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CRAFTSMANSHIP

- Expertise and emotion -

Harvest

kormos olive oil

Olives are harvested in the autumn and winter. More specifically in the Northern Hemisphere, green olives are picked from the end of September to about the middle of November. Blond olives are picked from the middle of October to the end of November, and black olives are collected from the middle of November to the end of January or early February. In southern Europe, harvesting is done for several weeks in winter, but the time varies in each country, and with the season and the cultivar.

Most olives today are harvested by shaking the boughs or the whole tree. Using olives found lying on the ground can result in poor quality oil, due to damage. Another method involves standing on a ladder and "milking" the olives into a sack tied around the harvester's waist. This method produces high quality oil. A third method uses a device called an oli-net that wraps around the tree trunk and opens to form an umbrella-like catcher from which workers collect the fruit. Another method uses an electric tool, the oliviera, that has large tongs that spin around quickly, removing fruit from the tree. Olives harvested by this method are used for oil.

Table olive varieties are more difficult to harvest, as workers must take care not to damage the fruit; baskets that hang around the worker's neck are used. In some places in Italy, Croatia, and Greece, olives are harvested by hand because the terrain is too mountainous for machines. As a result, the fruit is not bruised, which leads to a superior finished product. The method also involves sawing off branches, which is healthy for future production.

The amount of oil contained in the fruit differs greatly by cultivar; the pericarp is usually 60–70% oil. Typical yields are 1.5–2.2 kg (3.3–4.9 lb) of oil per tree per year.

Extraction

kormos olive oil

Olive oil is produced by grinding olives and extracting the oil by mechanical or chemical means. Green olives usually produce more bitter oil, and overripe olives can produce oil that is rancid, so for good extra virgin olive oil care is taken to make sure the olives are perfectly ripened. The process is generally as follows:

  1. The olives are ground into paste using large millstones (traditional method) or steel drums (modern method).
  2. If ground with mill stones, the olive paste generally stays under the stones for 30 to 40 minutes. A shorter grinding process may result in a more raw paste that produces less oil and has a less ripe taste, a longer process may increase oxidation of the paste and reduce the flavor. After grinding, the olive paste is spread on fiber disks, which are stacked on top of each other in a column, then placed into the press. Pressure is then applied onto the column to separate the vegetal liquid from the paste. This liquid still contains a significant amount of water. Traditionally the oil was shed from the water by gravity (oil is less dense than water). This very slow separation process has been replaced by centrifugation, which is much faster and more thorough. The centrifuges have one exit for the (heavier) watery part and one for the oil. Olive oil should not contain significant traces of vegetal water as this accelerates the process of organic degeneration by microorganisms. The separation in smaller oil mills is not always perfect, thus sometimes a small watery deposit containing organic particles can be found at the bottom of oil bottles.
  3. In modern steel drum mills the grinding process takes about 20 minutes. After grinding, the paste is stirred slowly for another 20 to 30 minutes in a particular container (malaxation), where the microscopic oil drops unite into bigger drops, which facilitates the mechanical extraction. The paste is then pressed by centrifugation/ the water is thereafter separated from the oil in a second centrifugation as described before. The oil produced by only physical (mechanical) means as described above is called virgin oil. Extra virgin olive oil is virgin olive oil that satisfies specific high chemical and organoleptic criteria (low free acidity, no or very little organoleptic defects). A higher grade extra virgin olive oil is mostly dependent on favourable weather conditions; a drought during the flowering phase, for example, can result in a lower quality (virgin) oil. It is worth noting that olive trees produce well every couple of years so greater harvests occur in alternate years (the year in-between is when the tree yields less). However the quality is still dependent on the weather.
  4. 4. Sometimes the produced oil will be filtered to eliminate remaining solid particles that may reduce the shelf life of the product. Labels may indicate the fact that the oil has not been filtered, suggesting a different taste. Fresh unfiltered olive oil usually has a slightly cloudy appearance, and is therefore sometimes called cloudy olive oil. This form of olive oil used to be popular only among olive oil small scale producers but is now becoming "trendy", in line with consumer's demand for products that are perceived to be less processed.

The remaining paste (pomace) still contains a small quantity (about 5–10%) of oil that cannot be extracted by further pressing, but only with chemical solvents. This is done in specialised chemical plants, not in the oil mills. The resulting oil is not "virgin" but "pomace oil".Handling of olive waste is an environmental challenge because the wastewater, which amounts to more than 30 million cubic meters annually in the Mediterranean region, is not biodegradable and cannot be processed through conventional water treatment systems.

The remaining paste (pomace) still contains a small quantity (about 5–10%) of oil that cannot be extracted by further pressing, but only with chemical solvents. This is done in specialised chemical plants, not in the oil mills. The resulting oil is not "virgin" but "pomace oil".Handling of olive waste is an environmental challenge because the wastewater, which amounts to more than 30 million cubic meters annually in the Mediterranean region, is not biodegradable and cannot be processed through conventional water treatment systems.

Production and consumption

In 2014, world production of virgin olive oil was 3.05 million tonnes (table), a 9% increase over 2013 global production.Spain produced 1.7 million tonnes or 56% of world production. The next four largest producers – Italy, Greece, Tunisia and Morocco – collectively produced less than half of Spain's annual total .

Some 75% of Spain's production derives from the region of Andalucía, particularly within Jaén province which produces 70% of olive oil in Spain. The world’s largest olive oil mill (almazara, in Spanish), capable of processing 2,500 tons of olives per day, is in the town of Villacarrillo, Jaén.

Although Italy is a net importer of olive oil, it produced 294,914 tonnes in 2014 or 10% of the world's production , a decline of 6% from 2013 production. Major Italian producers are known as "Città dell'Olio", "oil cities"; including Lucca, Florence and Siena, in Tuscany. The largest production, however, is harvested in Apulia and Calabria. Greece accounted for 11% of world production in 2013.

Australia now produces a substantial amount of olive oil. Many Australian producers only make premium oils, while a number of corporate growers operate groves of a million trees or more and produce oils for the general market. Australian olive oil is exported to Asia, Europe and the United States.

In North America, Italian and Spanish olive oils are the best-known, and top-quality extra-virgin olive oil from Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece are sold at high prices, often in prestige packaging. A large part of U.S. olive oil imports come from Italy, Spain, and Turkey.

The United States produces olive oil in California, Arizona, Texas, and Georgia.

Global consumption

Greece has by far the largest per capita consumption of olive oil worldwide, over 24 liters (5.3 imp gal; 6.3 U.S. gal) per person per year: Spain and Italy, around 14 l; Tunisia, Portugal, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, around 8 l. Northern Europe and North America consume far less, around 0.7 l, but the consumption of olive oil outside its home territory has been rising steadily.

Global Market

The main producing and consuming countries are:

table