AND ASSESSING OLIVE OIL
& COOKING ARTICLE
we have been talking about olive oil. Now we are going
to taste it. Tasting olive oil is an art rather like
tasting wine. But you do not need to be an expert to
appreciate the interesting differences in tastes and
flavours which can be found in olive oils from different
all you are tasting and evaluating different foods and
drinks all the time. "I like that kind of bread",
or "I don't like that wine" are common remarks.
You are, of course, using your senses of taste and smell
to make these judgements. But you just don't think about
it very much.
secret of good tasting is to think about the food or
drink that you are tasting. So every time you use an
oil at home take a little taste and think about it.
Try to describe the oil to yourself.
this way you will start to answer that most important
question "What does it taste like?" You will
also start to build up a taste memory for olive oil
and this will make it easier to compare oils in the
is actually built on your sense of smell. Try holding
your nose when you taste the first oil later this morning
and you will find that you will not have very much idea
about its flavour taste. The tongue and palate can only
assess sweetness, sourness, saltiness and bitterness
and only the latter is appropriate to olive oil. (Sweetness
in olive oil refers to lack of pungency rather than
mouth will give you some idea of the texture of the
oil and its degree of pepperyness. The latter is detected
at the back of the throat in much the same way as you
detect chilli peppers. Remember that your reaction of
pepperyness builds up over time. So later oils may seem
to be more peppery even if they are not.
aroma and flavour of an olive oil is the key to its
enjoyment and so tasting is an essential part of the
official assessment of an oil. An extra virgin olive
oil must not only contain less than 1% acidity it must
also have a perfect aroma and perfect flavour.
analysis is used to detect the acidity levels and chemical
make up of the oil but the perfect aroma and flavour
which are also required can only ba assessed by the
human senses of smell and taste.
people think that the colour of the oil is also important
but this is merely an aesthetic judgement and has nothing
to do with quality or flavour. Indeed professional tasting
of olive oil takes place in blue containers so that
the tasters cannot prejudge the oil from its colour
and we too shall be operating like that today.
tasters will warm their blue tasting glasses in the
palm of the hand before sniffing the aromas and then
tasting the oil. The oil is rolled around the mouth
so that it comes into contact with all the taste buds
in the different parts of the tongue and palate. At
the same time air is drawn through the teeth. This helps
to release the full aromas and flavours of the oil.
Things are a little simpler for us but you will be able
to smell the oils and then taste with a teaspoon or
what should you be looking for? The first step is to
assess the style of the oil. All olive oils should have
a good aroma of freshly pressed olives but is the oil
sweet and delicate or intensely pungent or does it lie
somewhere in between? And secondly how peppery is it?
Remember though that pepperyness does not necessarily
rule out sweetness or delicacy mean a lack of complexity.
all good olive oils should smell of olives there are
many other interesting aromas and fragrances to be found
in olive oils from different regions. Perfect aroma
and flavour does not mean the same aroma and flavour.
the next step is to consider what other flavours are
present. The possibilities include fruity flavours,
grassy/leafy aromas, nuts and other attractive tastes.
Now you must translate what your nose and palate are
telling you into information which you can remember
and communicate to others. How are you going to answer
that question "What does it taste like?"
about aromas and flavours is not easy. First of all
you need to search your taste memory for flavour comparisons
and this is not always as simple as it sounds. Your
idea of a nutty aromas may not be the same as mine.
these problems I have made an attempt to enlarge the
tasting vocabulary in general use and this was published
in a paper entitled "Taste and Flavour inf Olive
Oil" which was commissioned by the European Union
descriptive words relate to the basic style of the oil
and take in words like aromatic, bitter, complex, fruity,
green, intense, peppery, pungent, smooth, sweet and
words such as aggressive, delicate, fragrant, harmonious,
mellow, rich, rounded and rustic sum up the overall
tasting experience. It is important to note how your
reactions to the first taste of the oil in the mouth
to that left after you have swallowed the oil blend
together. Harmony probably the key word here.
relating to the often exotic secondary aromas and flavours
take in fruits like apples, bananas, lemons, melons,
pears, pineapples, passion fruit and tomatoes.
aromas include gass, flowers, hay and leaves together
with vegetable tastes such as artichokes, avocados,
rocket, salad leaves, sorrel and watercress. Nutty tastes
relate to almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts.
is just a selection of words from tasting over 180 olive
oils for my book the Olive Oil Companion and from numerous
tastings of oils from all round the world in the UK.
But don't let me inhibit your. Your taste comparisons
are your own and you may want to add many more words.
and prosciuto came up at a UK wine magazine tasting
earlier this year, tyres and petrol have been offered
by students on a tasting course and eggy, creamy and
even chocolatey are becoming overworked.
and describing the many and varied flavours of olive
oil is fascinating but we must not lose sight of the
fact not many of us sit round drinking olive oil. It
is not usually served on it own. Of course, there is
nothing like a piece of bread dipped in a good olive
oil before a meal. But more often we use it with other
these descriptions must help us to answer the second
question which comes to mind when buying olive oil -
"How shall I use this oil". After all olive
oil is a flavouring ingredient in its own right. Some
oils go well with well flavoured herbs and salad leaves
and some are better used with grilled fish or chicken.
and delicate oils, for example, may be best served with
soft salad leaves or gently cooked fish. Their lightly
exotic flavours will be enhanced by a little heat whereas
very strongly flavoured oils may need chargrilled meats
or robust soups to balance their flavours.
have achieved some good results serving nutty flavoured
oils with trout or green beans, both foods I would often
have considered cooking with real nuts. Tomato flavoured
oils are excellent on tomatoes themselves. The most
exotic combination I have come across was a dish of
plainly sliced oranges served with the passion fruit
flavoured oil from
and matching different olive oils with different foods
adds another exciting element to cooking and if you
get the match right you can lift a meal from the pedestrian
to the celestial.
article comes from a Greek talk in the garden of a monastery
Copyright 2008 Judy Ridgway - www.oliveoil.org.uk
21 March 2008
Hub-UK : firstname.lastname@example.org