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How can you tell if Evoo is Evoo?

BeckyAndTheBeanstock Dec 29, 2008 10:45 AM

I know there has been a lot of expose' lately regarding olive oil not being what the bottle claims, with a lot of them being adulterated with other oils. I also know it can be very hard to tell what you're dealing with by taste alone. Does anyone know if there are any tricks or any good ways to tell if your extra virgin really is? Or do you just have to be comfortable with the person you're buying it from?

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  1. h
    Harters Dec 29, 2008 02:31 PM

    Where I live, the law requires the bottle to state what it is. As such, if you buy from a reputable supplier you're going to get what you want. We havnt had any serious adulteration stories for many years now - the consumer policing is really just too good to make it worth anyone's trouble.

    1. s
      Steady Habits Dec 29, 2008 02:36 PM

      Always look for the container to say "extra virgin" AND "first cold pressed". That's all you need!

      And, generally speaking, if the oil you're purchasing is in a clear container versus a tin, EVOO will have a green tinge about it. That's because it's from the first pressing of the olives.

      The subsequent pressings, which are fine for general cooking, but not your best sauces and dressings, will look more golden, and oil from those pressings is generally less expensive.

      16 Replies
      1. re: Steady Habits
        KTinNYC Dec 29, 2008 04:21 PM

        If you believe all the labels you read regarding "Extra Virgin" Olive Oil than I have a bridge you may be interested in buying.

        Please see this article;

        1. re: KTinNYC
          MaggieRSN Dec 30, 2008 05:37 PM

          No thanks. Don't need a bridge.

          As for buying olive oil, after lots of years of experience, I trust my senses more than any label or article. The proof is in the pudding.

          1. re: KTinNYC
            Caroline1 Dec 30, 2008 07:36 PM

            I'm afraid the article lost credibility for me with the tanker load of hazelnut oil sailing around for more than forty days before ending up in Italy, and the hazelnut oil being used to adulterate olive oil. It costs bucks to sail around for weeks, with the possible exception of using a sailboat, and has anyone priced hazelnut oil lately? Hey, I'll buy some of that! But not the article. '-)

            1. re: Caroline1
              mateo21 Dec 30, 2008 11:45 PM

              And that whole police investigation... was... err... nothing?

              1. re: Caroline1
                Harters Dec 31, 2008 02:02 AM

                Is this a new story about adulteration or the one from the 1990s?

                I ask only because I cannot find anything more recent online in our press than that. Since the scandal in the early part of that decade, testing is obviously much more rigourous throughout the EU and, certainly where I am, our Food Standards Agency has consistently confirmed (since 1999) that, almost without exception, extra virgin is what it says it is. The rare examples of non-compliance relate to it being non-virgin rather than a different oil.

                I do see more online mentions of adulteration in North America so, perhaps, the fraudsters are "doing business" there. Possibly there is much less consumer protection (and, specifically, testing by importers) than we have this side of the Atlantic.

                1. re: Harters
                  BeckyAndTheBeanstock Jan 2, 2009 03:31 PM

                  I'm not sure how recent the story is about adulteration. I see this mentioned a lot here and there in the media. Dr. Weil recently wrote about it on his website, and our local wine and cheese monger (who, admittedly, carries some oiive oil as well and so therefore may have a vested interest) has said that it continues to be a problem in the states.

                2. re: Caroline1
                  KTinNYC Dec 31, 2008 06:23 AM

                  I have no idea how much hazelnut oi cost these days but how much did it cost in 1991 because that is when the example the author cited was from. I don't think you even read the article so you have lost credibility with me in this discussion.

                  1. re: KTinNYC
                    Caroline1 Dec 31, 2008 09:44 AM

                    Be kind to yourself and Google "buy hazelnut oil" and check out the prices.. I could understand olive oil being used to adulterate hazelnut oil, but the other way around raises questions in my mind, but I suppose if someone in Turkey were found who needed to dump hazelnut oil...? Maybe. But it has a distinctive taste that would probably require further processing, and that's not free..

                    But as someone else asked, how current is this information, and what has the EU done to clean things up?

                    Italy is NOT the world's largest producer of olive oil. I don't know whether it's the world's largest distributor though. Spain is the largest producer, with Tunisia being the second largest. It is possible to buy olive oil direct from the producers of both of those countries, as well as California, which also produces some good extra virgin cold pressed oils.

                    Currently I am using Italian olive oil. Colavita's 2007 Harvest Limited Pressing, in a lovely round can. It was a hostess gift from the director sportif of a Colavita cycling team when they stayed in my house for a series of races. I assume it is authentic. When it's gone, I will go back to my standard of ordering olive oil on line from Greece.

                    If anyone is concerned about polluted Italian olive oil, I suggest they try oils from another country.

                    1. re: Caroline1
                      KTinNYC Dec 31, 2008 09:55 AM

                      'But as someone else asked, how current is this information, and what has the EU done to clean things up?"

                      So you didn't read the article, admit it.

                      1. re: KTinNYC
                        Caroline1 Dec 31, 2008 10:23 AM

                        And now you're making me wonder whether you read the article? Yes. I did read the article. Italy is full of plots for Godfather movies. In my last post, I specifrically stated that I currently use a special bottling of olive oil from Leonardo Colavita's company, since the article makes it appear that he's about the most trustworthy source who was consulted. Did you miss that reference or just its relevance?

                        Again: The latest date mentioned in the article is two/three years ago. What is the state if things in 2009?

                        Again, there are ways for anyone who is interested in making sure (or as sure as possible short of growing and pressing your own olives) that they are getting the real thing is to buy direct from sources you are pretty certain you can trust, and apparently (from the article) buying outside of Italy may not be a bad idea.

                        NOW do you understand what I'm saying?

                        1. re: Caroline1
                          Caralien Dec 31, 2008 10:32 AM

                          This really makes me miss the huge olive tree my grandparents had in Palos Verdes. A huge daily mess to clean up, but it would have been worthwhile to have someone in the family uproot the tree and transport it for replanting when the house was demolished. I can only be happy that more Californians are starting to replant the olive groves again (replaced by more profitable vineyards in the past) and are coming up with some unique and tasty olive oils (terribly pricey, however).

                          1. re: Caralien
                            Caroline1 Dec 31, 2008 10:47 AM

                            When we moved back to Texas from the Peloponnesus, my landlady wanted desperately to ship me TWO AMPHORA a week from their orchard. Bless her heart. She was such a loving friend. I finally convinced her it would be too costly and promised I'd buy Greek olive oil here. Which I usually do.

                            I checked with several local nurseries and they all told me that neither olive nor citrus trees will grow in this part of Texas. Bummer!

                      2. re: Caroline1
                        almansa Dec 31, 2008 10:19 AM

                        Nut oils, like olive oil, can be first extraction, and as such, are expensive. There are, however, heat extracted industrial grade nut oils that are quite commonplace and cheap. It's not what you would buy on igourmet.com.

                        1. re: Caroline1
                          Harters Dec 31, 2008 11:42 AM

                          "and what has the EU done to clean things up?"

                          Short answer is "a lot". As I mention upthread, adulteration is no longer any sort of consumer issue within the EU area.

                          Italy is not the EU's major producer (as such) of olive oil although quirks of legislation allow them to sell stuff imported and then sold on as "Italian". And, no, I don't understand the logic either (it's one of those things that even integrationists like me struggle to defend)..

                          1. re: Harters
                            c oliver Jan 3, 2009 07:42 PM

                            Spain is, right? That surprised me when we were there a few years ago.

                            1. re: c oliver
                              Harters Jan 4, 2009 05:49 AM

                              So I believe. My brother-in-law comes from the town of Soller in Mallorca. It's a olive & citrus growing area, traditionally, although tourism is now the main industry.

                              Mallorca is a favourite holiday destination for us Brits and we've rented a house near Soller for the last couple of years. The local olive oil is now making a comeback as a small scale specialist foodie product - branded as "Fet a Soller" (Made in Soller). It's a fab product but I doubt if you'd find it off the island. We normally bring a bottle back with us.

                              Oh, and the "Fet a Soller" ice cream is also wonderful!


                3. Caroline1 Dec 29, 2008 02:53 PM

                  Like your handle! Cute.

                  As for EVOO, as Harters has pointed out, nothing beats a reputable grower, bottler or distributor. However, beyond that there is a distinctive flavor and color that comes with extra virgin olive oil, and in this area, all it requires is experience.

                  While no two olive oils, extra virgin or not, taste exactly alike, there is still something distinctive that all share. When you taste strawberry jam and orange marmalade, they do not taste alike but you do know they both contain sugar. You also know that chocolate milk and chocolate cake both contain cocoa. Extra virgin olive oil is similar to that. And evoo usually (there may be exceptions) has a greenish cast to its color. Some are even distinctively green, while subsequent pressings of the olives will yield an oil that is more yellowish or golden in color.

                  I have no idea where you live, but there is currently a trend toward "olive oil tastings" in specialty shops and upscale markets. You might check in your area to see if anyone is holding them. It's a fun way to gain knowledge fast, you'll probably meet some interesting people, and it will be one heck of a lot cheaper than buying a whole bunch of bottles of artisan olive oils to see what they taste like.

                  Good luck, and have fun!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Caroline1
                    Scargod Jan 3, 2009 02:47 PM

                    Absolutely! I've done tastings and it works about as good as castor oil, if you drink enough! Just kidding...
                    I like the flavor of the first press. So strong! I usually buy Colavita's First Press unless I want to try something new and shiny (and usually more expensive). This goes into many things. I buy the big tins of EVOO for general cooking unless I am feeling special.
                    BTW, it seems to take some Ch'ers a while to get it that you are an old broad who knows her shit!

                    1. re: Scargod
                      Caroline1 Jan 3, 2009 09:09 PM

                      It'a a much overused web-phrase, but LOL! Literally. Out loud.

                      Thanks. I needed that! '-)

                      Oh, and you might like to know that you have inspired me to move my Shao Xing wine from the spice rack to the refrigerator, but the Noilly Prat stays where it is, Buster! '-)

                      1. re: Caroline1
                        Scargod Jan 4, 2009 05:09 AM

                        Absolutely again atcha! You know, I was saying that as if saying, “hallelujah, amen brother!”
                        If you get in the habit of tasting olive oil and noting the color you will soon know what is good and what is not.
                        I just 'membered that olive oil don't got a long life, so better to taste it (if you question how old it tis), before goin' an' dumpin' it in wit perfectly good ingrediments. sorry (but I hope you laugh) Perhaps keep unopened bottle in the fridge or cool cellar?

                        1. re: Scargod
                          Caroline1 Jan 4, 2009 06:25 AM

                          There's no reason (that I know of) to keep unopened containers of olive oil in the fridge or a cool cellar. Winter, summer, spring and fall, everyone along the way, from packager to retailer, keeps it at "room temperature" in warehouses, stock rooms and store shelves. It's AFTER the container's seal is broken that you gotta be careful. Lots of people store their opened olive oil in the refrigerator. I'm just not one of them.

                          In Greece, olive oil is often used as a cork on bulk wines by people who make their own wine or buy huge amphora of wine direct from the vintner. You pour about an inch of olive oil on top, then just leave it open to the world or place a board across the top. The olive oil seals out the air, then when you want a pitcher of wine, you just siphon it out. The first "gush" will have a bit of oil in it, so you let that run to the ground as a portion for the gods. Then you fill your jug and chug away! Delicious!

                          I guess someday some "it's not broke but let's fix it anyway" kind of guy will introduce the wine box with it's plastic bag inside to the Greek market and banish all the quaintness. Bah humbug! :-(

                  2. Will Owen Dec 29, 2008 03:04 PM

                    In addition to all the above bits of advice, once you've found enough different oils from reputable brands, try as many as you can and see which you love and which are okay, just so you'll know what you're getting and how best to use it. I always get Trader Joe's for general use, because it's good and it's cost-effective, but De Ceccho for salads. It's more expensive, but it's widely available, and has a nice fresh peppery taste I love.

                    1. h
                      Harters Dec 30, 2008 08:32 AM

                      I don't know if you can get the Zaytoun brand where you are - but it's a fantastic tasting organic Palestinian extra virgin oil. One for salads or just to dip bread in.

                      I really recommend it as a product and, of course, it directly helps Palestinian farmers who, for well known reasons, don't have an easy access into world markets. Where I am, it's fairly readily available from good delis and specialist food shops.


                      1. almansa Dec 30, 2008 11:40 AM

                        Most of the adulterated oil is Italian in origin (though not the olives.) Best way to tell if you got a pure product: you get what you pay for. Find a region whose oil you enjoy - Provence, Portugal, Tunisia, wherever - and be prepared to spend 10-15 bucks for 500ml. Then you're safe.

                        1. alanbarnes Dec 30, 2008 06:19 PM

                          My favorite "trick" to make sure I'm getting real extra-virgin olive oil is to buy Bariani oil directly from Angelo Bariani. The brand is now being distributed nationally, but the old guy still shows up at the farmers markets around here on the weekends. If you can find the stuff in your neighborhood, give it a try. The fact that the man puts his name on the bottle and shows his face while he sells it is a pretty good guarantee that there are no shortcuts or adulterants.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: alanbarnes
                            bob96 Dec 30, 2008 11:02 PM

                            Bariani's an excellent oil at a fair price: order easily from barianioliveoil.com. As for more general guidelines when buying: I'd avoid those brands with no production source listed, often on supermarket shelves at low prices--and remember, "imported" from Italy means only that, though some blenders do list "country(ies) of origin"of the oil they bring in through Italy. A reputable importer (Fairway in NY, for instance) will usually have a good house brand or brands; I also depend on growers who provide rich product info on the bottle--place, expire date, olive varieties, etc. Finally, look for a DOP or other area of origin designation.

                          2. Caralien Dec 31, 2008 10:21 AM

                            I'm sure this is already implied, but if the container simply says "olive oil" or "pure olive oil" it is not extra virgin or cold pressed and is commonly a blend with a cheaper oil (I agree with Caroline1 that hazelnut oil is unlikely to be in the mix, considering its' extremely high cost on its own--even industrial grade hazelnut oil, ie for soapmaking, is 20% more expensive than olive oil). Pomace is the cheapest "pure" olive oil, but generally is made only from the last dreges of ground up pits and pulp leftover from the pressing (generally purchased in 5 gallon vats for restaurant use).
                            More here (basic industry info):

                            The rebranding (or bottled in Italy even from other sources) is nothing new. Florida oranges anyone?

                            I usually get Martinis Greek Kalamata extra virgin, cold processed oil from Trader Joe's. It's deep green, peppery, and priced well at $9/liter. One of these days, however, I'm going to have to order a case from Zakinthos, via the UK when I last checked, where I had the best olive oil in the world (but couldn't take any home because all of the stores were closed--it was Sunday--and the oil on the table was from the owner's private orchard).

                            Here's a link to a recent NPR page on adulterated oils:

                            13 Replies
                            1. re: Caralien
                              Ruth Lafler Dec 31, 2008 01:35 PM

                              I agree. And I have another take on this: if you can't tell, does it matter? If your "adulterated" EVOO tastes good to you and performs well in your cooking, then isn't that what counts, rather then what the label says?

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                Caroline1 Dec 31, 2008 02:38 PM

                                Not really. Well, not for everybody anyway. My cardiologist has restricted me to olive oil, grass fed butter, and peanut oil. She feels everything else is not good for my cholesterol levels. I think the monounsaturated properties, polyphenols and all that jazz are important to most people who use olive oil.

                                1. re: Caroline1
                                  Ruth Lafler Dec 31, 2008 02:46 PM

                                  I'm sure those are important to some people, but I think most people use it because they see chefs using it on TV.

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                    Caroline1 Dec 31, 2008 03:11 PM

                                    You may be right. What is it they say about television? You have to aim at a fourth grade audience? Or something like that. But I think there is a higher percentage on these boards who buy and use olive oil for its health benefits as well as flavor. It's like a kid finding out popsicles are healthy! '-)

                                    1. re: Caroline1
                                      Ruth Lafler Dec 31, 2008 03:20 PM

                                      Ah, well, if you limit to people on these boards, that's a different story.

                                  2. re: Caroline1
                                    Steady Habits Dec 31, 2008 04:35 PM

                                    Caroline, can you tell me a little bit about the grass fed butter?

                                    I'm presume it still has at least some saturated fat and cholesterol, right? Or...no? Or...what? Why is it categorized with olive and peanut oils?

                                    And...how do you identify it?

                                    If there's a healthier butter, I'd love to hear about it. I do like olive oil, and use it for most things, but, truth to tell, I don't think anything does for many dishes what even a little bit of butter does.

                                    1. re: Steady Habits
                                      Caroline1 Dec 31, 2008 09:32 PM

                                      Hi, SH... And first, Happy New Year to everyone! Watched 3 minutes of Dicjk Clark and the ball drop in NYC. Now waiting for midnight Dallas, but the leap second has already been added.... Anyway....

                                      Grass fed milk. Obviously comes from grass fed cows. Research has shown that there is a certain magic that occurs when cows are left to live the way they are supposed to live. When cattle is raised grazing on pasture eating the kind of food it was born to eat, the meat and milk it produces has qualities very similar to that of wild caught salmon and other healthy meats. Omega 3 oils, high in good cholesterol, little bad stuff and tastes like beef used to take many years ago when people raised their own beef on the back 40.

                                      I buy mine on the web. So far, none of the local upscale or "health conscious" markets carry it, though I have asked repeatedly. It is always clearly marked "grass fed". Here's the website I order mine from"http://www.grassfedtraditions.com/grass_fed_butter.htm
                                      I use the Pastureland brand in one pound unsalted blocks. It does cost about twice as much per pound as regular butter, which in the end is a good thing since it encourages frugality. I need that! It encourages me not to use a half cup of butter on one baked potato!

                                      I also use grass fed beef that I get here:http://www.alderspring.com/health_ben...
                                      Same benefits. But I did fall off the wagon for the holidays. <sugh> But I didn't have a prime rib or whole tenderloin of grass fed beef on hand, so there was no choice! <rationalize><rationalize><rationalize>

                                      So far, I haven't found a local source for grass fed milk and I refuse to pay shipping on milk in glass bottles! But I'm campaigning for some of my local farmers markets to stock it.

                                      1. re: Caroline1
                                        Steady Habits Jan 1, 2009 07:30 AM

                                        Thank you so much for the information. Kind of makes sense to me--JMO, but I think a lot of the whole chain-of-nature works better when we let it work the way it was designed. (Not everything--like, I'm happy for certain vaccinations!--but I think there are other things we never should have tinkered with.)

                                        I am definitely going to look into that!

                                        1. re: Steady Habits
                                          Caroline1 Jan 1, 2009 10:17 AM

                                          There is a lot of information on line. If you grew up on grain fed beef, the grass fed will likely taste a little strange to you the first time you eat it, but for me, it was a taste of childhood. It's all pricey, but it helps me cut back on my beef AND butter consumption!

                                          Oh, and the butter freezes just fine. I order in dozen lots and stick it in the freezer.

                                          1. re: Caroline1
                                            Steady Habits Jan 1, 2009 10:35 PM

                                            Well...I am a true bargain hunter, but butter is one of the things I don't mind spending money on to get a better product, because I notice a real difference between premium and cheap butters. And...if it magically cuts the cholesterol, it would be worth it.

                                            I've bookmarked the link you gave me, but I also sent an email today to a New England food product promotion council. I like to support our New England farmers when I can, but if they don't offer this via mail order, I'm going to contact your source.

                                        2. re: Caroline1
                                          Sharuf Jan 4, 2009 05:21 AM


                                          I see the Pastureland butter comes from Minnesota. I doubt that those cows can keep munching in the pasture there year-round. There must be shelter and extra feed in the worst of the winter. Maybe one should wait until late spring before buying a stash of the stuff?

                                          1. re: Sharuf
                                            Caroline1 Jan 4, 2009 06:30 AM

                                            Probably not a bad idea. I bought my last order mid-summer.

                                    2. re: Ruth Lafler
                                      maplesugar Dec 31, 2008 11:48 PM

                                      RL: If hazlenut oil is indeed what they're putting in there it might matter to someone with a nut allergy.

                                  3. sasserwazr Dec 31, 2008 11:34 PM

                                    I recently wanted to try a new Balsamic Vinegar before I heard that they same kind of scam was going on with the product.

                                    Any recommendations on affordable non-aged and aged balsamic vinegars?

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: sasserwazr
                                      Harters Jan 1, 2009 01:48 AM

                                      The scam, if there is a significant one, is much more likely to relate to passing off non-aged as aged, rather than an adulteration issue. Again, advice is to use a trustworthy brand/supplier and the assumption that they are more likely to have.

                                      Bear in mind that most supermarket branded products (at least in Europe and, I assume, exported elsewhere) are likely to based on commercial grape juice, sweetened by, say, sugar. It's legal within EU regulations but is clearly not going to be as fine as product as an aged one. In my experience, perfectly fine for most uses.

                                      As to advice, look for age on the bottle. I'm unsure if regulations require balsamic to be still only made in Moderna but, if not, that's where the best (and most traditional) will be made.

                                    2. sasserwazr Dec 31, 2008 11:39 PM

                                      Also, I've been really itching to buy one of those big tin gallon cans of olive oil for sauteing and whatnot.

                                      Anybody buy this stuff? Any recommendations or comments about quality and taste?
                                      I really want to know...yo.

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: sasserwazr
                                        mbfant Jan 1, 2009 12:44 AM

                                        Don't imagine the gallon cans (5 liters actually where I am, which is Rome) are necessarily inferior. They may be just the large economy size of the same oil that is put in 750 ml bottles. Read the label to see if they are anonymous blends or the product of a single area or grower. We don't buy the generic blends, but we definitely buy 5-liter tins from producers we know.

                                        And, since they are completely opaque, cans do a much better job of preserving the oil than those bottles, even the dark ones, most of which are not all that protective.

                                        The health benefits of extra-virgin olive oil can be drastically compromised by exposure to light and heat, to the extent that what goes in the bottle as extra-virgin olive oil may, by the time it's used, have degraded to what is chemically only virgin or simply olive oil .

                                        1. re: sasserwazr
                                          almansa Jan 1, 2009 04:03 AM

                                          Iliada, Zoe, Unio, da Morgada (my fave)

                                          1. re: sasserwazr
                                            Caroline1 Jan 1, 2009 06:08 AM

                                            The biggest problem with the large cans for non-Europeans is whether you will use it all before it spoils. And two more things: Does the large can have a cap that unscrews and reseals or do you have to punch holes in it? If you have to punch holes, don't buy! The air will reduce the shelf life drastically. The other problem is that if you're talking about EVOO, it's not particularly good for frying, so how much salad can you eat?

                                            When I lived in Greece, Greeks use different grades of olive oil for different things, including oil for deep fat frying, pan frying, basting roasting foods, and I swear they even poured it on top of Jell-O cubes before serving! Well, maybe a slight hyperbole, but not by much! But when you got hot pita bread with a gyro or souvlaki, chances were the pita was heated with a dip in the deep fryer!

                                            If you don't use enough olive oil to use up the large can before it spoils, then you're much better off getting smaller containers. Not a whole lot of stores stock them, but olive oil is available in smaller cans. But good luck finding them on this side of the pond!

                                            1. re: Caroline1
                                              mbfant Jan 1, 2009 08:54 AM

                                              The cans we buy are from serious producers and definitely can be reclosed. And most people around here buy 10 or 20 liters at the beginning of the season and use only that oil, for everything. You might have some boutique oils for the table, or for specific uses (e.g., as a condiment for fish), but anything you do in the kitchen is likely to be with what's in the can (of course decanted into small containers, while the bulk remains in the dark). Using up 5 liters is no problem, believe me, if it's practically the only fat you use.

                                              1. re: mbfant
                                                Caralien Jan 2, 2009 07:56 AM

                                                In Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, it was easy to find 2-3L tins of Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but there is also a very large Greek (in addition to Italian and Middle-Eastern) population there (very knowledgable and proud of their wares); here in Princeton, not so easy. All of the tins had a pull-up, screw cap, and would be funneled into a clear wine bottles for cooking use, and stored under the sink. I use at least 1L of olive oil every 2-3 weeks, so rancidity has never been a problem for me.

                                              2. re: Caroline1
                                                almansa Jan 2, 2009 09:43 AM

                                                For my home use I keep a 5ltr Da Morgada bottle and a 3ltr Zoe can. I use them for different purposes and need to replace my supply about every two months. I always use the most recent production I can get. For my restaurant I was bringing in Da Morgada from Portugal 2 palettes at a time. I switched to the Zoe when I felt that the other had passed its prime. With the new harvest and production I brought in more, and it is as delicious as ever.

                                            2. billyparsons Jan 1, 2009 04:14 AM

                                              Seems like no one hit this one on the head.

                                              EVOO is defined by its acid content. Not its color, smell or even taste for that matter. The taste and quality of a good EVOO is really about three things:

                                              1. Olive quality
                                              2. Acidity (the only legal issue with defining an EVOO)
                                              3. Age

                                              Since you really can't test for olive quality, you can test for the other two. If you're a fanatic, you can buy an olive oil acidity tester to make sure the oil has a "free acidity", expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams (0.8%). Look here:


                                              You can also find "specific range" test strips that are inexpensive. It's a nice way to see if the manufacturer’s claims are accurate.

                                              The last detail is age. Is there a bottle date stamped on the oil? Chances are if your oil is from one of the big producers, they'll confuse the date with "lot codes". Take a moment to read my post concerning Colavita here:


                                              16 Replies
                                              1. re: billyparsons
                                                Caroline1 Jan 1, 2009 05:54 AM

                                                No one may have "hit this one on the head" because the acidity level is THE defining factor that qualifies EVOO as EVOO. I don't think it's possible for a second pressing to qualify as EVOO, and not even all first pressing qualify because, as you point out, it must test below a certain acidity level to qualify. So both "0.8% olive oil and EVOO are interchangeable terms. No need to define one term with the other. Just as EVOO is ALWAYS cold pressed, so no need to state that it is not produced with heat or chemical applications. But just to be clear, not all cold pressed olive oil is EVOO. And that's where the scandal comes in; olive (and other) oils that do not meet these criteria are being passed off as what they are not.

                                                In either your post above, Billy, or in your linked post, you say that Colavita says olive oil has a two year shelf life. It DOES, but that is UNOPENED! I just opened my second round can of "2007 Harvest Limited Pressing" Colavita, and it is fine. And I feel fully confident that when I open my third and final can in a few months, it will be fine too.

                                                The flavor of EVOO can range from mild to pungent, fruity to peppery, bitter to sweet. It all depends on the same kind of factors that determine the final flavors of wine without the aging factors that are critical to wine. And of course, in a small "village" press where more than one farmer's harvest is pressed, the last farmer's olives through the mill may influence the flavor of your olives if he lives a distance away in another micro-climate and grows a different type of olive.

                                                Olive oil, once opened, does NOT have a long shelf life. You can extend the shelf life by keeping olive oil in the refrigerator, but I don't particularly like doing that as it will be cloudy when newly brought out. There is no set amount of time that olive oil is good, but don't worry. Once it starts to go rancid, your nose knows! And so will your taste buds. '-)

                                                1. re: Caroline1
                                                  billyparsons Jan 1, 2009 07:45 AM

                                                  Very interesting post.

                                                  I spent over two years researching the olive oil industry looking to self-publish a book on the subject. Seems you’ve discovered some things I must have missed. Briefly, let me just ask a few questions that might be of additional interest to the post.

                                                  1. You indicated that ALL EVOO is cold pressed. Please insert a hyperlink to a regulatory agency within the U.S. that mandates or even defines this requirement. My studies have shown that EVOO is defined, as I stated before, and only by European Union Legislation, to be 0.8% acidic. Cold pressed, if labeled so, just means the oil has never seen above 80F.

                                                  2. You indicated that EVOO has a shelf life of 2 years. Call Colavita, like I did, and ask them how they remove the oxygen from the bottle. Chances are they’ll provide you with the same answer. They don’t. So from the day the little poor olive in plucked from the tree, it begins its oxidation process. Some companies, such as Manni, force inert gas into the bottle when bottling to keep the oxygen out. This way the oxygen won’t play a factor in oxidizing the oil. From the second the oil is funneled in to the bottle, the process begins. It’s up to the consumer’s “quality” standards on where to “draw the line”.

                                                  3. You feel that even after all this, the oil would be “fine”. I guess that word is rather subjective. My idea of fine would be knowing, at the very least, how old it is without having to call a company and get lot “unlock codes”. And, then I’d like to know that what the bottle says is “in there”, really is what’s “in there”. Keep reading and you’ll see what I mean. Have you ever tasted oil less than a month old?

                                                  Now the reason I stated no one “hit the nail on the head” is because the OP asked a simple question, “how do I know if it’s EVOO”. The only was to know is to measure its acidity. Period. Whether it’s peppery or fruity is of no consequence. If it’s bitter tasting though, you many really want to check the date.

                                                  If you taste a Colavita EVOO that’s been sitting on the shelf for 2 years, then under someone’s cabinet for another year, and compare it to week old “regular virgin oil”, guess which one will taste like olives popping out of your nose? We’ve done the test countless times.

                                                  Also, did you know that Colavita farms much of its production out (such as Purdue does with chicken farms)? Did you by any chance hear of the recent raids this year where 39 people were arrested in Italy for a monstrous fraudulent 25,000 liter EVOO scheme? Look and listen here (it’s the third time in 4 years the Italians were caught trying to send us bogus olive oils):


                                                  A great deal of the oil coming from Italy in to the U.S. is not what it says. Dig deep Caroline, you’ll see a lot more than meets the eye. California has some really terrific stuff coming off production and it’s fresh! Give it a try one day. Plus, California is starting to regulate what's being bottled and shipped. Wow, what a novel idea.

                                                  1. re: billyparsons
                                                    Caroline1 Jan 1, 2009 08:39 AM

                                                    Don't mean to sound like a smart ass, but I'm 75 years old and have been gathering information about anything that interests me since about age three, and I'm really not able to cite U.S.D.A. regulations (or other) off the top of my head. An added problem is that my personal knowledge has ben gathered from living in Greece and Turkey, where all of the olive oil I used was "local" and "cold pressed" in a local (EDIT! This should read "horizontal" mill, as in the old fashioned flat millstones. sorry!( vertical mill, as well as in the U.S.. In the U.S., the term "cold pressed" has no real meaning. The U.S. has not been producing olive oil as long as the rest of the world, and I dare say that the vast majority of U.S. olive oils are centrifuged with the end result that "cold pressed" cannot have meaning. I don't recall ever buying U.S. produced olive oil in my lifetime. As a child, my mother used little bottles of "Pompeian" olive oil, which was also imported. Though I am a 5th generation native Californian, I don't think California produces enough olive oil to be a major force in the world market. But I don't know that for a fact. It's an assumption.

                                                    I suspect that you are already familiar with the website, but for others, here's an interesting list of olive oil definitions: http://www.oliveoilsource.com/definit... Note that there are differences given between Euro and U.S. definitions. With centrifuge extraction, there is no second pressing, but it seems logical that measures are taken to draw off the earliest yields for grading purposes.

                                                    2. and 3. I am unwilling to waste my time calling Colavita to ask them if they claim an OPENED container of any grade of olive oil has a two year shelf life. Surely you misunderstood if that's what you believe they said. Many things effect the quality and grade of olive oil. With time and other modifying factors. EVOO and other grades of olive oil will slide down the chart to lesser quality oil. When a bottle or can of olive oiil is first sealed at the factory, though there may be a small amount of "air" inside the container, it will be fairly stable for an extended length of time. Ambient temperature of the storage area, whether in a glass or metal container, whether a glass bottle is clear or colored, ambient light and source of light on glass.... There are innumberable factors that can impact on a sealed container of olive oil, and even more that effect an opened container.

                                                    So if Colavita told you that olive oil has a two year shelf life, my interpretation of that would be that the oil has to be in a sealed container, stored at a reasonable temperature with controlled light, and that if these conditions are met, at the two year mark an extra virgin olive oil will have deteriorated enough that it may no longer meet the 0.8% acidity requirement to qualify as EVOO. I personally don't believe it will mean the olive oil is rancid, unless the storage criteria has not been met. But as I said in my first post, if olive oil is rancid, you will know it.

                                                    The problem with the olive oil scam is simply and plainly that when olive oil is adulterated with other oils, it is highly unlikely that it will still have all of the health benefits of true olive oil. And as far as I'm concerned, that is the only problem.

                                                    If ANYONE can figure out a method to combine olive oil (of nearly any grade) with hazelnut oil, canola oil, or even motor oil while retaining the qualities and health benefits of true olive oil, hey, I'll buy some! '-)

                                                    1. re: Caroline1
                                                      billyparsons Jan 2, 2009 09:30 AM


                                                      Cooks Illustrated did an interesting review of supermarket varietals (Colavita EVOO included) and found even the best one scored, at most, a 5 out of 10. Colavita not among the top 3.


                                                      I stopped in to a buddies restaurant this morning that uses Colavita as dipping oil because he gets a great "deal" from Sysco. I tasted it again with a fresh attitude and again; bland, tasteless, odorless and devoid of any character. When I asked him if he serves a better quality to his better customers he replied (in broken English) "Americans don't know the first thing about good olive oil. This is the same junk they have at home. They're used to it".

                                                      Frankly I was shocked that Cooks Illustrated even wasted their time reviewing it. But again, everyone's idea of "great", "good" and "fine" are different.

                                                      We're all entitled to our opinions and I still respect yours.

                                                      1. re: billyparsons
                                                        Caralien Jan 2, 2009 10:26 AM

                                                        Billy--I don't think that Caroline1 was referring to the standard Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil found in most supermarkets (and for the trade), as she has repeatedly stated that she was using Colavita's 2007 Harvest Limited Pressing.

                                                        A lot of companies have different grades and products. Chanel Couture is different from Chanel for H&M, even though both were designed by Karl Lagerfeld.

                                                        Your friend too was also rather insulting. I'm an American and love good olive oil; have I had crappy olive oil in the past? Yes. Did I learn from my mistakes? I've tried to. Even the green vs yellow debate isn't completely accurate, as some olive oils will be more yellow, others more green. It's a personal preference what people like and what they don't as well as how it's produced. People have debated over which country had the best one for years.

                                                        I have an issue with a lot of food comparisons by publications--your taste is not necessarily like mine. Consumer reports once stated that Yuban coffee was the best (yuck by me). Why do you think the Japanese chefs generally beat any contender on the original Iron Chef? They catered to the Japanese palate, including ignoring what was culinarily accurate. Someone from New England may have different taste preferences compared to someone who's grown up with spicy food. I would trust someone who lived in the Mediterranean regarding olive oil more than someone who has spent their entire lives in the North East, unless they were of Mediterranean ancestry; likewise, I would trust someone from Vermont to know a good cheddar over my mother, who has no idea what good cheese is (but remains an excellent cook).

                                                        1. re: Caralien
                                                          Ruth Lafler Jan 2, 2009 11:30 AM

                                                          I agree, in particular, I agree the Cook's Illustrated, Consumer Reports and other publications that do taste tests often use very different criteria and standards from what I would use.

                                                          1. re: Caralien
                                                            billyparsons Jan 2, 2009 12:40 PM

                                                            Did you even read the article? If you got offended, remember it's the viewpoint of many European producers. They think Americans consider bland oil to be quality.


                                                            "After our tasting, we had to wonder if the majority of olive oil destined for the American market isn’t intentionally blended to be bland. (A number of experts we spoke to said yes, many European producers assume Americans want their olive oil to be as neutral as vegetable oil.) Worse, we wondered whether some of the oils that arrive here labeled “extra-virgin” are even extra-virgin at all."

                                                            I have friends that grew up eating lumpy mashed potatoes, limp string beans and bitter broccoli rabe. Now they think that it's the norm. Then they go to dinner at Jean-Georges and wonder why the string beans "snap" and are vivid green.

                                                            I've experienced EVOO directly from a French duck press and can no longer argue these points. I've done much to much research on the topic to go back and forth about whether your mom knows good cheese or not. Fun post though. Gotta' move on. :)

                                                            1. re: billyparsons
                                                              Caralien Jan 2, 2009 06:35 PM

                                                              I have read the article and wasn't offended by the article. I took offense to your buddy's comment that Americans like junk olive oil, which is offensive to his/her customer (if you truly hate your customer, can you really make that great of a product or are you simply making an inferior product which you are not proud of simply because it sells?)

                                                              1. re: Caralien
                                                                billyparsons Jan 3, 2009 03:01 AM


                                                                With regard to what a company like Colavita thinks about the American consumer...

                                                                Please take a look at this:


                                                                Colavita sent their rep to the New York City Food & Wine Festival. When asked about what defined EVOO, he told the interviewer that when all the olives are from Italy, it meant that the oil would be "extra virgin". Look at the :50 marker. Even the interviewer was like "well... ok... next question...".

                                                                This is my point. Colavita thinks so little about even the NY consumer that it didn't even take the time to properly train it's rep at a food & wine show!

                                                                I've been to food shows and stopped by booths of quality EVOO producers. They can tell you how many olives grow on a tree for heaven's sake!

                                                                Oh. And look at the backdrop in the Colavita booth. Shoprite Logos. I can tell you no other exhibitor would have the balls to hang a Shoprite logo in their booth at a show like this one. Make me wanna run out to the supermarket and pick up a bottle of their oil and some US Gov. American Cheese "blocks" and have a party with some friends!

                                                                1. re: billyparsons
                                                                  Caroline1 Jan 3, 2009 04:35 AM

                                                                  LOL! Billy, I don't think Colavita could ever please you. There is no information given on why that particular (misinformed) person is manning the booth. He could be filling in at the last minute because disaster overtook the intended person. Colavita's booth may have been a very late entry. Lots of possibilies there. Curious that you expend so much energy castigating Colavita. '-)

                                                                  1. re: billyparsons
                                                                    Caralien Jan 3, 2009 04:36 AM


                                                                    So your restaurant buddy was the rep from Colavita, or is simply as disrespectful to his/her American customers as the Colavita company?

                                                                    By the way, I generally don't use Colavita or Italian oils, as stated further above, as my personal preference is for Greek oils.

                                                                    I've done olive and olive oil tastings in California and at food and wine shows across the country, and have tasted varieties sold in the various places I've lived and visited across the world. Does it make me an expert? No. Just a better informed consumer.

                                                                    I agree that there's plenty of crap on display at food shows (including cosmetics and nutritional supplements which have no business being there in the first place), but usually follow my nose and do the opposite route of the crowd, beginning at the end and moving towards the beginning so as to avoid the longer lines in front. At food (or any other) shows, when a booth is sponsored, it's written in the contract that the sponsor's logo be on display; the number of financial institutions listed as sponsors on the invitations, brochures, and websites for the shows is what it is--advertising, product placement, marketing; Colavita got Shoprite to sponsor them, most exhibitors didn't have that financial backing or sponsorship responsibility (I'm not arguing whether it was right or wrong or foolhardy for the duo, but it certainly got your attention--an informed consumer--so their marketing actually worked).

                                                                    DOC, organic, and other seals and certifications of varying reputation are also for marketing--pay the annual fee for this seal and sell your product for a premium price while being in what is supposed to be a quality-control related club, but it really comes down to financial backing and potential future profit. Olive oil, wine, coffee, cocoa, spices, diamonds...whether you trust your senses or stick by the certifications is ultimately up to you, the informed consumer.

                                                                    1. re: Caralien
                                                                      billyparsons Jan 3, 2009 08:06 AM

                                                                      "So your restaurant buddy was the rep from Colavita, or is simply as disrespectful to his/her American customers as the Colavita company?"

                                                                      So you agree that it's disrespectful to serve junk to paying customers! You finally came around. Great. My work is done here.

                                                                      (I'll presume you didn't mean the fact him and I had a private conversation outside the presence of customers was disrespectful.)

                                                                      "Olive oil, wine, coffee, cocoa, spices, diamonds...whether you trust your senses or stick by the certifications is ultimately up to you, the informed consumer."

                                                                      If you were a guy buying an engagement ring for a girlfriend, and she found out you used your "senses", rather than a certification from a certified gemologist, could you imagine the look on her face? "Honey, I graded this diamond myself for you! I gave it a triple A certification of love...". This the insurance will go for the "self sense" grading when you lose it? LOL on this one!

                                                                      1. re: billyparsons
                                                                        Caralien Jan 3, 2009 08:43 AM

                                                                        Please read what I wrote--certifications may be meaningful or meaningless depending on reputation but are based on marketing and PROFIT. Please inform yourself before making a purchase--there's nothing wrong with that and it is recommended before purchasing anything, be it oil, spices, gemstones, a house...

                                                                        So your friend isn't rude or disrespectful because he only degrades his customers behind their back instead of in front of them. Thanks for the clarification.

                                                                        Insurance companies require documentation prior to insuring anything; it's never based on hearsay. If you don't know how to tell a good diamond or olive oil, you're likely to be swindled even by popular companies; jewelry is similar to new cars with their value dwindling by 1/3-1/2 upon initial use; yes, the insurance companies know this too. My husband won't choose diamonds for me anymore because he is clueless when it comes to them and knows my background (yes, one can tell a great diamond, metal composition, and other factors first by sight, which is also used for choosing foods in a market); my guess is the same would be true for you, so please, pay the premium for a pre-certified diamond and only use published rating systems when you buy anything because that makes you feel confident about your purchases.

                                                                        I know people who rate wines based only on their price too. It makes them feel better that the price is left on the bottle so everyone knows they spent a lot.

                                                            2. re: billyparsons
                                                              Caroline1 Jan 2, 2009 01:14 PM

                                                              I don't regularly use Colavita, but these three 750ml round cans of Colavita's 2007 "Limited Pressing" olive oil were a hostess gift from the directeur sportif of Colavita's (then) Category 1 bike race team in appreciation for allowing the team to stay in my home for five days of racing. The olive oil is no longer available. At the time, it sold for $20.00 a can. It is a quality olive oil, though as they say, "different strokes for different folks", and I somehow doubt very much that this particular oil was used by either Cooks Illustrated or your friend in his restaurant.

                                                              But I am not defending Colavita. Italian olive oils are not my first choice. As I explained before, I normally order either Greek or Turkish olive oil on the web. Usually Greek, as Turkish oils are, on average, a bit more pungent.

                                                              As for Cooks Illustrated, well... Let's just say I don't put a lot of stock in their judgment. But life, including cooking and taste, is always subjective. I do recognize that there are those who believe that Cooks Illustrated is the ultimate authority on all things culinary. I'm just not one of them. To each his own.

                                                              I do think that the subjectivity of any individual's preference in olive oil (and life) has a great deal to do with what the first olive oil they had that sang to them happened to be. My first important exposure to class olive oils came through my personal chef/housekeeper when I lived in Turkey. Since Fatma was teaching me how to cook, I took her word. When I lived in Greece some years later, my tastes and cooking skills were pretty highly developed, so I greatly enjoyed touring Greece and "casing" the olive groves and tasting their oils. While there are some truly great artisan olive oils in Greece, my favorite turned out to be from my landlords' small grove they had pressed at an old mill with the horizontal stones that ground the olives. The oil I was given regularly was extra virgin with some of the olive residue still floating in it. Delicious! But I also feel confident that had I lived in Tunisia, or Spain, my taste in olive oil would have been swayed by the flavor and romance of that experience. It's all subjective. I can't buy into anyone saying THIS is the greatest olive oil in the world! But I can buy into them saying I like this olive oil best!

                                                              1. re: Caroline1
                                                                pikawicca Jan 4, 2009 07:07 AM

                                                                I recommend the oil produced by the Sciabica family in California. I've been buying it for years, and have never been disappointed. Since the oil bears the family name, I'd be greatly surprised if they ever adulterated it.

                                                                For foreign oils, I only buy estate bottled. Laudemio is consistently superior.

                                                                1. re: pikawicca
                                                                  Caroline1 Jan 4, 2009 08:31 AM

                                                                  Thanks. :-)

                                                    2. b
                                                      BeckyAndTheBeanstock Jan 22, 2009 01:20 PM

                                                      Here's a story that was in the news today, essentially confirming that olive oil is frequently adulterated and mislabeled. On the other hand, it looks like standards may be afoot. http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2...

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: BeckyAndTheBeanstock
                                                        billyparsons Jan 26, 2009 06:45 AM

                                                        Think that's bad? I spoke to a Poland Spring rep that told me his biggest competition is counterfeit water being sold in the Bronx. He says that bottled water, EVOO and Boars Head products are among the most "most knocked off" in the industry. Even places like Greenwich, CT & Rye NY are not exempt. Ouch.

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