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How to taste extra virgin olive oil


How to taste extra virgin olive oil


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Learning to properly taste extra virgin olive oil will help you recognize both the positive and negative attributes of an oil.





To properly taste olive oil, one should use a small glass cup, preferably made of blue glass and bell-shaped.

Visual analysis

The visual aspect of the oil plays a minor role in determining the quality and should not influence your final judgment. For this reason, olive oil is often tasted in blue glass cups that mask the color. 

Olfactory analysis

- Take a small cup of oil, cover it with one hand and warm it up in the palm of your hand of your other hand.
- Remove your hand covering the cup and bring the cup to the base of your nose.
- Inhale 3 separate times, with pauses in between to keep olfactory sensory neurons alert.
- Try to memorize the aromas you experienced during the quick inhalations.

Flavor analysis

-Put a small amount of oil (8 to 10 drops) in your mouth and let them warm up for a minute or two, so that the volatile compounds evaporate.
-Begin inhaling or “sipping” air in quick, decisive gasps, being careful not to swallow the oil. This technique helps to oxygenize the oil and intensify the aromas.
- Roll the oil around in your mouth until it has covered all of your taste buds. Thanks to the simultaneous heating, oxygenation and rotating, the good and bad qualities of the oil are revealed.
- By this point, the oil should be distributed throughout your oral cavity and in particular across your tongue, from the tip, to the sides, to the back.
- It is important to remember the flavors you experience and in which order. Be sure to consider the tactile characteristics that describe the fluidity, the consistency and the greasiness, and the flavor elements, which can be described as sensations of sweet, bitter, and spicy.
- After you have done this, you can spit out the oil.

Positive attributes of extra virgin olive oil

Almond: flavor typical of fresh or dried almond. This is retro-nasal aroma, normally associated with sweet oils.
Apple: apple-flavored oil.
Artichoke: oil that tastes like tender part of an artichoke.
Bitter: a characteristic flavor of oil made from green olives. The bitterness should not be too strong; otherwise it would be considered a defect.
Floral: delicate flavor of white or yellow flowers.
Fruity: flavor of the oil that recalls the aroma and flavor of fresh, perfectly ripe fruit. Upon tasting the oil, you can begin to make the distinction between intense and delicate fruitiness. This former is direct, where as the latter is finer and less biting, both directly in the mouth and with regards to the retro-nasal aromas.
Green herbs: flavor reminiscent of the aroma of freshly cut grass.
Olio verde (Green Oil): the classic characteristic of Tuscan oils; great, fruit aromas and bright green color.
Ripeness: characteristic flavor of ripe olives often found in bright yellow-colored oils with round, sweet flavors. 
Roundness: oil that is full and well rounded.
Sweet: oil is considered sweet if it has a light flavor and delicate aroma.
Spicy: biting sensation that is characteristic of olive grown at the beginning of the countryside, and that are primarily still green. It is a pleasing aspect typical of oils from Tuscany, Puglia and Sicily. In order for spiciness to be considered a positive aspect of the oil, the sensation should be fleeting.
Spices/Vegetables/Apple: flavor associated with vegetal or spiced aromas.

Defects of extra virgin olive oil

Burnt/Heated: flavor of oils that were exposed to high temperatures during processing. 
Earthy:  oil made from olives taken from the ground and not washed properly before use.
Fermented:  defect caused by poor conservation of the olives, which causes them to ferment and gives the oil a warm, unpleasant flavor.
Hay/Wood: characteristic aroma of oils made from dry olives.
Metallic: metal-like flavor caused by the olives coming in contact with metal machinery. The olives take on the flavor of iron.
Mold or Humidity: flavor that comes from olives that are grown in humid soil, contaminated by natural microorganisms like fungi and yeasts.  The flavor can also come from storing the olives in humid environments.
Sediment: oil that has not been well filtered and remains in contact with sediment can develop an unpleasant odor.
Winey/Vinegary: flavor similar to wine or vinegar, normally caused by the fermentation of the olives that produces acetic acid, ethyl acetate and ethanol; can also be cause by tanks containing the oil, if the tanks were washed with vinegar, a fairly common practice.
Rancid: often found in old oils that have been exposed to the air or heat.
Muddy: oil that leave a dirty taste in your mouth after swallowing.
Vegetable water: flavor cause by prolonged exposure to vegetable water, a natural by-product of making olive oil.
Wormy: oil made from olives with parasitic infections.


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