Olive Oil Quality

Olive Oil Quality

The quality of an olive oil is a critical factor determining the oil’s taste and, most importantly, its nutritional and therapeutic properties. Consequently, a clear categorization is necessary for the consumer to be able to distinguish between the various qualities and make her choices accordingly. Realizing that need, the International Olive Council has established a quality standard (COI/T.15/NC No 3/Rev. 6 , November 2011) applicable for olive oils and olive-pomace oils involved in international food trading. Based on that standard, a description of olive oil quality categories is provided below (select the image on your left for an illustration).


A. Olive oils

This major quality category includes olive oils that have been obtained solely from the fruit of the olive tree, to the exclusion of oils using solvents or re-esterification, and are not mixed with oils of other kinds. Olive oils fall under two major subcategories, namely Virgin olive oils and Refined olive oils.


A.1. Virgin olive oil is the oil obtained from the fruit of the olive tree solely by mechanical or other physical means under specific conditions, particularly thermal ones, that do not cause any kind of alterations in the oil. Importantly, a virgin olive oil has not been submitted to any treatment other than washing, mollification, centrifugal separation and filtration. Virgin olive oils are further distinguished between extra virgin olive oils and virgin olive oils.

A.1.1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO):

Extra virgin refers to the highest quality and most exquisite in terms of organoleptic properties olive oil classification. In other words, extra virgin is as good as olive oil can get. In essence, extra virgin olive oil is the pure natural juice obtained after crushing the olives using solely mechanical means and under temperatures that do not lead to the degradation of the juice produced. No additives and no solvents are present during the production process.  Extra virgin olive oil (evoo) has a median of defects equal to zero, while it is characterized by distinct fruity aromas, as well as a pungent,bitter flavour escalating within an acceptable range of intensity. In chemical terms, an olive oil to be categorized as extra virgin must have an acidity(free fatty acids )(glossary), expressed as oleic acid(glossary), that does not exceed the 0.8 grams per 100 grams of olive oil (0,8%)and a peroxide value of less than 20 milliequivalent O2. According to statistics of the International Olive Council[1], Greece is by far the biggest producer and exporter of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) with more than 80% of total olive oil production falling under the extra virgin category.

A.1.2 Virgin olive oil (VOO):

This quality category refers to olive oils that meet the criteria described above for virgin olive oils and have an acidity that does not exceed the 2 grams per 100 grams (2%). The higher concentrations of free fatty acids, primarily oleic, combined with a set of characteristics relating to the organoleptic profile, generate the quality gap between virgin and extra virgin olive oil.


Α.2. Refined olive oil: An olive oil obtained by refining virgin olive oils that have a high acidity level and/or organoleptic defects which are eliminated after refining. The refining process usually consists of treating virgin oils with sodium hydroxide to neutralize the free acidity, washing, drying, odor removal, color removal, and filtration. Consequently, refined olive oil has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, not higher that 0,3 grams/100 grams(0.3%) and is odorless, tasteless, and colorless. Thus it is not consumed on its own but rather mixed with virgin olive oil. Due to its much lower nutrient content compared to virgin and of course extra virgin olive oil, refined olive oil is far less expensive.

A.3. Olive Oil :This category is used to describe blends of refined and unrefined virgin olive oil. The cheap tasteless refined oil is mixed with more flavourful virgin oil in different proportions to achieve different tastes at different prices. The acidity of the blend must not exceed 1%, while its nutrient content, flavour and colour depends on the scale of presence of the virgin oil within the blend. For instance, olive oils labelled as “Extra Light” commonly indicate a blend dominated by refined olive oil. Olive oil represents the bulk of the total olive oil sold to the consumer on the world market.


Β. Olive-pomace oil

This is the oil obtained from the olive pomace after treating it with solvents or via alternative treatments.  Oils obtained by re-esterification processes and by mixtures with oils of other kinds are excluded. Crude olive-pomace oil, refined olive-pomace oil and olive-pomace oil are the three subcategories used to categorize different qualities of olive-pomace oils. From those three, only olive-pomace oil is fit for human consumption. It has a free acidity of not more than 1 gram per 100 grams and it describes blends of refined olive-pomace oil and virgin olive oils. Importantly, under no circumstances shall this blend be called “olive oil”.


Which olive oil qualities does ELIDIA trade?

Elidia is dedicated exclusively to the introduction to the world market of fine extra virgin olive oils (evoo) originating from Crete. Benefited from the unique microclimatic and soil conditions present on the island of Crete, the domestic production of extra virgin olive oil accounts for 85%-95% of the total olive oil produced within the island. Contrary to the rest of the Mediterranean olive oil producing countries, where massive quantities of the olive oil produced requires some sort of refinement before being forwarded for consumption, in Crete extra virginity in olive oil is the rule rather than the exception. Elidia, in cooperation with its top-level associates, implement strict monitoring procedures through the production and standardization stages and after assiduous quality controls carefully selects for its customers some of the finest products of the remarkable Cretan Olive Grove.


[1] http://www.internationaloliveoil.org/estaticos/view/136-country-profiles


Why Extra Virgin Olive Oil is The Healthiest Fat on Earth
Why Extra Virgin Olive Oil is The Healthiest Fat on Earth
Role of Olive Oil in Reducing Oxidative Stress
Role of Olive Oil in Reducing Oxidative Stress
Join our mail list to receive our e-catalogue.