Why Spanish Picual Olives Make the Best Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Why Spanish Picual Olives Make the Best Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Illustration of person hand-harvesting olives
A loving ode to Graza’s sole olive varietal.
by Andrew Benin | Graza co-founder

Ode to Picual

I never thought that I could fall in love with an olive, until I met the elegant, yet fiery, Picual and it stole my heart.

Picual olives at sunset

Let’s break it down. Picual is actually the name of the olive tree varietal, which, you guessed it, flowers and produces Picual olives. What the heck does Picual mean? Well, you gotta get a little funky with the Spanish language here. It’s due to the picuda or “peak” on the fruit itself! Picual olives have a funny sharp peak on one end which makes them instantly recognizable. Not only is the olive recognizable, but the trees themselves are iconic. The branches are wily, twisty, crazy, and only lend themselves to hand harvesting and/or trunk vibration harvesting. The eccentricity pushes farmers to respect the tree, rather than abuse it. Picual trees grow slowly and steadily in marginal climate and soil conditions, utilizing just the water they need without sapping all the minerals from the soil. The farmers give them the space needed to prosper, and they avoid any overhead machine harvesting and high-density farming that abuses tree branches and leads to re-planting every few years.

Long story short, Picual trees are built for the long run, and our farms are rocking trees with an average age between 75-450 years old!

Large olive tree

Now... don’t even get me started on the flavor and health benefits of Picual, which fortunately go hand in hand.

On many supermarket shelves, you are likely to see a few other primary spanish varietals or “spanish blends”, such as arbequina, hojiblanca, manzanilla, cornicabra, frantoia, etc… Individually, and freshly harvested, these can also be scrumdiddlyumptious, BUT, they are far less stable than Picual, and do not hold up to the test of time. Thus, many producers will blend in 10% Picual olive oil with some of these lower performing varietals to try and boost the stability, flavor, smoke point, etc, but as you’ve probably heard from Graza, we are NOT about blending. 

When it comes to flavor, Picual is all about intensity, and that intensity is directly linked to the high levels of polyphenols and antioxidants, primarily oleuropein (lowers blood pressure), hydroxytyrosol (protector of eyes and skin), and oleocanthal (nature’s ibuprofen). So yes, to drink from the fountain of youth, your oil has to taste pretty punchy. Welp, with Graza, we are proud to make that possible. 

Anyway, I kind of drifted away from why I really love Picual. I love it because Picual let me chase my dreams. I love it because it has personality, and it doesn’t take shit from anyone. It knows how it likes to grow. I love it because it doesn’t hold back when it comes to flavor, and shamelessly slaps you in the face each time you eat it. I love it because it lets us sell something that we really believe in. 

Written from 36000 feet with some uncomfortable turbulence (thinking about Picual keeps me ZEN),
Andrew Benin

Man standing next to olive tree