Olive oil is essentially the pure ‘juice’ from the fruit of the olive tree, referred to in ancient times as ‘the nectar of the gods’. It is one of the oldest trading commodities: an essential spice, central to the early economic development of Mediterranean civilisations, who used olive oil for cooking purposes and as medicine for a number of ailments.
Today, olive oil is still an essential commodity to numerous communities around the world: Spain, Morocco, Greece, Argentina, Turkey, Portugal, France, United States, Italy and Australia, to name a few. Each Country grows it own predominant olive varieties, which are best suited to the particular climate and typography of the area. Consequently, each country produces an olive oil that has aromas and flavours unique to their region.
However, it is not just flavour and aroma of an olive oil that varies from country to country, but its quality, in terms of the picking and processing techniques employed. Picking olives at the optimal time and processing within hours produces the freshest most flavoursome oil. Cold pressed oil ensures that natural flavour and aromatic qualities of the oil are maximised.
Present standards and regulations can make it difficult to really know the quality of an olive oil and one must trust the supplier. But, a basic understanding of the various olive oil classifications and some terminology can help you choose an appropriate olive oil to suit the required purpose.