In the first article, we learned about the differences between Natural Olive Oil and Refined Olive Oil, as well as the different mixtures that are created during the production process. In this article, we’ll find out about the differences between Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Virgin Olive Oil and just plain olive oil.

Remember that, as we saw in the first article, this classification is only for non-refined olive oils, which means they haven’t been treated with heat or chemicals.

The International Olive Council

Yes that’s right, there’s an international entity that was founded to establish the criteria that distinguish all oils that come from olives. This institution is the International Olive Council and is “the only intergovernmental organisation in the world that represents countries that produce and consume olive oil and table olives”. As such, its authority and criteria are recognised internationally.

The IOC publishes and maintains a document called the “TRADE STANDARD APPLYING TO OLIVE OILS AND OLIVE-POMACE OILS”. It is a very long document so we’ll sum up its most important points for you.

The most important part is its definition of Virgin Olive Oil:

Virgin olive oils are oils obtained from the fruit of the olive tree solely by mechanical or other physical means under conditions, particularly thermal conditions, that do not lead to alterations in the oil, and which has not undergone any treatment other than washing, decantation, centrifugation and filtration.

That means that all olive oil mixed with other types of olive oils can never be a virgin olive oil, by definition. Nor can it call itself Olive Oil; it should be labelled as Refined Olive Oil and the description that the seller could use would be: “a product of olive oil” or “exclusively from olive juice” etc.

Virgin and Extra Virgin Olive Oil

And now we come to the heart of the matter: How can we distinguish between an Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a Virgin Olive Oil? Actually, the answer is simple: WE CAN’T. The criteria is based on the quality of the olive oil, whose main characteristic is its acidity and oleic acid content. So we would use the following classification:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: has less than 0.8 grams of oleic acid for every 100g.
  • Virgin Olive Oil: has between 0.8g and 2g of oleic acid for every 100g.
  • Olive Oil: has between 2g and 3.3g of oleic acid for every 100g.

If you don’t happen to have a laboratory to hand, it’s impossible to tell, so it’s not obligatory to include this information on the label. For the Extra Virgin Olive Oils that we have on offer, we have gone directly to the factory to select them. We go into their laboratories and check that they are fulfilling the necessary controls to guarantee that the obtained juice is below 0.8g/100g. If not, we do not offer the oil in our selection 😉

Careful with what you buy…

We need to make an important clarification here: Olive oils with an oleic acid content of over 3.3g/100g are not considered fit for human consumption, unless they are refined. They aren’t harmful, but nor are they recommended. The incredible thing is that there are olive oils with over 3.3g/100g oleic acid that are sold as Olive Oil, merely because that they have been produced by manual or mechanical means, but with olives of very poor quality.

A long article published by the OCU (Spain’s Organisation of Consumers and Users) describes how they analysed 40 olive oils and found that 12 were of a category inferior to that claimed by the label. That means that almost 1 in 3 olive oils found in the supermarket are fraudulent. It’s sad but true. You can read the full article here, although it is in Spanish! Eroski, ArteOliva, Ybarra are just some of these brands.

We can’t ensure that all olive oil on the market is genuine Olive Oil, verifying it with taste and laboratory tests, but what we can do is bring to you the best of the best, directly. All of our olive oils are 5 star, as rated by the laboratory, by professional tasters and, above all, by you and your reviews. If an olive oil doesn’t satisfy one of these three requirements, it doesn’t reach our website 😉

So, our thanks once more for the confidence you have placed in us. We hope that this article, which has ended up a little longer than expected, has interested you and helped a little to clarify the confusing world of Olive Oil 😉 Don’t forget to leave a comment!