Olive oil is the only edible oil that is extracted directly from a fresh fruit, and can be eaten fresh without a loss of quality or components. Approximately 4 to 5 kilos of olives are needed to make just one litre of oil.
The grades of oil extracted from the olive fruit are classified into different types or categories. The highest quality and healthiest grade is Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). It has the highest content of natural antioxidants and polyphenols, which provide the majority of the health and medical benefits, as well as being trans-unsaturated fatty acids free.
The types of olive oil are defined slightly differently by the main international bodies. However, as far as the main types of olive oil for consumer use are concerned, the differences are minor. Here are the main types as defined by EU (European Union) Regulations.
- VIRGIN OLIVE OILS
obtained from the fruit of the olive tree solely by mechanical or other
physical means (sometimes referred to as cold pressed or first pressing) under
conditions that do not lead to alteration in the oil, which have not undergone
any treatment other than washing, decantation, centrifugation or filtration.
Absolutely no chemical processing, refining or adulteration is allowed. Extraction
must be carried out below 28oC.There are several types:
(a) Extra virgin olive oil
Virgin olive oil having a maximum free acidity* of 0.8%. It must be defect free with optimum taste and aroma.
(b) Virgin olive oil
Virgin olive oil having a free acidity between 0.8 and 2%. Some defects are allowed. Flavour intensity may vary and its taste is milder than Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
(c) Lampante olive oil
Virgin olive oil having a free acidity above 2% is a low quality oil that is not edible. It requires processing and refining before being fit for human consumption.
- REFINED OLIVE OIL
Olive oil obtained by refining virgin olive oil using agents such as acids, alkalis and heat to extract as much oil as possible from the olive pulp. It has a free acidity of less than 0.3%, and the other characteristics of which comply with those laid down for this category
- OLIVE OIL — COMPOSED OF REFINED OLIVE OILS AND VIRGIN OLIVE OILS
Olive oil obtained by blending refined olive oil and virgin olive oil other than lampante oil, having a free acidity of not more than 1%, and the other characteristics of which comply with those laid down for this category.
- CRUDE OLIVE-POMACE OIL
Oil obtained from olive pomace by treatment with solvents or by physical means or oil corresponding to lampante olive oil, except for certain specified characteristics, excluding oil obtained by means of re-esterification and mixtureswith other types of oils, and the other characteristics of which comply with those laid down for this category.
- REFINED OLIVE-POMACE OIL
Oil obtained by refining crude olive-pomace oil, having a free acidity content expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0,3 g per 100 g, and the other characteristics of which comply with those laid down for this category.
- OLIVE-POMACE OIL
Oil obtained by blending refined olive-pomace oil and virgin olive oil other than lampante oil, having a free acidity content expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 1 g per 100 g, and the other characteristics of which comply with those laid down for this category.
* Free acidity is an important parameter that defines the quality of olive oil and is defined as a percentage as grams of free fatty acids (expressed as oleic acid, the main fatty acid present in olive oil) in 100 grams of oil.
Some of the most important regulating bodies worldwide are the US Department of Agriculture Regulations (USDA), the International Olive Oil Council (IOC) and the European Commission Regulations.
Within the different types, olive oils are differentiated by diverse characteristics which are:
Colour is not indicative of quality or flavour. Generally dark green highlights are characteristic of fruity oils, corresponding to olives that have not reached ripeness. A hint of yellow or gold corresponds to sweeter olives, picked later in the harvest.
There is not one flavour. Flavour is the result of many factors such as the varietal of the olive, very much like a wine, the ripeness of the olive, water, soil, etc. Some oils have a distinct fruity flavour, with a hint of apple or almond.
As with wine, this refers to the body of the oil.
For a more detailed look at the differences between olive oil varieties and regions, see: “Which country has the best olive oil?”
- “Designations and definitions of olive oils”, International Olive Council
- “Olive oil, an overview of the production and marketing of olive oil in the EU”, European Commission.
- “Olive oil acidity”, 11Dec19, Wikipedia
- “Types of olive oils”, ASOLIVA (Spanish Olive Oil & Pomace Olive Oil Exporters Association)
- “Olive oil – commercial grades”, 14Jan20. Wikipedia.