What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

There are very specific international standards for the classification of olive oils. In the United States, the USDA standard for olive oil is very broad. In California, olive oil producers have created their own governing body for the purpose of certifying the very highest quality of olive oils as Extra Virgin. The California Olive Oil Council (COOC) has adopted many of the International Olive Oil Council (IOOC) standards and refined some of those standards further. The standard for Extra Virgin olive oil is as follows:
  1. The olive oil must be obtained solely from the fruit of the olive tree.
  2. The oil must be obtained from the olive fruit solely by mechanical or physical means. The oil cannot be obtained by using solvents. The fruit cannot go through any treatment other than washing, decantation, centrifugation and filtration
  3. The extraction process must be done under thermal conditions that do not lead to alterations in the oil. This is where the term “cold pressed” relates to olive oil. The European Union standard states that the olive paste must be kept under 27°C (80°F)
  4. The oil must pass a chemical analysis test at a certified lab for the following:
    • Acidity level (oleic free fatty acid) must be 0.5% or less
    • Peroxide Value must be 20 meq O2/Kg or less
    • UV absorbency:
      • K270 must be less than 0.22
      • K232 less than 2.50
      • Delta K less than 0.01
  5. The oil must pass a sensory or organoleptic test by a certified panel of tasters. The oil must be free from all defects and posses some desirable attributes of extra virgin olive oils.

By definition, infused or flavored olive oils are not Extra Virgin. Extra Virgin oil accounts for less than 10% of oil in many producing countries. There are other grades of olive oil which are widely available. Each olive oil possesses its own characteristics and each has a place in your pantry.

Modern Grades of Olive Oil
Here is an explanation of the other classifications of olive oil:
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Filtration is the final step in olive oil production. In general, filtering olive oil removes all of the tiny olive particles that make oil cloudy. It is often undertaken to ensure that a product will have a uniform clarity across all bottling lots.

Thus, unfiltered oils are often much cloudier than their filtered counterparts. Unfiltered oil often retains more of its olive flavor and often has a different texture and flavor profile that filtered oil.

Virgin Olive Oil

Virgin olive oil is essentially defective extra virgin oil. Thus it has a measurable factor of any defect but this factor falls beneath a specified level.

Pure Olive Oil, Olive Oil

Pure olive oil, often simply called olive oil, comes either from the second cold pressing or the chemical extraction of the olive mash left over after the first pressing.

Solvent extraction is a process through which olive mash is immersed in a solvent (that is often carcinogenic), which extracts all of the oil from the mash. This oil is then refined and the solvent is removed from it.

The resultant oil is nearly odorless and tasteless. Although some higher quality oil is often added to give it some flavor, this oil has little or no health benefits.

Cold Pressed

This term refers to the temperature at which the olive mash is malaxed, or mixed. Oil is most efficiently extracted from higher temperature mash. Thus some oils are extracted at temperatures exceeding 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, heat can radically alter the chemistry of olive oil and damage its flavor. To ensure optimal flavor, Pacific Sun Olive Oil is milled between 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Blended Olive Oil

The term "blended" refers to the blending of different varieties of olive oils to create a desired flavor profile. There are many high quality blended oils available on the market. These are made from different varieties of high quality oil, for instance Ascolana and Mission or Mission, Sevilliano, and Manzanillo.

These oils should not be confused with adulterated oils that are marketed as blended oils. Adulterated oils are ones in which a small quantity of higher quality oil is adulterated with a large quantity of pomace oil or low quality, solvent-extracted hazelnut oil.

Many imported bargain "extra virgin" oils are not truly extra virgin oils. Rather, they are made from a large amount of inferior oil and a small amount of higher quality oil.

Pomace Oil

Pomace oil is essentially pure olive oil without the tiny amount of quality olive oil added for flavor. Pomace oil is not consumed in most countries; it is used for lamp oil, making soap, or for the lubrication of machinery.

Lite Olive Oil

Lite olive oil is often made from pomace oil with a tiny amount of higher quality oil added for flavor. It has no health benefits or flavor.

"Lite" refers only to taste and color, not calories, and is a marketing invention that is now restricted by the FDA. Oils previously labeled as “Lite” must now b labeled as “Lite In Taste” or “Lite Tasting.”

Infused or Flavored Olive Oil

Infused or flavored olive oil is generally extra virgin olive oil that has been processed with another fruit or vegetable to add flavor.

The flavor imparting substance is often added to the olives as they are crushed. This substance is then separated from the olive oil in either the centrifuge or decanting stage, leaving behind its flavor in the olive oil.