There is a lot of confusion surrounding the different types of olive oil, and it is especially difficult to tell the difference between a quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil and the rest. We are going to try and explain the differences between olive oils that can be found in supermarkets and of course, why olive oils vary in price.

Natural Olive Oil and Refined Olive Oil

These are the two big groups of olive oils: natural olive oil, produced by mechanical methods only, and refined olive oil, which undergoes some form of heat or chemical treatment and, as a result, loses flavour and the majority of its health-boosting antioxidants. So, you’re probably wondering…why bother to ‘refine’ it? Firstly: to reduce its acidity to somewhere between 0.4º and 0.6º. Secondly: to make it cheaper (if you had any doubts!). The big producers buy up olive oil from multiple sources, most of it very low in quality and very high in acidity, above 3.3º. They buy it at very cheap prices, put it through heat and chemical treatment and send it off to the supermarkets in fancy bottles whose contents have absolutely no likeness to natural olive oil.

Normally, refined olive oil comes mixed with virgin olive oil, although there are some very cheap brands whose olive oil is 100% refined. So why bother to mix it? Aha! That would be because on the label, it looks (and sells) a lot better to have the words “composed exclusively of virgin olive oils and refined olive oils”. Doesn’t sound half bad, does it? Here’s an example from a supermarket:

How do you know if an Olive Oil is refined?

The answer is simple: it has to say so somewhere on the label, even if the font size is tiny! So if your short sight isn’t so good, this might be a little tricky, hehe! At the moment, it’s also fashionable to put things like “Medium flavour” or “Mild flavour” or just “Olive Oil” on the label. These are, without a doubt, clues that the bottle contains a refined or mixed (mix of natural and refined) olive oil.

So, we’ve learned a little more about refined olive oil versus the benefits of natural olive oil, with the natural olive oil’s infinitely higher content in natural antioxidants. It is far better for your health, and its flavour is pure and unmodified, having undergone absolutely no chemical treatment.

In the second part, we will look at the differences between different types of natural olive oils: extra virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil and just plain olive oil (but the all-natural one, not the refined stuff!)

I hope you have enjoyed reading and feel free to leave a comment below. Thank you!