A Beginner’s Guide To EVOO: Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil

This blog post was originally posted on February 16, 2016, and was updated on January 11, 2018

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is the King of all ‘liquid gold’. But, what exactly sets it apart? And, where can you be guaranteed quality in Seville?

Walk into any supermarket all over the world and you will be greeted with a huge variety of olive oils, each claiming to be the best of the best. The health benefits of olive oil are well documented, but still, there is debate on whether all varieties of oils can legitimately claim to share these same benefits.

We’re constantly learning more and more fascinating things about Spain’s beloved olive oil. However, there’s one thing we always had clear in our minds. When it comes to supreme quality and genuine, proven health benefits, EVOO is the only way to go!

Have a read of our beginner’s guide to all things olive oil. We’ll decode some of the basic terms, letting you know why paying more for your EVOO is so worth it. Then, of course, we’ll let you in on some of our favorite places to buy olive oil in Seville.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is widely considered the best olive oil available, but what exactly makes it special? Learn all about Spanish EVOO here with our basic guide!

Photo Credit: Alpha

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of oil varieties and quality assurance, check out our Co-Founder Lauren Aloise’s video on Spanish olive oil. You’ll get some great information on the best olive oil and Lauren also dispels some common myths about aceite de oliva.

What is Olive Oil and how is it made?

Let’s go back to basics – what is olive oil? Basically, olive oil is the oil extracted from the olive fruit (yes, it’s a fruit!). Sounds straightforward, right? Well, the origins of olive oil genuinely are that simple! What complicates things is the modern process of harvesting the olives, the means of extracting the oil itself and what’s added to it before bottling.

In order to make the highest quality olive oil, the olives have to be picked by hand from the trees. This is crucial because machine harvesting, while potentially damaging the fruit, can also lead to unripened olives being mixed with more ripe ones. This means that from the beginning, the oil will be impure and this will affect the consistency and taste of the oil.

Traditionally speaking, olive oil is crushed a number of times to create a paste and we then extract the oil from that paste in a centrifuge. Nowadays machines have taken over form the traditional stone presses, although certain places in Spain still stick to this laborious method!

EVOO is incredibly difficult to produce - but so worth the effort when you taste how incredible delicious it is
When it comes to olive oil, the less processes it goes through from plant to bottle – the better!

What do the terms refined and unrefined actually mean?

Whether an olive oil is labeled refined or unrefined is a big indicator of quality! Refining is where certain chemicals are added either during the extraction process or to the oil itself to remove impurities. Whilst refining takes away the bitterness of the oil and removes any flaws, it also removes all the antioxidants and healthy bits that make olive oil so special!

So, is Extra Virgin Olive Oil really the best of the best?

In short, yes! Olive oil, under EU regulation, goes through rigorous taste tests before it is categorized. Only the truly high-quality product gets the Extra Virgin label. Master olive oil tasters must then give the oil a perfect score. This involves noting zero taste or smell defects, and also it must have a very low acidity level. Having not gone through the refining process, it has no added chemicals meaning it is pure juice from the olive fruit – loaded with vitamins and minerals.

Any sensory defects will result in the oil being classed as Virgin Olive Oil. This oil has a slightly higher acidity level, but given it’s also unrefined, it still has the same health benefits as EVOO. However, finding Virgin Olive Oil is difficult as it will often be mixed with refined oil and sold as standard ‘Olive Oil’.

The golden color of olive oil reflects why the Romans used to call it liquid gold, most oils back then would've been conisdered EVOO as they didn't add chemicals
The Romans used to call olive oil ‘liquid gold’ because of its value and golden color Photo Credit: Smabs Sputzer

How can I be sure the oil I’m buying is good quality?

This can be a tricky process as there are many olive oils that claim to be good quality, and certainly look the part, but really aren’t all they’re cracked up to be! A telling symbol of quality in Spain is the DO (Denomination of Origin) labeling.

As is the case with Spanish wines, the DO label tells you where the oil came from. Also, it ensures that the oil has passed all of the complex quality checks required within that area. Apart from that, most EVOO is sold in darker bottles. This is because the real Extra Virgin Olive Oil is sensitive to light and heat. Also, check the harvest date of the oil, anything within the last year or two means it should be good quality.

Where can I be guaranteed quality olive oil in Seville?

Spain is the olive oil capital of the entire world. Within Spain, no region produces more olive oil than Andalusia. So, places to get good quality produce in the south are plentiful. For us, our favorite place to get olive oil in Seville is at La Oleoteca Sevilla (Calle Garcia Vinuesa, 39).

Run by expert locals, this shop near the Cathedral sells only the highest quality oils. Its owners can comfortably and confidently talk you through each oil they sell. They even hold tastings on a regular basis to ensure the quality of new oils. Also, they taste to gauge how the existing produce is maintaining its high quality. Now that’s dedication!

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