We all enjoy savouring the benefits of olive oil when we use it for salads and other dishes, an most of the time, when we buy it in shops, we will see extra virgin olive oil for sale. What, now, are the criteria for labelling olive oil?


According to IOOC (International Olive Oil Council) set certain standards for the categorisation of virgin olive oil fit for human consumption.


Virgin olive oil must not be mixed with any other type of oil. It must  also pass certain analytical criteria.


Virgin olive oils are those that are obtained from the fruit of the olive tree (olea europaea l.): solely by mechanical means and under thermal conditions that do not lead to an alteration of the oil. These oils have not undergone any treatments other than washing, decantation, centrifugation, and filtration.


The main categorisation is done via the value of free acidity.


Ordinary virgin oil has a free acidity, expressed in terms of oleic acid, of not more than 3.3 grams per 100 grams.


Virgin olive oil must have a free acidity of less than 2%.


And finally, the acidity of extra virgin olive oil must be less than 0.8%.


If you want to do it like the pros, you can also subject the oil to your sensory analysis. This is actually quite a complex process, here are some guidelines:


  • Taste the oil during mid-morning (around 11am).
  • Do not eat anything / do not have any foreign tastes in your mouth 30 minutes prior to the test.
  • Find a room free of odour, at room temperature (20 – 25 C).
  • Sit down and relax, take your time for every oil you want to taste (around 10 minutes!).
  • Do not test too many different oils during one session, maybe 4-5, but definitely less than 10.
  • If possible, use a coloured glass to not let the colour of the oil influence you judgement.
  • Clean your glass properly between tasting different oils to avoid the oils mixing.
  • Before tasting the oil, cover the glass with your hand and warm it up a little (to around 28 C).
  • Remove your hand and immediately smell the oil to inhale its scent.
  • Inhale air and take between half and a full teaspoon of oil into your mouth, swirl it around for about 10 seconds, then swallow it – exhale air through your nose.
  • Immediately write down all your impressions – first impressions are usually the best!
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