10 Fun Facts About Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Everything you need to know about nature's delicious love juice
Olive Oil FAQ
Where does the best olive oil come from?
The best olive oil is the freshest olive oil, regardless of its origin.
How do you choose the best ones then? Find out how recently the olives were picked.
Go to your kitchen right now, and check out your olive oil. Does it say when it was bottled? That doesn’t matter. Look again. See a “best by” date? That might mean something, but probably not. If the bottle tells you when the olives were picked, that means you can trust it to be delicious. That date is called a harvest date, and ideally, you should purchase olive oil within a year of harvest.
That’s because real extra virgin olive oil (yeah, there’s lots of fake stuff out there) is essentially cold-pressed juice that’s been separated from the rest of the olive using a specialized mixing process called malaxation. Because it’s a raw product, extra virgin oil starts changing the moment it comes off the tree. Olive oil is full of complex flavor compounds like aldehydes, phenols, and even chlorophyll that begin to change and break down the moment each olive leaves the tree.
Wait, wait, back up. What’s this about fake extra virgin oil? Why would anyone lie about that?
Getting to say your olive oil is extra virgin sounds sexy.
But oil that’s 100% extra virgin is often expensive—the ancient Greeks called the good stuff liquid gold. Because it’s so prized, olive oil fraud has been happening for thousands of years, is insanely lucrative—fraudsters can make a 700% profit just by lying to you about your oil—and is rampant all across the industry.
Not to brag or anything, but because Graza is transparent about our sourcing, you can trust our olive oil not only to be delicious but also to be exactly what we say it is.
Doesn’t most olive oil come from Italy?
Most “Italian” olive oil isn’t even grown there. It’s all marketing.
Italy actually produces a surprisingly low 15% of the world’s olive oil. Their olive production has recently been threatened by everything from global warming to a deeply inconvenient bacteria by name of Xylella fastidiosa, limiting the Italian supply and making their oil even more expensive. 100% extra virgin olive oil from Italy is incredible, but it’s hard to get your hands on.
No, really, read the fine print on the bottle of olive oil in your pantry right now. Your Italian olive oil was probably bottled in Italy, not grown there. This weird legal loophole lets producers from other countries cash in on the Italian caché, but it’s pretty misleading on a grocery store shelf.
So, if you can’t trust “Italian” olive oil to even be from Italy, where does olive oil really come from?
Most of the world’s olive oil is grown in Spain.
The Spanish supply about 45% of the olive oil industry, but olive farms thrive throughout the Mediterranean in places like Greece, Tunisia, and Morocco. Plus, growing olives has recently become insanely popular in parts of Asia—Japan exported 276.23 metric tons of olive oil in 2019.
Spaniards have been growing olives and making olive oil since Roman times—there are olive farms in Spain with 2,000-year-old trees!. Graza currently sources from a farm in the Sierra de Cazorla mountains in Jaen, Spain. That farm only grows picual olives (an incredible, hand-harvested variety that rarely leaves Spain).
It doesn’t have any 2,000-year-old trees, but if you’re cool with settling for trees that are 500 years old, we are too. Oh, and if (and when—we have big plans here) we start selling olive oil from another country, we’ll let you know all about it.
So, what does extra virgin mean anyway? Are there other kinds of olive oil that I should know about?
Extra virgin is just a fancy term for the first pressing—the best-tasting olive oil from any given batch is the first oil that gets made.
But to be certified extra virgin, the oil needs to have an “excellent flavor and odor” and undergo testing to ensure it contains precisely what the producer says it does. Graza’s olive oil is certified extra virgin in Spain, which means it meets some incredibly exacting standards.
That being said, olive producers use everything from heat to repeated pressing to centrifuges to get every last drop out of their olives. There’s nothing wrong with heat-treated olive oil, which is called pomace oil—although it’s not quite as fabulous for you—and it’s actually even better for frying and other high heat applications than extra virgin oil. That being said, some companies sell a mix of pomace oil and EVOO while trying to trick you into thinking it’s all the real thing.
Pay close attention to the label on your next bottle of olive oil. It might not be what you think.
What does good olive oil taste like? How do you know if it’s high quality?
Olive oil can taste grassy or peppery, fruity or buttery, bitter, astringent, or nutty. Sometimes it’s all of those things at once. The list of adjectives goes on and on.
Every variety of olive tastes different, and so does every olive oil. But it should always be complex and layered. If your olive oil doesn’t taste exciting by itself, it won’t taste exciting in your food.
I see words like blended, pure, and light on other olive oil bottles. What do those words mean?
A blended olive oil is mostly not olive oil at all. That might sound crazy, but most olive oil blends use a “neutral” (heavily processed) oil like soybean, grapeseed, safflower, or even that most controversial of oils, canola, along with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil for flavor.
“Pure” and “light” olive oils are kind of sketchy too, but less so. Legally, pure olive oil has to contain 10% extra virgin oil, and light olive oil doesn’t contain any extra virgin. In this case, it is all real olive oil, though, and any form of olive oil is nutritious.
None of these impart all the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil. They don’t have as much flavor and are not anywhere near as tasty as the real deal. If you’re going to eat fat in the first place, it should taste like something.
Is olive oil as healthy as people say it is?
Yes! The hype is real, as they say.
Extra virgin olive oil is the healthiest fat worth selling (technically, extra virgin avocado oil is a little bit better for you, but fresh avocados are frankly too delicious—and too profitable—for much of that to get produced.)
Olive oil is full of monounsaturated fats like oleic acid and antioxidants such as vitamins E and K. All of these are brilliant for reducing inflammation, but olive oil’s nutritional superpowers only start there. Consuming olive oil reduces the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, and early research suggests it might prevent cancer. Some doctors even use olive oil to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
Living longer is important, but do you want to know the best part? Olive oil has an antioxidant in it called oleocanthal, and oleocanthal mimics the effects of pain medication. It’s similar to ibuprofen.
So if you eat high-quality olive oil, you’re guaranteeing a more painless existence.
What’s a smoke point? Should I avoid cooking with olive oil?
Ooh, chemistry time.
First off, the smoke point is the temperature at which an oil burns. It starts to taste acrid, and nobody wants that. Luckily, even if you exceed an oil’s smoke point, it’s totally safe to eat unless you’re reusing the oil several times. As long as you’re not operating a fast-food spot, you should be fine.
Plus, contrary to popular belief, extra virgin olive oil has a pretty high smoke point. Graza’s Sizzle oil’s smoke point is technically 410℉, but Italians have been pouring EVOO on pizzas baked in 900℉ ovens for centuries, so you, in your home kitchen can use it to do just about anything.
But our Drizzle oil is special. Because it’s made with young olives, it has lots of delicate flavor compounds in it that are destroyed when it heats up. Honestly, though, Drizzle tastes so good it would be a shame to cook with it. Squeeze some on a summer tomato. You’ll see what we mean.
Can olive oil go bad? How should I store it to avoid that?
Olive oil might seem shelf-stable (and it is), but it can go rancid pretty fast if you store it incorrectly. Why? Because light, heat, and especially oxygen are the enemies of excellent olive oil.
Despite this, most olive oil comes in glass bottles, so you can see what you’re getting. That might look great on a shelf, but even a tinted clear bottle lets light get in, and a cap you have to remove invites oxygen to the party. That’s why Graza’s oil comes in an opaque, squeezable bottle with a cap that you never need to take off.
Got a glass bottle of oil in your pantry? Don’t panic, just store it right, use it up quickly, and you should be fine. Store your olive oil in a cool, dry place far from the stove, bonus points if it’s dark. If you have a cave handy, that would be ideal. Or, you know, a cabinet works too.