How Olive Oil is Made

Pacific Sun Olive Trees

The Secrets of Great Olive Oil

Pacific Sun Olive Oil is produced in Tehama County, an agriculturally rich and diverse region of Northern California. Tehama County sits at the head of California's Central Valley which is traversed by the Sacramento River and surrounded by majestic mountain and valley views. Because of its unique geology and Mediterranean climate, Tehama County is ideally suited for growing olives.

Pacific Sun Olive Oil is always produced within 24 hours of harvest. In the morning, the olive fruit is on the tree. At noon, the fruit is in the bin. By the evening, the oil is produced and bottled, ready to be enjoyed. It is a very gratifying experience to take a product from the tree to the table. It is of paramount importance to us that you understand where your food comes from.

Learn How Olive Oil is Made

Pacific Sun's Olive Grove

Pictured is one of our younger olive groves soaking in the sun.

Cultivation

The production of an agricultural product requires a great deal of patience and diligence. In the case of olive oil production, trees must be pruned, irrigated and monitored for pest activity while the fruit is developing. Once the fruit is ripe, it must be harvested before it either falls from the tree or before it rains, which makes harvesting much more difficult.

Although more than two thousand years have elapsed since Cato wrote ‘De Agricultura’, the basic principles of harvesting olives for oil production have remained largely unchanged. Essentially, the olives should be harvested when they are ripe and milled immediately. It is our desire to make a fresh tasting olive oil for the modern American palate.

Workers Swatting Olive Trees for Harvest

Workers swatting olive trees during harvest season.

Harvesting

When harvesting to make olive oil, olives are harvested later in the growing season, based on the ripeness needed to achieve the desired flavor profile. Typically, harvesting for olive oil is done by shaking or swatting the trees.

To harvest by swatting, tarps are laid beneath the trees and the trees are swatted with long poles. The olives that are knocked loose fall on to the tarps below. The tarps are then gathered and the olives contained in them are dumped into wooden bins which will carry the olives to the oil mill.

Olives coming out of the Washer

Olives coming out of the washer and into the awaiting hopper.

Milling

Once the bins containing the harvested olives have been loaded onto a truck, we transport them to the olive mill and begin producing Pacific Sun Gourmet Olive Oil. We use a forklift to place a full bin on the bin dumper. The bin dumper, powered by a hydraulic lift, then dumps the bin into a hopper that is covered by a grate that serves as the first screening mechanism for the mill.

From the hopper, a conveyor belt carries the olives in small, manageable loads into the washing tank. The conveyor belt drops the olives across a blower. Lighter materials like leaves and twigs are blown out of the system while the heavier olives pass through the blown air and into the tank. The washed olives then pass down one last grate, across one last screen, and into the awaiting hopper.

The freshly washed olives are then conveyed to the hammermill where they pass through a series of hammers that crush them into a fine paste.

The paste that is created by the hammermill falls into the malaxer where it is mixed by two corkscrews.

The paste, or mash, is mixed for approximately one hour. While it is mixing, the mash warms naturally. The water and oil in the mash begin to separate from the flesh of the olive. The top corkscrew in the malaxer pushes the mash back toward the front of the tank while a smaller corkscrew at the bottom pushes it forward.

Extraction

The mixed olive mash is passed from the malaxer into the three phase centrifuge. Here it is spun through a series of cylindrical grates. Oil and water are spun out of the mash which is then spun a few more times before it leaves the system.

Olive mash enters the system and oil, water and mash exit it separately. Both the oil and water pass through the vertical separator which further separates the two from each other. The oil leaving the vertical separator is free of water and all but the smallest particles left from the mash.

The final product? Pacific Sun, 100% natural, certified organic extra virgin olive oil.