The qualities of olive oil

What is extra virgin olive oil?

Extra virgin olive oil is produced by crushing olives without the use of added heat or chemicals. This technique is known as ‘cold-pressed’. It is done to maintain natural antioxidants, polyphenols and flavours of the oils. 

Olive oil must meet set chemical and sensory standards to achieve extra virgin status. The concentration of free fatty acids in an oil indicate how well conserved olives were after harvesting and during mill. According to the International Olive Council, extra virgin olive oil should have a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.8%.

What is non-extra virgin olive oil?

Non-extra virgin olive oil is created by blending extra virgin or virgin olive oil with refined oil. While it has many of the same health benefits, non-extra virgin olive oil has a milder flavour. It is often labelled light-tasting or classic olive oil. There is a misconception that light olive oil has fewer calories. Light actually refers to a lighter colour, aroma or flavour, and contains the same number of calories per serving.

Are all extra virgin olive oils the same?

While the process for making extra virgin olive oil is the same, variations between oils do exist. These come primarily from how, when and where olives are harvested. Olives picked straight from the tree, rather than harvested once they have fallen to the ground, produce a higher quality flavour. Olive variety and growing conditions also impact the qualities of extra virgin olive oil.

Malanie Lionello, a nutritionist and food blogger in Australia, discusses what features impact the features of extra virgin olive oil.

Identifying good olive oil

Is the colour of the olive oil an important characteristic of the quality of the oil?

Variation in oil colour is a result of the level of chlorophyll present in olives at the time of pressing and can result in shades from deep green to bright yellow. It is not linked to the quality of olive oil. The type and variety of olives used are much more important indicators of quality.

Charlotte Mathilda, a blogger and olive oil expert in the Netherlands, affirms that colour is not a key factor when assessing the quality of olive oil.

Is there anything wrong with oil that has a bitter taste?

Bitterness in olive oil is an indication that it is high in antioxidants. A bitter flavour is produced by the presence of polyphenols, strong antioxidants which prevent olive oil from oxidising. They also contribute health benefits, including lowering cholesterol and blood pressure (The Olive Oil Source).

Sara La Fountain, a food blogger in Finland, explains that the bitterness detected in olive oil is a positive characteristic.

How can I test at home if my olive oil is authentic?

Only products made using 100% oil from olives can be labelled as olive oil. While there is potential for olive oil fraud, where it is mixed with other oil varieties, it is very rare. Only a laboratory can detect adulteration as there are no reliable ways to test at home if your olive oil has been combined with other, lower quality oils.

American blogger and author Laura Vitale explains how to tell if olive oil is authentic.

How can I tell a good olive oil from a fake one?

The most important factors in identifying a high-quality olive oil are how it tastes and smells. Good quality extra virgin olive oil should be fresh (check the label for harvest date and best-by date), have a fruity, bitter and piquant flavour. It should smell fresh, green and earthy.

Italian food blogger Valentina Tozza explains that the easiest way to tell a good olive oil from a poor-quality one.

Is price point a good indicator of oil quality?

High-quality extra virgin olive oil may cost more than lower quality options or alternative edible oils. However, price points can be a good indicator of quality and most olive oils are reasonably priced when taking into consideration the processes needed to produce good olive oil and the nutritional benefits it provides.  

Nan Hongwiwat, a leading food blogger in Thailand, believes the price of olive oil is reasonable for what it delivers to consumers.

How is Deoleo helping to improve olive oil quality standards globally?

In 2019, we entered a joint call with the American Olive Oil Producers Association for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to adopt industry-wide, science-based standards for olive oil. We are currently working with industry partners to promote a certification standard in the US market. 

At the same time, we continue to set an industry example by evolving our own robust quality standards. Learn more on our quality page

Cooking with olive oil

Can you use olive oil for all types of cooking?

An oil’s smoke point is the temperature at which it begins to degrade and produce smoke. It is at this point that the molecules of fat break apart. Olive oil has a high smoke point making it suitable for most types of cooking, even at high temperatures. 

Celebrated Indian chef Ranveer Brar discusses how olive oil can be used for all types of food preparation, from cold salads to traditional dishes cooked at high temperatures, and even for sweet desserts.

What are the health benefits of olive oil?

Various studies have confirmed olive oil’s role in a well-balanced diet for the wide-ranging health benefits it provides. The American College of Cardiology has identified connections between olive oil consumption and a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases and coronary heart disease. The National Center of Biotechnology Information highlighted the benefits components of olive oil have in lowering cholesterol. Additionally, the US National Library of Medicine has recently published a study on the positive impacts for patients with type 2 diabetes and how olive oil helps defend against ageing. Various properties of olive oil have also been pinpointed in as having important roles to play in protecting our bodies against the development of cancerous cells. This research was led by Tom C. Karagiannis, head of the Department of Epigenomic Medicine at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne.

Storing and recycling olive oil and packaging

Can olive oil be stored for use at a later date?

Olive oil is a natural product. The moment an olive is pressed, and its oil is extracted, it is exposed to air and the clock starts. Oxidation – when the oil reacts with air – begins and the oil’s beneficial properties, such as healthy fatty acids, start to break down.

Unlike a fine wine, olive oil does not get better with age and should not be saved for a special occasion or later date. Extra virgin olive oil is made from one fresh ingredient and is best consumed shortly after bottling.

How should I store my olive oil at home to preserve its quality?

Olive oil is best used within a few months of being opened but be sure to check the best-by date. Following four steps will ensure your olive oil remains fresh and suitable for consumption for as long as possible.

1) Keep it cool: Exposing extra virgin olive oil to warm temperatures causes oxidation to begin, turning the oil rancid. Store olive oil away from heat, preferably around 68°F to preserve its qualities.  

2) Avoid bright light: Olive oil bottles that are tinted or darkly coloured help prevent ultraviolet rays from penetrating and impacting the quality and flavour of olive oil. To further prevent long-term exposure to light, store your olive oil in a cupboard or cabinet.  

3) Tightly seal the cap: Leaving the lid off or unscrewed on olive oil allows air to enter the bottle, accelerating oxidation. Ensure the cap is on tightly whenever you are not using your olive oil to keep it fresher for longer. 

4) Do not buy in bulk: Unless you consume olive oil quickly, buying large quantities at the same time will increase the chance that your olive oil oxidises and goes rancid before you have a chance to finish it. Purchase olive oil in quantities you can finish in no more than two months to enjoy it at its highest quality. 

How should I recycle used olive oil?

Used cooking oil should never be poured directly down the sink. Instead, allow it to cool to room temperature before placing in a container which can be tightly sealed. When full, and where possible, the container should then be taken to a designated collection point for recycling. If a recycling point is not available locally, your used cooking oil container should be placed in the general waste bin. 

Oil that is used for deep-frying can be saved and reused several times as long as it is not mixed with other varieties, is free from food scraps and is not left to overheat after cooking. There are several other ways olive oil can be reused in the home, rather than disposing of it.

How should I recycle plastic and glass olive oil bottles?

The first step when recycling empty olive oil containers is to check if the material is recycled in your area. Glass is widely accepted, but with plastic bottles you may need to compare the recycling symbol (resin identification code) with what local facilities accept.

Responsible olive oil practices

How is Deoleo managing its environmental footprint?

We have established an Environmental Plan which applies to all our facilities globally. Through it, we are targeting reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, minimising how much waste we produce and send to landfill, innovating our packaging and promoting more sustainable farming practices. 

Read more about sustainability at Deoleo

How does Deoleo promote responsible farming practices and farmer livelihoods?

In 2018, we launched our Sustainability Protocol for Extra Virgin Olive Oil Production which guides how we work with olive farmers and suppliers to develop a more sustainable supply chain. We collaborate with farmers to encourage practices that protect biodiversity, reduce soil degradation and preserve water resources. We also work to increase employment opportunities in our sourcing regions to boost economic growth.  

Read more about sustainability at Deoleo

Are Deoleo products traceable?

We maintain detailed records of where our raw materials come from and how they are processed. Products which are certified as being sustainable are identified by on-pack logos. Our products are digitally traceable from the mill to bottle.

How does Deoleo ensure responsible and accurate labelling?

The information on our labels is internally validated by a highly qualified, multidisciplinary team for compliance with industry regulations, including displaying guideline daily amounts (GDA) where required. We also engage external organisations to review our labels for accuracy and transparency.

Growing olives at home

How can I plant my own olive tree at home?

Olive trees are at home in Mediterranean climates and thrive in warmer temperatures. However, if you live in a colder climate, growing an olive tree is still possible if they are kept in a container which can be brought indoors if temperatures drop below freezing. 

Olive trees require at least six hours of direct sunlight. They grow in most soil types provided there is good drainage, though rocky soil is preferential. When potting your tree, opt for a clay or wooden container which allows excess water to drain out and fill it with a mix of potting soil and perlite or small rocks. As drought-tolerant plants, it is better to underwater rather than overwater. Water only when the top 5 to 10 cms of soil have dried out completely. 

While few pests plague olive trees, olive fruit flies can be an issue. These can be removed by pruning infected stems or spraying them with neem oil. Alternatively, fly traps can be installed to keep pests at bay

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