Olive oil is the juice extracted from fresh-picked olives. The extraction process involves grinding the olives into a paste, separating the juice from the solids, and finally extracting the water from the juice leaving pure oil. The timing between harvest and transport to the mill, as well as the type of extraction method used at the mill, affects the flavor and quality of the oil – to ensure the freshest and most flavorful oil, our olives are transported to the mill within 24 hours of harvest for immediate processing. At the mill, the olives are carefully processed using the latest equipment and without added chemicals or excessive heat. The result is to produce the highest quality, Extra Virgin oil.
Fall is harvest time here in Aptos, California. During the month of November, the orchard is closely monitored by carefully checking the color and texture of olives to determine their level of ripeness. The weather is also a critical factor in deciding the harvest date. Too much rain, drying wind, or cold can damage the olives.
Typically, the latter part of November to early December, as the weather begins to cool, the olives are at their optimal level of ripeness. Crews are organized for hand harvesting, and appointments at the mill are scheduled.
Our orchard typically takes one to two weeks to harvest, depending on the fruit production level and number or harvesters. Bins of harvested olives are transported to the mill within 24 hours of picking to ensure that the fruit is at its freshest to produce the highest quality oil.
There are three primary grades of olive oil — refined, virgin, and extra virgin. Refined olive oil can be found on most grocery store shelves and is often made from poor quality fruit, which is heavily processed and thus does not possess most of the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil. Often labeled ‘Olive Oil,’ these oils are typically a blend of low grade rancid and oxidized olive oil mixed with other lower-quality oils. Refined olive oils are of lower quality having been chemically and thermally treated to eliminate unpleasant flavors and to neutralize the free fatty acid content and so are often very mild in taste and lack color, flavor, and aroma.
Virgin olive oil is an unrefined oil of lower quality. These oils are processed in the same manner as extra virgin olive oil. However, the end product does not meet the strict standards chemical makeup of extra virgin olive and so contains lower levels of the compounds known to provide the most health benefits. While free from chemical refining, virgin olive oil’s acidity levels make it a considerably subpar option to extra virgin olive oil.
Extra virgin grade olive oil is the least processed or refined type. It is pure unadulterated oil made from top quality olives. The label “Extra Virgin” signifies that the oil is free of defects of flavor or odor, which is determined by a specially trained sensory panel of olive oil experts. Olive oil that is truly extra virgin has a robust and distinct flavor and is high in phenolic antioxidants, which is the main reason for its recognized health benefits. In addition, independent laboratory tests are performed on the oil to ensure that the chemistry of the oil meets or exceeds specific parameters established by the Olive Oil Commission of California and the USDA. The California Olive Oil Commission (CCOC), indicating that it has passed chemical analysis and a sensory evaluation, certifies our olive oil.
Proper storage of olive oil it is essential to preserve optimal freshness, flavor, and aromas. Store the oil in a cool, dark place away from heat and light. Storing your olive oil in a dark glass container will extend your oil’s life and keep the polyphenols from oxidizing too quickly. When you are finished using the oil, reseal your bottles tightly to ensure limited exposure to oxygen. After opening a bottle of oil, use it up quickly and replace it with a fresh bottle as needed. The polyphenols (antioxidants) that are found naturally in olive oil play a prominent role in the various health benefits attributed to olive oil. The longer the oil sits, the less polyphenols it will have. The shelf life for extra virgin oil, properly stored, is 12 to 18 months.