Olives are stone fruits and just like fresh squeezed juice, olive oil is the juice of an olive. Each olive oil has its' own unique flavor characteristics. As there are hundreds of variety of olives, each produces its own variety of olive oil. Soil conditions, weather, and how the olives are processed impacts the flavor and health benefits of the olive oil.
There are quite a number of cultivated olive oil varietals in the world: Arbequina, Arbosana, Coratina, Hojiblanca, Picual just to name some. How do we choose which one we like? We hope this step-by-step guide will help you in discovering your favorite varietal.
1. Start with a mild olive oil. Olive oil usually comes in three flavor intensities; mild, medium, and robust. After you have gone through the steps of tasting the mild, work your way to medium intensity and then to the robust olive oils. Sip some water in between each tasting.
2. Pour 1 - 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small cup.
3. Warm the olive oil in your hands. Nest the cup into the palm of one hand and cover the top with your other hand. Gently twist the cup in your hand for about 20 seconds to warm the oil. This releases the aroma in the oil.
4. Make a note of the nose. Raise cup to your nose and tuck nose into the cup, then take a deep whiff of the oil. The first fragrant notes are clues to its flavor. Is it heavily fragrant? Can you identify the characteristics? Is it fruity or is it grassy? Is there something more subtle?
5. Taste the oil. Draw a long, slurpy sip while curling your tongue upward, taking a fair amount of air into your mouth along with that first sip in order to aerate the olive oil. This is called strippagio. Roll the oil across your tongue and all the way to the back of your mouth, allowing tongue to identify as many aspects of the flavor as possible.
6. Swallow the oil. By now your tongue and your nose have all the information they need to tell you how the olive oil tastes. Note the flavor characteristics and any lingering sensations. Is it fruity? Peppery? Pungent? Bitter? What did you like the most? These distinctions will point you toward your favorites and rule out other oils.
When you know how to taste and identify the flavors of an extra virgin olive oil, you can start to narrow your choices down to the varieties you like, and you’re on your way to finding a favorite.