Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT IS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL (AKA EVOO)?
The term used to describe the highest quality of oil. For an oil to be classed as extra virgin olive oil it must have a FFA (free fatty acid) level of less than 0.8%. This measures the level of oxidation of the oil when it was made, and the lower the FFA the better. Olives are fruit so essentially extra virgin olive oil is olive juice.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN VIRGIN AND EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL?
Extra virgin olive oil has a FFA level of less than 0.8%, while virgin olive oil has an FFA level between 0.8% and 2.0%. Anything beyond that is pure olive oil.
WHAT MAKES THE FFA (Free Fatty Acid) SO LOW?
The FFA measures the level of oxidation. Air, light and water will oxidise your extra virgin olive oil, so packing the oil in dark glass or tin keeps the FFA low. To avoid exposing it to too much air, buy it in smaller amounts and screw the cap on tightly between uses. Make up dressings and things as needed, to minimise exposure to water-based dressing ingredients like lemon juice or vinegar.
CAN YOU COOK WITH EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL OR OLIVE OIL?
Yes. Whether your oil is extra virgin or pure, the smoke point is the same. A quality oil with nothing added has a smoke point of 210° Celsius (410° Fahrenheit). If olive oil smokes or spits at a lower temperature, it’s because there’s something else in the oil that’s smoking.
DOES HEATING EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL DAMAGE THE QUALITY OF THE OIL?
No. Heating olive oil won’t destroy the health benefits or nutrients of the oil, but you may lose some of its taste and aroma. We recommend using your best extra virgin olive oil as the finishing oil of the dish, or in recipes where olive oil is the star.
IS OLIVE OIL FATTENING?
Extra virgin olive oil is a monounsaturated fat. These healthy fats are most commonly found in olive oil, as well as some nuts and seeds. Eating these fats supports gut health and may even help with weight loss, and can reduce heart disease risk factors, as long as you’re not adding extra calories to your diet. Bonus: using olive oil boosts absorption of fat-soluble nutrients like vitamins A, D, E and K, lycopene, and beta-carotene.
WHY ARE THEY PICKED AT A VARIETY OF COLOURS?
Green olives contain more antioxidants, yield less oil and boast more peppery flavours. Dark olives have lower antioxidant levels, but yield more oil and offer fruitier flavours. If we waited for all olives on a tree to turn black, most would be over-ripe and oxidised. By picking when the olives are a mix of colours, we get the best balance of flavour, antioxidants and oil yield.
HOW LONG DOES EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL LAST?
Extra virgin olive oil has a best before date of two years. After that it will begin losing its taste and aroma, but will still be fine to use. From a food safety perspective, olive oil does last forever, as bacteria can’t grow in olive oil. But it won’t taste good.
WHAT DOES ‘COLD PRESSED’ MEAN?
First Cold Pressed was the original term for classifying olive oil as extra virgin. This changed to being based on the FFA level from the 1960s. Cold Pressing refers to the extraction method of washing, sorting, crushing, and kneading the olives into a paste, then layering that paste onto mats (like a pancake stack). The stack is pressed until the liquid seeps out and collects in a basin below. After waiting up to 24 hours, the oil has separated, floats to the top, and is skimmed off.
As technology developed, it was discovered that by heating the paste, you could extract more oil again, but it oxidised and therefore was not extra virgin. This was called the second press. This method also didn’t consider the quality of the olives, which could have been sitting around rotting before being the ‘first cold press’.
It doesn’t matter whether olive oil has been pressed or centrifugally separated. The FFA will indicate the quality and whether heat or poor-quality olives were used. Allpress, Rangihoua and number29 olive oils are cold extracted by centrifuge to retain their flavour, nutritional content, and very low FFA levels.
DO WE DO A SECOND EXTRACTION?
No. The centrifuge is very efficient – and can achieve 18-23% oil yield when the average used to be 12%. So, it’s not worthwhile using heat, and doing so would compromise on quality.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN HEALTH BENEFITS OF EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL?
Eating a balanced diet that includes extra virgin olive oil can lower inflammation and cholesterol, improve blood pressure, and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and dementia.
HOW SHOULD I USE EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL?
To elevate your food, extra virgin olive oil should be your third condiment, alongside salt and pepper. Delicious drizzled on many foods, it’s particularly good with soups, stews, meat, bread, salads and all vegetables. It even makes incredibly moist, flavour-rich cakes.