How To Recognize High-Quality Olive Oil?

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While it’s not always easy to recognize high-quality olive oil, especially when you’re in the store, there are a few tips that can help you determine the quality of olive oil. In this post, I’ll show you three simple tips I always follow when buying olive oil.

That way, I’m sure that the extra virgin olive oil is high-quality and that I’m not buying some low-quality olive oil made for the masses.

Key Takeaways:

  • High-quality olive oil should smell fruity, fresh, and grassy, with medium to low fluidity.
  • Tasting olive oil can reveal quality: look for intense, slightly bitter taste and cough-inducing qualities.
  • Ideal containers for olive oil are dark glass, inox, or ceramic bottles, avoiding PVC containers.
  • Look for the cold-pressed method, low acidity (<0.8% for extra virgin), harvest date, and classification on the label.
  • Certificates indicating origin, eco-production, and other country-specific certifications are important.

Steps To Check When Buying High-Quality Olive Oil

woman tasting high quality olive oil

Before you even consider buying a bottle of olive oil in the market, you should first check some of the essential things that may indicate the quality of the olive oil. Let’s see what you should check.

1. Type of Container Or Bottle

Packaging is extremely important for olive oil, especially when we talk about extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), which is the healthiest of all types of olive oil. Olive oil shouldn’t be exposed to natural or artificial light because it can endanger its taste and some of its health benefits.

The best types of containers for olive oil are:

  1. Dark glass bottles
  2. Inox bottles
  3. Ceramic bottles

Inox is the best choice, but you won’t find it often either in shops or in small olive-growing companies. So, most manufacturers will sell olive oil in dark glass bottles.

You should stay away from PVC containers because they won’t block light and will also affect the taste of olive oil by dissolving some of the PVC ingredients into the oil, making it less healthy.

For instance, you’ll find that all artisan olive oil producers only use dark bottles, even the ones with additional UV protection to keep the oil fresh for longer.

2. Check the Oil Characteristics On The Bottle

Checking the oil characteristics on the bottle is extremely important. All „serious“ manufacturers will have the following info on the bottle:

  1. Press method (cold pressed and cold extracted are the best)
  2. Smell and taste characteristics
  3. Olive oil acidity (aim for <0.8% for extra virgin olive oil)
  4. Harvest date (check here why it’s so important)
  5. Best before date
  6. Olive oil name classification – if it says „extra virgin olive oil“, it should be high-quality, but make sure to check all the data above to confirm it. If it says just „olive oil“, it’s lower quality olive oil, and if it says „pure olive oil“, stay out of it (unless you need specifically that).

For instance, if you’re looking for extra virgin olive oil, and you don’t see the press method or olive oil acidity information on the bottle, it may be a sign of low-quality olive oil, and I would stay away from it.

Every serious manufacturer should be clear about all the data about olive oil without hiding anything.

3. Certificates

Many countries have specific laws that require manufacturers to put certificates on the bottle. In the EU and USA, it’s pretty strict, and you should check all bottles for some of the following certificates (depending on the country you live in):

  1. Certificate of the origin or geographical location – these certificates may show you the country of the main ingredient (olives in this case), etc.
  2. Eco production certificates – these certificates may show you whether some chemicals or GMOs were used during olive growth, harvest, and oil production.
  3. Any other certificates specified by the country (check the link here)

Also, some olive oils will have QR codes on the bottles so that you can check all the information quickly by scanning it with your smartphone. They will often show you how that oil was made (from harvest to oil).

If You Can, Try Olive Oil Before Buying

olive oil sommelier, woman

Even though most people buy olive oil in markets/shops, I would recommend you to try buying olive oil from some smaller factories because they’ll often allow you to taste olive oil before buying it.

That’s the best way to determine the olive oil quality, but it can also be an indication that olive oil is bad quality if they don’t allow you to taste it.

Quick Olive Oil Quality Test With a Tumbler Glass

There’s one extremely quick and easy way of tasting olive oil, and anyone can do it.

Steps to do an oil quality test with a tumbler glass:

  • Take a small glass (tumbler glass).
  • Pour olive oil into it.
  • Close the glass with your hand and keep it closed for a minute so the oil can warm up a little bit.
  • Move the hand, and smell it. If it feels like fruit (tomato), nuts, ricola, or grass, it’s an indication of high-quality olive oil. If it smells like vinegar, wax, or wine, or it has a neutral smell, it’s low-quality olive oil.
  • Lastly, take a sip of olive oil, keep it in your mouth for a few seconds, and then swallow. If the taste is intense and bittery – it’s a sign of quality olive oil. Also, if you cough, that’s also a good sign – high-quality olive oils have a slightly bittery taste because of the antioxidants in them.

I think that’s the easiest method for tasting olive oil and determining its quality. There are plenty of other methods too, but this one is straightforward. Here’s my detailed guide on how to taste olive oil.

The Taste of High-Quality Olive Oil

Even though I already told you how olive oil should smell and taste, I want to talk about olive oil properties a bit more thoroughly now. There are many variants of olive oil, and not all of them will smell the same way.

I made a quick table with „good“ and „bad“ for each type of property, so you can easily read and remember it for future purchases.

Smell (Aroma)Grass, fruit, fresh, tomato, nutsWithout smell, crayons, stale peanuts
Flavor (Taste)Slightly bitter, intense, pungentFusty, musty, vinegary, winey, rancid, metallic
FluidityMedium to lowHigh fluidity (similar to water)
Good and bad olive oil properties

Final Words

It’s not hard to recognize a high-quality extra virgin olive oil. All you need is to learn a few things that I told you above, and you’re ready to go into the next adventure of finding a good quality olive oil. Also, don’t forget to check the price of olive oil. High-quality olive oils are usually expensive, and if the oil is extremely cheap compared to others, it may be a sign of low-quality olive oil.

Remember, I advise you to buy olive oil from smaller companies or souvenir shops that’ll allow you to try it before buying. If they’re so convinced of the quality of their olive oil, they’ll always allow you to try a sip of it.

If you’re looking to buy high-quality olive oil, make sure to check out our olive oil web shop, where we’ve picked the best olive oils across the globe, and every single olive oil in our shop is of fantastic quality.