What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil Anyway?

What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil Anyway?

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is pure olive juice passionately referred to over thousands of years as “liquid gold” and it is a healthy fat obtained from the olive, a traditional Mediterranean tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin. EVOO is produced by pressing whole olives picked during an early harvest (first and second harvest) usually occurring around the first full moon in late November and/or early December into February depending on the annual climate leading up to the harvest period in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemispheric producing countries of Australia, Chile and Argentina this harvest would occur around July. EVOO is commonly used in the Mediterranean diet.


EVOO is extracted by first pressing semi-ripened olives of the flavorful, monounsaturated oil. The flavor, color and fragrance of olive oils can vary dramatically depending on distinctions such as the annual climate, the cultivar (varietal), growing region and the crop's condition. EVOO can range from a crystalline champagne color to greenish-golden to bright green. In general, the deeper the color, the more intense the olive flavor. EVOO is graded in accordance with the degree of acidity they contain. EVOO is cold-pressed at less than 86°F (30°C) by mechanical means, within a chemical-free process that involves only pressure and no solvents nor heat thus producing natural levels of low acidity. For the EVOO, the cold-pressed result of the first pressing of the olives is less than 0.8 grams acidity (oleic acid) per 100 grams or 0.80%. It is considered the finest and fruitiest of the olive oils and is therefore also the most expensive do to the nature of selected picking and processing. It should have no defects and the flavor of fresh olives.


After extra virgin, olive oils are classified in order of ascending acidity. Virgin olive oil is also a first-press oil; however, the olive fruit is picked later at maximum maturation for maximum yield providing a higher oil yield with a higher level of acidity not more than 2 grams per 100 grams or 2%.


The “extra virgin” designation will only apply once the olive oil undergoes an International Olive Council (IOC) recognized official chemical test in an approved laboratory and a sensory evaluation by an IOC recognized trained tasting panel. For olive oil to be designated as EVOO, it must be found to be free from defects while exhibiting tastes of bitterness, fruitiness and pungency which is the peppery sensation in the mouth and throat associated with EVOO. All Olivar Santamaria Picual EVOO is guaranteed “extra virgin” and all analytics are provided by an authorized laboratory of the Consejeria de Agricultura y Pesca of Spain.

Picual Olive

Picual is an olive fruit varietal grown primarily in Spain in the Province of Jaén and the Region of Andalucía over an area of about 645,000 hectares (1.6 million acres). Picual olives are the most commonly grown olives for olive oil production with approximately 25% of the total olive oil production in the world and approximately 50% of the total olive oil production of Spain.


Olivar Santamaria Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Picual olives have some of the highest levels of polyphenols, an organic compound which is known to have antioxidant effects. Less than one quarter of the Picual harvest each year qualifies as EVOO as Picual groves are primarily harvested when ripe or overripe to maximize oil content and yield. The excellence of the EVOO it produces is due to the fatty acid content and the antioxidants. Picual EVOO usually contains 0 Defects, Acidity <0.80%, Oleic Acid 55 – 83%, Peroxides (meg O2 / Kg) <20, Polyphenols 100 – 500+, UV Absorption K-270 of <0.22. Olivar Santamaria Picual EVOO analytics on average possesses approximate 0 Defects, Acidity of <0.20%, Oleic Acid of 80%, Peroxides (meg O2 / Kg) of 5.4, Polyphenols of 500+, UV Absorption K-270 of <.10 and High Smoke Point of 405 ͦ F. These analytics are available from Khayyan LLC upon request.


The Picual oils of low-lying lands tend to have more body, with a slightly bitter taste and a hint of wood, while the Picual olives cultivated in the mountain regions tend to be sweeter, with a fresh flavor. Olivar Santamaria Picual EVOO gets its edge from the harsh climate of the beautiful central Spain region where grown. Picual derives its name from its pointed tip (pico). The olive is medium weighing approximately 3.2 grams. Maturation takes place between the beginning of November and mid-Janaury and the oil yield is considered high, reaching about 27%. Picual has a medium body, smooth texture, and sweet, buttery taste, but it finishes with a “peppery kick” given the polyphenol count that gives it an extra layer of flavor.

The more peppery kick and bitterness the healthier. Olivar Santamaria EVOO is an excellent choice for use as an everyday olive oil. As an all-purpose oil, Olivar Santamaria works beautifully in sauces and salads, and is a delicious counterpart to flavorful lemons and vinegars. For an appetizer, sprinkle it with assorted grated cheeses and spices and use it as a dipper for your favorite breads. When warmed, Olivar Santamaria EVOO gives off the aromas of green fruit, green grass, tomato, almond and notes of flowers, chamomile. Taste exhibits abundant fruitiness, green leaves, sweetness, bitterness, vigorous pungency and notes of artichokes, exotic fruits, almond, with exceptional harmony, a high complexity and a high persistence with that slight peppery finish.


Polyphenols are antioxidants found in a variety of foods particularly in Extra Virgin Olive Oils (EVOO). Polyphenols such as Oleuropein, Oleocanthal, and hydroxytyrosol demonstrate intense flavors connected with pepper, bitterness and other desirable flavors characteristics of EVOO.  The Picual olive fruit variety tends to exhibit the highest polyphenol count in the olive fruit universe. Recent studies indicate that these potent phenols are responsible for many of the health benefits associated with consuming fresh, high quality EVOO. Phenols in olive oil decrease over time or when exposed to heat, oxygen and light.


Consuming fresh, optimally produced EVOO with high polyphenol content is crucial when looking to obtain the maximum health benefit commonly associated with consuming EVOO. 

Not all EVOO is created equal thus not all EVOO contain the same polyphenol content, which is determined by several factors:




The variety of olive fruit used to produce the oil determines the polyphenol count of the oil itself.

For example, Picual olives have a very high polyphenol count and Arbequina have a very low count.



Time of Picking

Oil produced from unripe (green) olives will be richer in polyphenols compared to oil

produced from the same olives that have been allowed to reach maturity.



Environmental Factors

The annual climate, altitude, irrigation and cultivation have an impact on polyphenol counts.



Extraction Conditions

Polyphenols are lost when techniques meant to enhance yield are utilized, such as adding

water, heating the paste and increasing malaxation time.



Storage Containers

The longer an oil sits the less polyphenols it will have. Storing the olive oil in the right

container will extend the oil’s life and keep the polyphenols from oxidizing too quickly.


In general, polyphenols are substances that are found in many plants and provide some flowers, fruits, and vegetables their color. Polyphenols have antioxidant activity that protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals (unstable molecules made by the process of oxidation during normal metabolism). Free radicals may play a part in cancer, heart disease, stroke, and other diseases of aging. Antioxidants include beta-carotene, lycopene, vitamins A, C, and E, and other natural and manufactured substances. Olive oil is a natural fruit juice with an average shelf life of approximately 9-15 months from the date of pressing. Higher quality EVOO with high polyphenol counts and high oleic acid counts will last longer, approximately 23 months, if stored in a dark environment at room temperature.

Organoleptic Evaluation

Olivar Santamaria




Extra Virgin


After a series of sensoral analytics and once experts' conditions are met a panel evaluates the olive oil and arrives at the quality designation. Designations range from "extra virgin", "virgin", "refined" and "pomace"

Md (Median of Defect)



Median of Defects (Md). A calculation of the median score from a panel of tasters or an equivalent scoring method that characterizes the negative flavor and odor attributes of virgin olive oil. The characterizations of flavors lists musty, fusty, winey- vinegary, muddy-sediment,

and rancid.

Mf (Median of Fruity)


> 0

Median of Fruity (Mf). A calculation of the median score from a panel of tasters or an equivalent scoring method that characterizes "virgin" olive oil produced from olives. The characterizations of flavors lists olives, apple, green, sweet, grass, nutty and tomato.

Acidity (% of Oleic Acid)



The higher the acidity the lower the quality. For EVOO the acidity must be less than 0.80%. Free fatty acidity is a direct measure of the quality of the oil and reflects the care taken right from picking the fruit to the eventual bottling/packaging and consequent sale of the oil.

Oleic Acid


55.00 - 83.00%

It is a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid found in olive oil. Olive oil is generally higher in oleic acid than other vegetable fats.

Palmitic Acid


7.5 - 20.0%

It is the most common fatty acid found in animals, plants and microorganisms.

Linoleic Acid


3.50 - 21.00%

It is a fatty acid component found in olive oil. Its level is used to establish the purity of the olive oil.

Linolenic (%)


0 - 0.90%

It is a polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid.

Peroxides (meg O2/kg)


< 20

A measure of the oxidation of olive oil expressed as milliequivalents of active oxygen per kilogram of oil.

UV Absorption K- 270


< 0.22

This test provides information on the quality of the oil, state of preservation, and changes brought about through processing. This is a more delicate indicator of oxidation, especially in oils that have been heated in the refining process. It measures the quantity of certain oxidized compounds that resonate at wavelengths of 232 and 270 nanometers (nm) in the ultraviolet spectrum in a spectrophotometer. Delta (Δ) K detects oil treatments with color removing substances and the presence of refined or pomace oil by measuring the difference between absorbance at 270 nm and 266 nm – 274 nm.



≤ 250

A determination used to identify the presence of pomace oil or seed oil. Wax content is higher in pomace oil because wax is found in the skin of the olive fruit. When the oil has a wax content between 300mg/kg and 350 mg/kg it is considered lampante virgin olive oil if the total aliphaticalcohol content is less than or equal to 350 mg/kg or the erythrodiol + uvaol content is less than or equal to 3.5 percent

Polyphenols (Antioxidants)


100 - 500+

Polyphenols are substances that are found in many plants and provide some flowers, fruits, and vegetables their color. Polyphenols have antioxidant activity that protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals (unstable molecules made by the process of oxidation during normal metabolism). Free radicals may play a part in cancer, heart disease, stroke, and other diseases of aging. Antioxidants include beta- carotene, lycopene, vitamins A, C, and E, and other natural and manufactured substances.

Smoke Point


200°F -


The smoke point is the temperature at which the oil is decomposed and where possibly toxicological relevant compounds are formed and the temperature at which visible gaseous vapor from the heating of oil becomes evident. It is traditionally used by chefs as a marker for when decomposition of the oil begins to take place which may not only result in reduced flavor and nutritional value but also may generation harmful cancer causing compounds (oxygen radicals) that are harmful to the health.



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