As promised, I’d like to share the second part of the Prima Mensa story with you, a humble dream that took more than just a humble effort to make reality!
If you missed the first part, you can read it here: Prima Mensa, love at first taste… (I)
Three months after that phone call, I went to see Migue and Ricardo. I had to convince them that it was possible to get the marvellous oil I’d tasted that evening in November to you. It was no easy task, negotiating with 4th generation olive growers, Puente Genil born and bred…
“Migue, Ricardo, we need to get this olive oil to Mi Oliva Gourmet. I truly believe that if we show how much it’s worth, there’ll be people who know how to appreciate it. It started off the same for Spanish wine, but decades later people really began to appreciate the differences between one wine and another. They understand that small productions take care of the process from the vine to the barrel, that they’re dealing with reserve wines, real quality, tempranillo wines… We’ve still got a long way to go with olive oil. It’s true that there aren’t many people in Spain who know about prime ripeness, percentage yield, harvesting from the tree instead of the ground… All of it is Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but where does it end up? Do you remember what the head of the press told us the day we were there? ‘Those tankers contain extraordinary olive oil. And they’re taking it to Italy to be mixed with far lower quality oils, just to improve the taste and quality…'”
With some indignation, Michael said,
“Well of course, to reduce acidity so they can sell it as Extra Virgin Olive Oil…”
“Exactly Migue,” I replied, “and now it’s time someone spoke out. We’ll be the first and they’ll call us crazy, but I really believe it’s worth it. Plus, if we can’t do it here, I can help you to get it on Amazon to sell in the UK, in France and Germany. They appreciate Extra Virgin Olive Oil over there. Oils inferior to yours would cost you £30 a bottle.”
Actually, there was something I wasn’t telling them. I was afraid. Afraid of failure. Of not being able to get the right value for such a unique olive oil. Afraid that they’d put their trust in me and I’d end up losing them a lot of money… But if you don’t overcome your fears, your dreams will never become reality.
We talked and talked. They asked lots of questions. I already knew the answer to many of them, but for many others I didn’t have the answer. I had to get by as best I could, trying to gain their trust. And I know that with a bit of effort, anything is possible.
This was step one. Migue and Ricardo were on board, they joined the dream!
But we still had a long way to go. My mission was clear, and we had less than nine months…
So I started to research renowned olive oils. All of them came in elegant, original packaging. So I thought: we have to find an elegant bottle, if they’re all sold like that, it has to be done…
My search took me to Italy, where you find the best glass producers.
But I came up against a wall.
It turns out that, as well as being very expensive, they ask for a minimum order of 10,000 bottles so that the price doesn’t end up being more expensive than the oil they’d contain! Madness! How was I going to tell Miguel and Ricardo that they had to spend so much in pursuit of a dream?
Then I remembered the unlabelled bottle that had sat in my passenger seat… It had seemed to me like the most expensive receptacle in the world, yet it hadn’t been anything extravagant, just a little bottle. It’s what’s on the inside that counts, not the outside! What if we used this same bottle?
And that’s what we did!
I continued researching renowned olive oils.
They’d all received awards.
So I started to look into olive oil awards.
And do you know what I found out?
They required sealed tanks of at least 3,000 litres! And our production was going to be extremely selective, only coming from the best place in olive grove. That would be 1,000 litres at most… So I had to forget about awards too. They were for large production businesses, very different from our aim of extracting the best olive oil possible.
Now it was just the name to go.
I called up my friend Jose María, from Al Margen. This was his speciality. I told him the whole story. I enlisted him in our dream. I told him that the name had to sound just as good throughout the rest of Europe as it did in Spain.
Within the week, he’d sent me his suggestions:
– Fundum lares, the country house of the gods, the farm of the gods.
– Prima mensa, main dish or pièce de résistance.
– Fundum Baetica, the heart of Andalusia.
I spoke with Ricardo and Migue and we decided on the second. I hope that you agree that it was the right decision!
The final thing to organise were the cases. We wanted cases that weren’t expensive. After my experience with the glass bottles, I decided not to lose time imitating ‘prestigious olive oils’. The value of Prima Mensa would be on the inside, not the outside.
Nevertheless, I came up against the same problem. The accursed minimum order!
All of the box suppliers told me that a minimum order would be between 6,000 and 8,000 cases! I also got in contact with online box suppliers, who permitted smaller orders, but the prices were ridiculous.
We were now getting to the end of November and I was running out of time. Migue was nervous. Ricardo called me two days out of every three to see how everything was going. The olives had already been harvested and the oil from the first pressing pressed. The only thing I had in my favour was the success of Arraigo.
Suddenly, like something out of a film, I was chatting about photos with Jose María from Al Margen, and happened to mention the problem I had. He told me he’d make a few calls. Perhaps he could find a supplier who would take a smaller order.
And he did! We set about designing the case: simple, practical, elegant, durable and, above all, inexpensive. By the end of December, we had everything ready.
Success! We wanted the price of Prima Mensa to be 80% the olive oil and 20% the other elements. For an olive oil of this kind, the price is normally 60% olive oil and 40% the rest. We hadn’t just achieved, we’d gone above and beyond!
An amazing 85% of the price of Prima Mensa was representative of the olive oil itself, the purest Olive Oil from San Miguel’s Olive Grove.
We were over the moon!
Since putting it on the website and writing the first part of this story, a third of it has already been reserved!
And I’ve already tasted it. It was at the end of December with Migue and Ricardo, when we were taking a photo (the one you can see above) with Arraigo and Prima Mensa in the olive grove, and they gave me a little bottle of it. It is a delicacy, a flavour so intense, so full of nuances and subtle tones, a lot smoother than Arraigo when it comes to bitterness and spiciness, but with a fuller aftertaste, if that’s possible.
A real gem!
I’m only ever serving it raw. I’ve already invited three groups of friends round to try it: just the olive oil and, other than pieces of bread for tasting it, nothing else.
Well, I hope that you have enjoyed hearing a little more about Prima Mensa. This article has ended up being rather long, and there’s still a lot I haven’t mentioned. Some trouble at the olive press, the fear of a drought, the week of the harvest, the incredible analysis results, the anticipation of awaiting its success…
Perhaps I’ll get to it and write the third instalment of Prima Mensa’s story 😉
Unless you’re starting to fall asleep!!
Whatever the case, I’d like to say thank you, a huge thank you for reading this, for supporting us, and for all your comments on the website…
See you soon! x