HOW TO TELL IF YOUR EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL (EVOO) IS GOOD-A BUYERS GUIDE
NOT ALL EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OILS ARE CREATED EQUAL!
How to tell if your Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is good-People tell us all the time they have the best olive oil or Italy makes the best olive oil. Well yes, it may be true that you have a high quality EVOO but how do you really know? The only way to know if an EVOO is fresh, pure, high quality, and full of healthy components is through lab testing. Lab testing immediately following the olive crush is the ONLY way to level the playing field thereby allowing consumers to compare different EVOOs.
Although Italy is a beautiful country to visit, it is one of many countries that produce the finest extra-virgin olive oils. At EVOO Marketplace freshness and purity come first rather than the country of origin. We follow two olive crush cycles in the World, a Northern Hemisphere crush (U.S.A. & Europe November-January) and a Southern Hemisphere crush (South America, South Africa, & Australia – April-June). By doing so we ensure our customers that they are purchasing the freshest extra-virgin olive oil possible.
What about purity? With the vast majority of imported “extra-virgin olive oils” being a blend of a small percent pure EVOO and the remainder Canola, Grapeseed, or Safflower oils it’s almost impossible to know without lab testing. At EVOO Marketplace in addition to lab testing we also allow our customers to sample all of Ultra-Premium Extra-Virgin Olive Oils and flavored Olive Oils prior to making a purchasing decision. Even as important, we proudly display a full panel of lab results for each specific EVOO. This ensures that all of our EVOO’s are fresh, pure, super high quality olives to start, and healthy as described in the Mediterranean Diet. In addition to the lab analysis of each EVOO we also display sensory (Bitterness, Fruitiness, Pungency) ratings on all of our Ultra-Premium EVOO’s.
Unfortunately, current regulations for imported Extra-Virgin Olive Oil is extremely loose and therefore the majority of so called “extra-virgin olive oils” found in grocery stores and other olive oil stores are most likely NOT what constitutes the Mediterranean Diet. Again, the ONLY way to know if your EVOO is good is through lab testing. Below we present in-depth information on each olive oil lab test that is performed to ensure our EVOO’s are the BEST.
HARVEST & CRUSH DATE
Although not a lab test this information is crucial when determining freshness of an extra-virgin olive. Crush date is very different than an “Expiration” a “Best By”, or “Use By” date as it informs the customer of the month and year the olives were crushed. We consider our Ultra Premium EVOO’s ultra fresh for approximately 14 months from the crush/harvest date. Beyond 14 months we still consider our EVOO’s fresh for 18-24 months.
FREE FATTY ACID (FFA)
Free fatty acid (FFA) speaks to the condition of the fruit (olive) at the time of crush. A high FFA indicates a greater chance of poor quality olives to start thereby resulting in a poor quality EVOO. Olives which are damaged (collected off ground), overripe, insect infested, overheated during production or too much time between harvest and crush is indicative of a high FFA. A FFA less than or equal to 3% is desirable. Low FFA also correlates with an increase in smoke point for cooking.
A monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid found in EVOO. Pure, fresh, high quality EVOO is generally higher in oleic acid than other vegetable fats (oils). Extra virgin olive oil high in oleic acid has a greater resistance to oxidation. Although not an Essential Fatty Acid, daily intake of Omega 9’s help support a healthy diet.
Biophenols are a subclass of phenolic compounds belonging to the larger umbrella of Phenols. The term “Biophenol” is a more accurate descriptor of the commonly, less chemically accurate, Polyphenol. Biophenols in the daily diet are highly sought after for their free radical scavenger antioxidant activity and anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have shown that these potent bioactive Biophenols are responsible for many of the health benefits associated with the Mediterranean Diet. Bioactive Biophenols such as Oleuropein, Oleocanthal, and Hydroxytyrosol impart intensity associated with pepper, bitterness and other desirable flavor characteristics.
Similar to measuring Free Fatty Acid content, Peroxide level also speaks to the integrity of the olive at the time of crush. Unsaturated free fatty acids react with oxygen and form peroxides, which create a series of chain reactions that generate volatile substances responsible for a typical musty/rancid oil smell. Olives which have been allowed to lay on the ground with cracked skins are indicative of a high Peroxide value. A very low peroxide value under 9ppm is desirable.
Diacylglycerols are an indicator of the age of an olive oil. The chemical conversion of DAG’s from chemical form 1,2 to chemical form 1,3 takes place naturally as the olive oil ages. A higher level of chemical form DAG 1,2 indicates a more fresh olive oil.
Pyropheophytins (PPP) are an indicator of the freshness of an olive oil. Degradation of chlorophyll to Pyropheophytin takes place at a predictable reaction pace making it possible to gain information about the age of an olive oil. A low PPP content indicates a more fresh olive oil.