Greece is the world’s third largest producer of olive oil, after Spain and Italy. It is also one of the few countries where most of the olive oil produced is authentic extra virgin. Extra virgin olive oil is the highest quality of olive oil, made from the first pressing of olives without the use of heat or chemicals. It has a lower acidity and higher levels of antioxidants than other grades of olive oil.
There are several reasons why Greek olive oil production is mostly extra virgin.
- Greece’s climate and geography make it ideal for growing olive trees. The Mediterranean climate provides the right amount of sunshine, rainfall, and mild temperatures. The hilly terrain also helps to create a favorable environment for olive trees. Olives grown in Greece are known for their high-quality taste and flavor.
- Traditional production methods. Many Greek olive oil producers still use traditional methods of production, such as cold pressing and hand-harvesting. These methods help to preserve the quality of the oil.
- Government regulations. The Greek government has strict regulations in place to protect the quality of Greek olive oil and blending different oils with extra virgin olive oils is illegal. These regulations include requirements for the extraction process, acidity levels, and packaging.
The following is a comparison of the percentage of extra virgin olive oil production in Greece and the other largest olive oil producing countries:
Percentage of extra virgin olive oil production by country:
- Greece – 80%
- Spain – 60%
- Italy – 50%
- Tunisia – 40%
- Turkey – 30%
As you can see, Greece has a significantly higher percentage of extra virgin olive oil production than the other largest olive oil producing countries. This is due to a few factors, including the country’s climate, geography, traditional production methods, and government regulations.
Some large olive oil producers have a reputation for mislabeling their olive oil as extra virgin or often mix their oil with other oils or substances, in order to reduce costs, increase profits, or to cover up the taste of poor-quality olive oil. Adulterated olive oil can be a problem for consumers because it can be difficult to detect and can contain harmful substances. For example, some adulterated olive oils have been found to contain refined oils, such as soybean oil or sunflower oil, which are not as healthy as olive oil. Other adulterated olive oils have been found to contain chemicals, such as chlorophyll or beta-carotene, which are added to improve the appearance of the oil.
The problem of adulterated olive oil is particularly widespread in the United States, where it is estimated that up to 70% of olive oil sold is adulterated. This is due to a number of factors, including the lack of government regulation of the olive oil industry and the high demand for olive oil.
There are a number of things that consumers can do to protect themselves from adulterated olive oil and be sure they are purchasing authentic extra virgin olive oil:
- Buy olive oil from reputable retailers that specialize in selling high-quality olive oil.
- Look for olive oil that is labeled “extra virgin” and “produced in Greece” or by an honest producer with a good reputation for olive oil production.
- Look for olive oil with a harvest date, best by date is not as important as a harvest date.
- Look for a type of olive oil varietal mentioned on a bottle, just like buying a wine, you should never buy a wine just because it is wine, you should buy a type of wine. For example: Cabernet Sauvignon wine which is made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.
- Avoid oils that are cloudy or have a strong odor.
- Store olive oil in a cool, dark place.
To further research a producer of olive oil, look to see if they are transparent about their chemical analysis of their olive oil each year. Do their claims about acidity or polyphenols match up with reality? Have they published their chemical analysis or provided it to be analyzed on their website?
Governments and industry groups are working to address the problem of adulterated olive oil. For example, the European Union has implemented several measures to protect the quality of olive oil, including requirements for labeling and testing. However, more needs to be done to ensure that consumers can purchase high-quality, authentic olive oil and more consumer education needs to be conducted to further educate olive oil consumers.
Benefits of Greek extra virgin olive oil
Greek extra virgin olive oil is a healthy and delicious choice for cooking and baking. It is a good source of monounsaturated fats, which can help to lower cholesterol levels. Extra virgin olive oil is also a good source of antioxidants, which can help to protect against cell damage.
In addition to its health benefits, Greek extra virgin olive oil has a unique flavor and aroma that can enhance the taste of food. It can be used in a variety of dishes, from salads and dressings to pasta dishes and main courses. Some health professionals even recommend taking a spoonful of a high quality and high polyphenol extra virgin olive oils each morning.
How to choose Greek extra virgin olive oil
When choosing Greek extra virgin olive oil, look for a bottle that is labeled “extra virgin”, has a “Harvest date”, mentions an olive varietal and “produced in Greece.” The oil should be a clear, golden or greenish color and have a fruity aroma. Avoid oils that are cloudy or have a strong odor.
Greek extra virgin olive oil can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to two years. Once the bottle is opened, it should be used within six months.
Early harvest extra virgin olive oil
Early harvest extra virgin olive oils like Laconiko is olive oil that is made from olives that have been harvested early in the season. This is typically done in September or October before the olives are fully ripe. While less oil is pressed out of the early harvest olives than if it they were late harvest, the result is a unique fresh taste, including:
- Intense flavor: Early harvest olive oil has a more intense flavor than olive oil made from ripe olives. This is because the olives contain more antioxidants and other flavor compounds when they are unripe.
- Higher levels of antioxidants: Early harvest olive oil is a good source of antioxidants, which can help to protect against cell damage.
- Lower acidity: Early harvest olive oil has a lower acidity than olive oil made from ripe olives. This is because the olives are less oily when they are unripe.
Early harvest extra virgin olive oil is a versatile oil that can be used in a variety of dishes, from salads and dressings to pasta dishes and main courses. It is also a good choice for cooking, as it has a high smoke point.
Fun fact: each bottle of 375ML (12.7 OZ) Laconiko contains olive juice from about 12 pounds of early harvest olives!
Greek extra virgin olive oil is a healthy and delicious choice for cooking and baking. It is also one of the few countries where the majority of olive oil produced is extra virgin. When choosing Greek extra virgin olive oil, look for a bottle that is labeled “extra virgin” and “produced in Greece” and includes a “harvest date” and the name of the producer and region where the olives are grown. Also keep in mind, the oil should be a clear, and a golden or green color and it should have a slightly fruity aroma with a peppery finish to it.