Is Your Olive Oil Fresh?
Earlier this week I received a fabulous box of goodies from a wonderful company that I came across recently called Fincalink. My surprise box contained a range of fresh extra virgin olive oils from traditional Spanish producers.
Set up by Javier Asensio earlier this year, Fincalink is an initiative which aims to provide a fair portal for olive oil producers to sell their products directly to consumers, all over the world. The son of an olive farmer, Javier knows inside and out, the olive oil production processes and the way the industry has changed too. His father is now 80 years old (pictured below) and still manages the olive fields himself; perhaps testament to the quality of the Mediterranean oils he produces. Growing up within the olive oil industry, Javier has seen many changes over the years and it is these that have inspired him to dare to do things differently.
Gone are the days when olive farmers exchanged their goods for a fair price; nowadays, large companies buy the carefully cultivated oil in bulk for low prices from Spanish producers and then blend (adulterate) it and resell it at premium prices. With Fincalink, Javier wants consumers to have direct access to the real world of fresh olive oil by enabling them to buy direct from traditional producers. Not only do the producers get a much fairer deal, the consumers get a much better product, both for it’s taste and for what it can do for your health too.
Within my lovely box, I sampled three different varieties, and learnt a whole lot more in the process:
Variety: Arbequina - This variety was sourced from the area of Catalonia in North Eastern Spain. First I was encouraged to hold the bottle between my palms and allow the oil to warm slightly before first inhaling the gentle olive aroma. Next, I sipped some of the oil from a teaspoon. ‘Complex and fruity with a very soft bitter aftertaste’ is how I would best describe it. The bitter aftertaste, Javier explained, was indicative of the level of antioxidants contained within the oil – the more pronounced and lengthy this aftertaste is, the more antioxidants the oil contains.
Variety: Holjiblanca - Sourced from the area of Cordoba in Spain, the aroma of the holjiblanca variety of olive upon opening was immediately more intense, even before the warmth of my palms could get to work on the bottle, and the gentle fruity notes of the first variety (arbequina) were replaced by a deliciously peppery taste and a more pronounced bittery aftertaste suggesting a higher level of health-promoting antioxidants.
Variety: Picual - Within Andalucia in Southern Spain is the province of Jaen, which Javier explained is perhaps the place most renowned for its olive oil in the whole of Spain. Most of the olive oil that comes from Spain, comes from this area. Given that the intensity had already moved up a gear, from Arbequina to Holjiblanca, I was expecting Picual to go one step further. This delicious oil didn’t disappoint. More intense fruity flavours initially, followed by pronounced flavours of black pepper and a lingering bitter aftertaste. I guessed this oil must be packed with antioxidants. This is the variety that Javier’s father has produced for many years.
The Difference that Makes the Difference
I use a lot of olive oil, in cooking and on salads and whilst I will always opt for a more expensive bottle in a dark glass container, that isn’t sitting under the hot glare of the supermarket lights, I’m not sure that I fully appreciated, until now, the real difference that you get with an oil that comes directly from the producers:
Taste – The first and most noticeable difference is the taste; I’m not sure that I have ever tasted anything quite like these oils – for the record, my favourite variety is Picual.
Quality – The second is the quality; I’m a big believer in investing in the very best quality of food that you can afford. As a nutrition consultant, I see first hand the difference a great diet can make to someone’s health, and food quality is a big factor in that. These oils are fresh and packed full of antioxidants including high levels of vitamin E.
Fair – The third difference is buying something that you know has exchanged hands fairly. There’s over 2000 years invested in cultivating the traditional Spanish olive oil industry; and in order for that to continue I believe we need to vote with our feet and make sure these farmers are getting a fair deal.
Connection – The fourth difference is about connection to the food you eat. I have loved listening to and reading the individual stories about Spanish olive oil producers and now, when I taste those fruity, peppery notes, I am reminded of the real stories behind the product, stories that involve real people and real places, not just the usual made-up marketing hype. I believe food is about so much more than a collection of nutrients on a plate; food brings us together, connects us to each other and also re-connects us back to the earth, and when you choose to embrace real food in this way, the potential benefits reach far and wide.
For more information, visit Fincalink.