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Extra virgin olive oil: Benefits and properties of the liquid gold

Extra virgin olive oil is a product obtained from olives, a typical fruit of Mediterranean countries and indispensable in the preparation of one of the best culinary alternatives of our time. Since ancient times, olive oil has been used not only as food, but also for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. Nowadays, there is a wide variety of types and brands of extra virgin olive oil, although all of them are characterised by their nutritional properties, health benefits and exceptional taste. In this article, we will take a look at the history, types and varieties, the production process, nutritional advantages and health benefits, organoleptic characteristics, outstanding brands and products, and the places where you can buy extra virgin olive oil, among other aspects. A real journey to discover all the secrets of this liquid gold.

History of olive oil:

Origin and evolution of olive oil

Olive oil is a product originating from the Mediterranean area and its use dates back to the time of ancient civilisations. Evidence of the use of olive oil has been found in cultures such as the Greeks and Romans, who used it for both gastronomic and medicinal purposes. The Middle Ages saw an expansion of olive cultivation and, with it, olive oil, becoming a staple of everyday life in different European countries.

Olive oil in the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet is a way of eating that is characterised by the consumption of fresh and healthy food, in which extra virgin olive oil is one of the fundamental ingredients. This diet is widespread throughout the Mediterranean, being especially present in countries such as Spain, Italy and Greece. In addition to providing an incredible flavour and aroma to dishes, extra virgin olive oil is a source of healthy fats that, together with other components of the Mediterranean Diet, contribute to a healthier and more active life.

Types and varieties of olive oil:

Extra virgin olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil is considered the highest quality oil and is extracted directly from olives using mechanical processes. This oil has a fruity, aromatic taste and a greenish colour, and is rich in antioxidants and monounsaturated fatty acids, which help to prevent cardiovascular diseases.

Virgin olive oil

Virgin olive oil is obtained in the same way as extra virgin oil, but with lower acidity and less intensity in aroma, flavour and nutritional properties. It is ideal for use in cooking, especially in long cooking dishes.

Refined olive oil

Refined olive oil is obtained from virgin olive oils by chemical and physical refining processes, which reduces its acidity and flavour. This oil is cheaper and has fewer nutritional benefits than extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil.

Olive oil varieties: Picual, Hojiblanca, Arbequina and others.

There are several varieties of olive oil, with Picual, Hojiblanca and Arbequina standing out in Spain. The Picual variety is one of the most valued oils, with a slightly bitter and spicy taste and a high stability against oxidation. The Hojiblanca variety has a sweet and delicate taste and is rich in oleic acid, while the Arbequina variety offers a mild and fruity taste.

Early vs. late harvest

The date the olives are harvested influences the quality of the oil. Early harvesting tends to result in oils with more flavour and aroma, higher antioxidant content and lower acidity. In contrast, late harvesting is associated with oils with less flavour and aroma, higher acidity and less nutritional benefits.

Blend of olive oils

Coupage is a technique of blending different types of olive oils with the aim of obtaining an oil with ideal organoleptic and nutritional properties. Coupage can be carried out with different varieties, mixing oils from different territories or combining extra virgin oils with refined oils, for example. In general, coupage is used to improve the quality and stability of the oil.

Olive oil production process:

Olive harvesting

The olive oil production process begins with the harvesting of the olives. This task is carried out manually or with the help of specific machinery. It is important to carry out this task at the right moment in order to obtain a quality product.

Milling and churning

The next stage is grinding, which consists of crushing the olives until a homogeneous paste or mass is obtained. This paste is then gently beaten to release the oils contained inside.


Once the mixing is finished, the paste is left to decant in large containers. The decanting time may vary depending on the type of oil to be obtained. During this period, the solid residue goes to the bottom of the container, leaving the oil at the top.


Subsequently, the oil is filtered to separate any solid residues that may remain in it. This task is carried out with the help of special filters, such as cellulose filters. It is important to note that this process does not modify the quality or flavour of the oil.

Packaging and preservation

Finally, once the solid remains have been removed in the filtering process, the olive oil is bottled and preserved. In order to preserve its properties, the product must be stored in dark, cool and dry places and packaged in suitable containers for its correct preservation and protection against light and air.

Nutritional advantages and health benefits:

Properties of extra virgin olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil is one of the healthiest oils thanks to its nutritional profile. It is mostly composed of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that is beneficial in reducing the risk of heart disease and improving overall health. In addition to this, extra virgin olive oil also contains vitamin E, a natural antioxidant that protects the body’s cells and reduces oxidative damage. The presence of polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil also contributes to its nutritional value, as it has an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory function, and helps prevent the onset of chronic diseases.

Health benefits

Extra virgin olive oil is also known for its many health benefits. Some of these include:

Cardiovascular protection

The monounsaturated fatty acids present in extra virgin olive oil reduce LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) in the blood, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as arteriosclerosis, heart attacks and thrombosis. In addition, the aforementioned polyphenols also have a cardioprotective effect due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Cholesterol reduction

Extra virgin olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids which, unlike saturated fats, have a beneficial effect on blood cholesterol. It is also a good source of phytosterols, which are natural compounds that reduce cholesterol absorption in the intestine.

Cancer prevention

The polyphenols present in extra virgin olive oil have also been linked to a reduced risk of certain types of cancer, such as breast cancer and colorectal cancer. This is due to their ability to reduce inflammation and oxidative damage in the body.

Protection of the nervous system

Extra virgin olive oil is also beneficial for brain and nervous system health due to its oleic acid and polyphenol content. These offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory protection that helps prevent neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Organoleptic characteristics of olive oil:

Taste and aroma of olive oil

Flavour and aroma are two of the most important organoleptic characteristics of extra virgin olive oil. Flavour is defined as the set of taste and tactile sensations that we perceive in the mouth, while aroma refers to the olfactory sensations. In the case of extra virgin olive oil, its taste and aroma is influenced by numerous factors ranging from the geographical area where the olive is grown, the type of olive, the time of harvesting, the production process and preservation. Some of the organoleptic characteristics that we can find in extra virgin olive oil are:

– Oiled

– Fruity

– Bitter

– Spicy

The intensity and combination of these sensations varies according to the variety of olive and other factors mentioned above.

Sensory analysis and olive oil tastings

Sensory analysis is a technique used to evaluate the organoleptic characteristics of extra virgin olive oils. This technique is carried out by a panel of trained tasters, who evaluate different attributes of the olive oil such as flavour, aroma, pungency and bitterness, among others. The tasters use a tasting format that includes an evaluation sheet, where they score each of the attributes, and a glass to taste the oil. In this way, the defects and virtues of the olive oil can be detected, and it is possible to determine whether it meets the quality standards required to be considered extra virgin.

Storage and use in the kitchen

The conservation of extra virgin olive oil is essential to preserve its organoleptic and nutritional characteristics. It is important to store it in a cool, dark place, away from light and heat, so that it does not oxidise. In addition, it is advisable to use it within 12 months of its production, a date that can be found on the label of the packaging. As for its use in the kitchen, extra virgin olive oil is a very versatile ingredient that can be used both raw and in gentle cooking, such as sautéing and stews. In addition, its flavour and aroma make it an ideal ingredient for adding a special touch to salads, meat and fish, as well as for making sauces and vinaigrettes.

Featured products:

– 5-litre carafes: many brands offer larger carafes for those who use olive oil more frequently.
Organic olive oil: more and more consumers are looking for environmentally friendly and sustainably produced products, and organic olive oil is an increasingly popular choice.
Early harvest olive oil: this type of oil is obtained from the early harvesting of the olive, which gives it a more intense flavour and a higher antioxidant content.
Late harvest olive oil: on the contrary, this type of oil is obtained from the late harvesting of the olive, which gives it a milder and sweeter flavour.
Monovarietal olive oil: these are extra virgin olive oils produced from a single variety of olive, which gives them a different flavour and aroma depending on the variety used.

Where to buy extra virgin olive oil:

Online and physical shops

To buy extra virgin olive oil there are various options, both online and in physical shops. In the Espluga Calba oil cooperative, where you can find different formats of extra virgin olive oil from Arbequina olives.

Aspects to bear in mind when buying extra virgin olive oil

When buying extra virgin olive oil, it is important to bear in mind certain aspects that ensure its quality and authenticity. It is advisable to look for labels indicating that it is the result of the first cold pressing, that it has been produced in a specific geographical area and protected by a designation of origin, and that it has been packaged in dark containers to protect it from light. The expiry date, the variety of olive used and the acidity are also aspects to be assessed.

Tips to ensure the quality of extra virgin olive oil

Some tips to ensure the quality of extra virgin olive oil are to buy it in trusted shops, in cooperatives producing extra virgin olive oil, read the labels carefully and check that they comply with a designation of origin, and choose oils with an intense green colour, a fresh, fruity smell and a balanced, pleasant flavour. It is also recommended to store it in a cool, dark place, away from sources of heat and direct light, and not to mix it with other oils or foods that may alter its taste or quality.