What is ‘Extra Virgin’? Demystifying Olive Oil

My name is Elizabeth Kilvert and I have spent much of my life as an educator. I come from a background immersed in natural history museums, aquariums, overseas development projects, and entrepreneurship. My main focus has been in the areas of international development, community sustainability, food security, agricultural cooperatives, marine biology, citizen science, environmental education, and biodiversity.

I have worked on four continents and in numerous countries . My roles have included community development officer, director of education and community outreach, researcher, scuba diver, organic farm certification officer, microbiologist, public analyst, science outreach advisor, volunteer coordinator, citizen science coordinator, entrepreneur, business owner, and sole proprietor.

I am the owner of The Unrefined Olive and my passion for the environment, food, and travel; has directed my education, life experience, and work history. I believe in taking a local approach, integrating partnerships, developing networks, and co-promoting as much as possible.

At The Unrefined Olive you can taste the difference quality makes. This is a destination for Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Aged Balsamic Vinegar, and locally produced specialty food items. There are two stores in Ottawa, Canada two stores at 151 A Second Avenue in The Glebe and 499 Terry Fox Drive in Kanata’s Signature Centre, The Unrefined Olive invites you to sample our many delicious products.

The Unrefined Olive prides itself on quality products and excellent customer service. As sole proprietor, Elizabeth has designed the stores so customers can taste the sixty plus Single Estate Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oils, Flavour Fused and Infused Olive Oils, Aged Dark and White Balsamic Vinegars. The olive oils come from nine different countries and are made by some of the world’s best producers. The balsamic vinegars are all from Modena Italy and aged minimum twelve years.

The stores also carry local and specialty food items including sea salts, spice rubs, hot sauces, pickles, preserves, jams, cocktail mixes, chocolate, honey, olive oil soap, and a signature line of olives.

Enjoyment comes from spending time with our customers and helping them select products. It is very hands on and  interactive with recommendations on pairings, recipes, nutritional information, and ideas beyond bread dipping and salads. 


Demystifying Olive Oil

Olive Oil has been produced for thousands of years. Originally, olive oil was used as lampante or lamp oil. Production was largely centralized to the Mediterranean, Asia Minor, and North African regions respectively. Today, however, Olive Oil production occurs in a number of countries across the globe, from Italy, Spain to Chile, Australia, Uruguay, and even a small little grove in British Columbia. 

When it comes to good quality olive oil, there are a few basic elements to keep in mind. Most consumers are familiar with ‘Extra Virgin’ as an oleic designation, however this is a slightly outdated term.  In fact, the terminology of ‘Extra Virgin’ was coined by the Romans to stop the practise of throwing hot water onto the olives before, and during crushing. The process of throwing hot water on the olives meant that more fat (and therefore olive oil) could be extracted, but the quality of the oil was significantly diminished as a result of the higher temperatures. As the Romans were quite particular about their oil, they enacted these types of measures to better control the quality of Olive Oil being produced at the time. 

Today, consumers should look for ‘Cold Pressed’ ,Olive Oil, meaning that as the olives are hammer crushed, milaxxed and separated, the temperature of the fruit and oil does not exceed 28 degrees celsius during production. The ‘Extra Virgin’ designation today means that Olive Oil must fall within specific chemical parameters, and must not have any taste faults. In order for an oil to be considered truly ‘Extra Virgin’, olive oil must possess an equally balanced taste profile of fruitiness, pungency and bitterness. Olive Oil should be tested at the time of crush by an independent third party laboratory, with a specific focus on the levels of Free Fatty Acids (quality of fruit at the time of crush), Peroxides (the level of post-production oxidization in the olive oil), and finally Polyphenols (naturally occurring anti-oxidants).

Independent tests from The University of California Davis have shown that up to 75% of olive oil on store shelves is expired, rancid, or blended with other flavourless and odourless nut and seed oils. So how do you safeguard yourself as a consumer? While Olive Oil may have both a complex history and chemical profile, buying olive oil doesn’t have to be quite so complicated. Consumers should look for date of production, not expiration, UV protected bottles, as direct sunlight is one of the biggest enemies of fresh olive oil, and most importantly, a trusted and certified purveyor of olive oil. Olive oil should, at the very least, have a slightly grassy and fruity taste. Fresh, quality olive oil has been positively associated with lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and even decreasing the risk of coronary disease. 

At its most simple, olive oil is simply a fresh pressed fruit oil. Add it to salads, marinades and even drizzled over popcorn! Eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated, and good quality olive oil is a delicious way to add flavour and nutrition. Keep an eye out for freshness and fruitiness, and you’ll find that olive oil can easily become a flavourful staple in any kitchen.