What Makes Excellent Olive Oil?
The making of great olive oil begins with the patient attention to the land and trees by many caring, attentive hands. The land must be cultivated with constant attention to the soil conditions and minerals. Organic fertilizers are applied to enrich the soil to better feed the trees. Pruning and caring for the tree is done after harvest to encourage the new growth. Irrigation is sparsely done to increase the polyphenols in the oil, which give it the beneficial powers.
Olive oil is really made in the field by the attentive and careful farmer. The earlier harvest produces less oil than the later harvests, but the earlier harvest’s oils are the best tasting and richest in value. For Artemisia, quality wins out over quantity. We harvest earlier to have the best tasting oil at the expense of producing more oil.
Once picked, the olives must be pressed within 24 to 48 hours of harvest. Artemisia presses its olives within one to two hours of harvest to assure fresh flavor and preserve health benefits.
Professional taste testers of olive oil look for the “perfect organoleptic characteristics”, which means that the oil must have perfect flavor and aroma. The scientific criteria require low acidity content. Tasters look for fruitiness and aromas from the oil. Bitterness and pungency is also registered. The complexity of tasting olive oil involves the sense of smell and experience of effects on the back of the throat upon swallowing the oil. Fine oil should have a balance of fruitiness with bitterness and pungency, plus individual flavors of the region.
Pungency and bitterness are not defects, but desirable in a balanced amount. They indicate strong presence of polyphenols, which have important health benefits. The other flavors detected are based on the time of the harvest. An oil can taste fruitier and sweeter when harvested later in the year. Sweeter oils made from ripe olives have the flavors of apple or ripe tomato or nuts; greener oils are described as having hints of artichoke flavored, green tomatoes, sweet green peppers or herbal hints.
The fresher oils have more intensity and robust concentration of flavor.
Beware of the oils that are musty, muddy or rancid in taste and smell. These are oils that have not been pressed in time, are mixed or are too old.