Learning to taste, select and pair olive oil with food is one of the most valuable pieces of knowledge that you can offer to yourself since olive oil is not only a main culinary ingredient consumed every day but a unique & precious health, beauty & wellness elixir (only when it is of high quality). Participation in an olive oil tasting workshop is an eye-opening activity, a lifetime experience. Even if you haven't been able to participate in a workshop so far, still you can start practicing with the olive oils you buy and keep at home. Training your senses to the aromas and flavors of olive oils is an extraordinary and very useful hobby!
Follow the Olive Oil tasting steps to better appreciate all the aromas and flavors.
1. POUR 15ml of olive oil into a tasting glass (if you do not have one, use brandy or wine glass). Cover with a lid or the palm of your hand.
2. WARM the glass with your palm for a few minutes.
3. SWIRL the oil around to coat the sides of the glass to release its aromas and remove the lid or your palm.
4. SMELL inhaling briefly and deeply, trying to capture the different sensations.
5. SLURP a mouthful of oil and don’t swallow it immediately. Keep it in your mouth for a few seconds and inhale noisily from the sides of your mouth (to do so, put your tongue behind your front teeth and suck air from the sides of your mouth). Drawing air in heightens the flavor. Then breathe out through your nose.
6. SWALLOW while concentrating on the flavor. Consider whether you perceive pungency as it goes down your throat and whether it makes you cough a bit.
7. THINK ABOUT all the sensations you have felt. The fruitiness, bitterness, pungency, the different aromas, and flavors. Write down your observations, and then compare them with other olive oils.
8. CLEANSE your palate between olive oils with a thin slice of Granny Smith apple or a piece of plain bread. Drink some water.
9. REPEAT & Enjoy!
Positive Attributes of Olive Oil
Is the totality of the pleasant fruit flavors characteristic of fresh ripe or green olives. Ripe olives generally produce oils that are milder, aromatic, buttery, and floral, while green fruits produce oils that are grassy, herbaceous, bitter, and pungent. The intensity and kind of fruitiness also vary with the variety of olive and milling practices.
Is a typical attribute related to olive oils from fresh green olives, but it also depends on the variety of olives. It is a pleasant and non-persistent sensation on the back of the tongue whose presence means that the oil is rich in antioxidants.
It is a kinaesthetic - peppery sensation perceived in the throat, a sign of abundant polyphenols, peculiar to good, fresh extra virgin olive oil. Olive oils from green olives are more pungent. Sometimes you will feel the need to cough or it is possible to tear up.
The aromas of Olive Oil
Are not additive or endogenous to the olive fruit and surely they have nothing to do with the plants that grow around the olive tree. In fact, these aromas are volatile compounds produced by the activity of olive fruit enzymes during the extraction process of olive oil (such as 3-hexenal which gives the aroma of apple or hexanal the aroma of the green leaf) and have to do with the variety, the ripening stage of the fruit, the climatic conditions, the availability of water, the type of fertilization and the olive oil extraction processes (mainly crushing and malaxing).
Some of the aromas of the Greek olive varietals include freshly-cut grass, green olive, artichoke, tomato & tomato leaf, olive leaf, green, bitter or ripe almond, walnut, green & ripe banana, citrus, green or ripe apple, pear, chamomile, wild flowers, thyme, basil, rosemary, fennel, and arugula.
Negative Attributes - Defects
Olive oil defects are more than 10 and are related to bad practices during cultivation, harvest, milling process, and storage conditions. The most common ones are:
Fusty (smell of rotten cheese, mushy black brined olives, sweaty socks)
Muddy Sediment (baby diapers, manure, bad salami, sewer dregs)
Musty-Humid (moldy smell)
Winey (smell of wine, vinegar, yeasty)
Rancid (smell of paint, old crayons, stale walnuts, old peanut butter)
Frozen (smell of we wood, wood, humidity)
Heated/Burnt (cooked, grilled nuts, caramel)
Metallic (taste of metall)
You must always remember, a good extra virgin olive oil always smells like a healthy, fresh olive fruit juice with dominant aromas of fresh olives and freshly cut grass. Depending on the olive variety other aromas of fruits, vegetables, herbs, or spices can be present!
Expert Olive Oil Taster by Jaen University