Let’s be frank, getting your hands on a premium quality extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is not easy and when compared to the other widely available options, it’s expensive. Refined olive oils, virgin olive oils and many other types clutter the supermarket shelves hiding their deficiencies behind marketing catch phrases and reputable (!) brand labels.
Not to mention they also alter consumers’ perception of prices.
At the end of the day, why would you pay a premium when you can buy the same product for half the price?
Well, it’s not the same product to begin with. The reasons behind why the olive oils on supermarket shelves are probably fake or adulterated is a huge topic on its own but know this, genuine extra virgin olive oil production is expensive and all the care, time and effort put in by the producers are reflected on the price tag, as it should. So if you are seeking better quality, be prepared to pay up. But if we can’t trust the widely available options on the supermarket shelves, how are we going to find good quality extra virgin olive oil?
We live in an age where consumers are getting more and more demanding with each passing day. There is a huge shift from major household brands to more local producers.
We want to know more about the products we consume.
Extra virgin olive oil should be no different. You need to do your research to find the right channel and the right producer to buy from. In pre-pandemic days my best suggestion would have been to take a trip to the closest farmer’s market or a store that specialises in extra virgin olive oils to taste and to have a chat, but these days online resources seem to be the safest way to gather the necessary information.
Olive oils that are awarded for their quality in reputable olive oil competitions will not disappoint and often the results from these competitions provide a good starting point for finding the best olive oil for you. Note that freshness is key and every harvest produces a slightly different olive oil in quality and character, therefore always be on the lookout to buy the same harvest oil that was awarded. Some of the contests to follow are: Sol d’Oro, Flos Olei, New York International Olive Oil Competition (NYIOOC) and Olive Japan. The award winning producers and olive oils are announced on their website every year and some contests even provide detailed information on the oils in terms of tasting notes, food pairings, contact info and a brief introduction about the artisans who produce them.
Now that you know where to look for the best extra virgin olive oils on the planet, the next step is relatively easy and fun but it takes time. Given that we live in the age of e-commerce, nearly all of these producers sell their oil online, most commonly through their website or social media. Place down an order with one of them who is in your region and taste their oil. Cook with it. Experiment with it. Cherish it. Find the right ways to utilize it in the kitchen, drizzle over cheese or ice cream, dress different salad greens, try dipping some bread.
Do not save the oil for special occasions thinking you paid a good chunk of money for it. Consume it fresh, when it’s at its best.
Once you’ve finished that bottle, repeat the process with a bottle from a different producer. Get to know different oils and develop your palate. Explore the subtle or sharp differences between different cultivars. Just like wine it takes time to appreciate a good bottle of olive oil and a long trial and error period to find out your real expectations from a good bottle but when you finally do, there is no turning back.