is made from the by-products of EVOO production. Things like skins, seeds and any last little bit of pulp. Pomace oil is extracted using an intensive chemical method involving heating the by-products with a solvent called hexane. The resulting oil is then refined to produce Pomace oil. This oil isn’t going to taste of much, have little to no aroma and extremely low levels of antioxidants and other compounds associated with health benefits.
Zeitouna Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Zeitouna Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
International Olive Oil Council (IOC) guidelines
Smoke Point required for frying food: 350-375°F
- Smoke point of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (high quality & low acidity): 207°C / 405°F
- Smoke Point of Refined Canola Oil: 204°C / 400°F
- Coconut Oil: 117°C / 350°F
- Corn Oil: 178°C / 352°F
- Peanut Oil: 160°C / 320°F
- Sunflower Oil: 107°C / 225°
What’s in olive oil, and what those compounds do:
- High Oleic Acid Content: Oleic acid, a significant component of EVOO’s monounsaturated fats, helps with weight loss by increasing the fat burning abilities of your body. It also can reduce blood pressure, protects cell membranes from free radicals, and may prevent cancer.
One tablespoon of EVOO contains 9.62 grams of oleic acid.
- Oleocanthal: An anti-inflammatory phenolic compound, Oleocanthal is believed to have the same effects as painkillers and popular anti-inflammatory drugs. It has been shown in studies to effectively destroy cancer cells and reduce inflammation in chronic inflammatory diseases.
- Omega-3: Omega-3 fatty acids lower triglycerides in your body (also known as body fat) so contributes to an overall healthier heart.
- Antioxidants: In general, the antioxidants’ role is to protect the cells from cellular damage caused by free radicals. Vitamin E is the most popular antioxidant. Hydroxytyrosol, Oleuropein, and carotenoids are also antioxidants with amazing health benefits to the human body. Hydroxytyrosol, in particular, plays a key role in keeping the circulatory system functioning.
Vitamin E: vitamin E protects the body against eye and skin problems, neurological diseases, cancer and diabetes. In fact, each tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil packs 1.94 milligrams of vitamin E. You might be more familiar with vitamin E as a key ingredient on your skincare products, and yes, it’s the same stuff. Olive oil can be applied topically for a rejuvenated and glowing complexion.
Vitamin K: Vitamin K is known to help with blood clotting but it also helps regulate calcium in your blood vessels. While calcium is thought of as a necessary part of a healthy lifestyle, too much calcium intake may lead to cardiovascular diseases such as coronary artery calcification. By keeping excessive calcium from travelling in the bloodstream and being deposited in the arteries, vitamin K helps keep the circulatory system flowing freely.
Are all EVOO created equally?
The quality of EVOO can vary hugely. Even amongst the highest quality oils, like ours, there’s a huge amount of variety. We’re not saying that these differences alone make an EVOO objectively better or worse, personal preference plays a strong role. Here’s just some of the factors that result in different characteristics in olive oil:
- The variety of olives used. Just like different grapes produce different sorts of wine, the same is true for olive oil!
- The environment such as the acidity of the soil, the amount of rainfall and hours of sunlight will all play a part in the flavour of the olives.
- Ripeness at time of harvesting olives.
- The production style also has an impact. Different presses, bottling techniques and even how long the whole process from tree to bottle takes will make subtle differences.
There are also Flavoured Olive Oils
Flavoured oils are a transformative way to spice up your cooking, and are increasing in popularity. Any cooking oils can be infused with almost anything, with popular flavours being chilli, garlic and herbs like sage, marjoram and basil.
For the more adventurous, whole spices like nutmegs, cloves and star anise infuse beautifully. Oils like these shouldn’t be limited to savoury dishes, try drizzling them over fruit desserts for a surprisingly indulgent treat.
For the smooth and complex flavour of Zeitouna oil, we think you have to go a long way to beat a zingy citrus pairing, and it’s so easy to do! Here’s how:
1- Great oil needs, great companions. So get the best lemons you can find – unwaxed, organic lemons are our preference. Wash your lemons well in hot water and dry them thoroughly before zesting. We’re using one lemon for every 200ml of oil.
2- Place the lemon zest and oil into a pan and very gently warm over a low heat. You need to be really careful here not to cook any of the ingredients; we just want to gently encourage the oils from the lemon to be released and for the flavours to start to intermingle.
3- Once cool, strain your oil into a sterile glass bottle, tinted if you can find one, and you’re done! We like to strain out this zest, but add in a little twist of lemon peel to the bottle. It will continue to gently flavour the oil very slightly, but mostly it’s there to look pretty, and to make sure you don’t mix this oil up with your unflavoured one!
Other ideas for flavouring are:
- Coriander (Cilantro) and Chilli would be great with a lovely piece of white fish.
- Lemon Zest and Thyme delicious to use of a summer salad.
- Chilli, Garlic and Orange Zest – another great one for a summer salad, or crunchy vegetable salad.
- Assorted Coarsely-Ground Peppercorns (pink, black, green) for soups and hearty stews.
- Mint, a timeless pairing with roasted lamb.
- Lemongrass and Kaffir Lime to help with the fresh flavours of stir-fries and soups.
- Rosemary and Garlic, a classic, delicious for a Sunday roast or simple roast potatoes.
- Ginger, Garlic and Lemongrass for fabulous Vietnamese dishes.
- Sun-dried tomatoes to bring a flavour of sunshine to your flatbreads, home-made pizzas, or pasta.
These infused oils are great for homemade gifts during the holiday season. You can bottle them into cute hermetic glass jars, wrap ribbon or twine around the neck of the bottle, and create a “home-made, with love” label. Leave a little of the herbs, spices or fruits in the bottle, and let the ingredients shine. You could gift three different flavours in a lovely decorated box, or a bottle along with a chic dipping bowl or saucer.
If you’re anything like us, and relish time in the kitchen, we encourage you to experiment with creating your own flavoured oil with our Zeitouna Olive Oil. If you do, be sure to let us know, or better yet, share your photo and story on social media and tag us!