The chance of getting low-quality olive oil is almost 80% unless you get it directly from the producer or a certified distributor. So, yes it is a must to know which olive oil brands to avoid and which brands to trust. Here are the olive oil brands to avoid.
The 5 most famous olive oil brands to avoid buying are Carapelli, Mezzetta, Mazola, Primadonna, and Pompeian. The primary reason to skip these products is failing EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) standards. On the other hand, Two of the best olive oil brands are Ellora Farms and Napa Valley Naturals.
A simple exam can tell if the olive oil is pure through its taste. If it tastes good, it is pure olive oil. If it tastes rancid, greasy, or just flavorless, then it might be fake. To know the difference between good and bad olive oil, here are some things to tell if the olive oil is of good quality.
What Makes A Good Olive Oil?
Here are the things that can prove your olive oil is of good quality:
The Flavor Of The Olive Oil
Olive oil came from fruit juice and like any other, it tastes best when it is made from the best fruit. Like other fruits, for instance, an apple, individual varieties may vary in flavor.
Like an apple juice (or wine, for that matter), mass producers may mix and blend different varieties to achieve their finished product. Though the process may be acceptable, it will lose the unique flavors of every specific variety grown in a particular region or grove.
Just like bread, cheese, or wine, the variability of every ingredient from season to season is what makes it much more interesting to taste. A cheddar made from a small-scale farm will have much more individuality and character than the ones bought from supermarket block, and so it is with olive oil.
Italy uses more olive oil than it produces and exports more than it produces. The majority of the Greek olive oil is sold in bulk and sent to Italy. Those that are blended with lesser oils, usually from Spain, Turkey, and Tunisia. Also, they are brought to a level that is within the parameters of extra virgin.
The basic flavor of olive oil is divided into three parts: the aroma, initial taste, and after-taste.
The aroma and initial taste can range from a bland “oily” sensation that is hardly distinguishable from general cooking oil.
The after-taste must be typically peppery, ranging from subtle to downright peppery.
The level of pepperiness is a great indicator of quality. The pepperiness must be at a pleasant level instead of intense and bitter. In general, the balance of aroma, taste, and aftertaste makes good olive oil.
However, some believe that the color of olive oil is a good indicator of quality. Some manufacturers (in the US in particular) choose to add colorant to their oils to match the customer’s perception.
Olive Oil Grades
The extra-virgin olive oil is the best grade to go for. Unfortunately, some people do not understand what this means. Here is a short guide to the different grades of oil:
Olive oil is categorized by the level of acidity. The lower the number, the higher the grade of olive oil. The lower the acidity, the better the oil.
- Extra-virgin olive oil comes from virgin oil production only. It contains no more than 0.8% acidity and is judged to have a superior flavor. Extra Virgin olive oil contains less than 10% of oil in many producing countries.
- Virgin olive oil comes from virgin oil production only. It has an acidity of less than 1.5% and is judged to have a good flavor.
- Pure olive oil is usually a blend of refined and virgin production oil.
- Olive oil is a blend of virgin and refined production oil of no more than 2% acidity. It does not have a distinct flavor.
- Pomace oil is made from refined pomace olive oil that is often blended with some virgin oil. It can be consumed, but may not be described simply as olive oil. It has a more neutral flavor than pure or virgin olive oil, making it not a great choice among connoisseurs. It has the same fat composition as regular olive oil, giving the same health benefits. Moreover, it has a high smoke point and is widely used in restaurants and in-home cooking in some countries.
- Lampante oil is olive oil not suitable as food. It comes from olive oil’s long-standing use in oil-burning lamps. Meanwhile, lampante oil is mostly used in the industrial market.
Environmental and Processing Factors
Olive oil is like winemaking.
They are both made from fruit and the production methods, as well as the environment, have a significant impact on the finished product.
As you might expect, the healthier the trees, the better they can yield olive oil.
- Climate – Most olive oil comes from the Mediterranean as this is the best climate for olives to grow. Around 80% of Greek olive oil is Extra Virgin, 45% of Italian, and 30% of Spanish.
- Olive Trees – Positioning of the trees plays a vital role. Proper access to sunlight is important and the age of the tree helps as well. Older trees usually produce better oil. The trees require space to breathe, so the more spread out the grove the better. The more industrial groves where many trees are grouped will not have the same breathing space, thereby affecting the quality of the oil.
- Cutting (Picking) – The way the olives are cut can also affect the quality of the oil. The best method is the traditional method, wherein the olives are hand-cut using a type of comb and letting the olives fall on a net below. Some cut the olives by shaking the tree, but this will reduce the quality of the oil. Like apples, the fruit falling to the ground is susceptible to bruising. Bruised olive oils can result in a great level of bitterness. In large industrial olive groves, such as in Spain and California, the olive trees are lined up and big harvesters go through picking the olives. The method is very effective and efficient, but the olive oil produced from these olives is of low quality.
- Collecting – Once the olives are cut, those olives whole were cut that day and can be pressed. If a single olive that has fallen earlier is picked up and mixed among the fresh olives, it can decrease the quality of the whole batch of olive oil. It can result in making the olive oil more bitter and possibly have a higher acidity. There should be no delay in taking olives to press. Once the olives are collected they are put into sacks and taken to the olive press for pressing. Any delay in this will affect the quality and can severely increase acidity. The best way for the olives is to be cut in the morning and to be pressed that same day in the afternoon.
- Pressing – There are different methods of pressing olive oil. The old-fashioned system used rotating stones to crush the olives into an olive paste, then placed on sheets and piled up. The sheets were pressed with a big weight and the olive oil will come out. Nowadays, the olives are crushed into a paste using a type of mixer and then the olive oil is extracted in a centrifuge. Long-time olive oil makers say that the old form produces better olive oil, but in truth, the centrifuge probably does a better job. Either way, both can produce excellent olive oil.
- Cold Pressing – A term often used in the name of olive oil is “Cold Pressed”. It means that the olive paste must not be heated to above 27 degrees Celsius during the pressing process. The paste is often heated at a higher temperature, then more olive oil comes out of the olives than does at a lower temperature. However, the olive oil that comes out when the olive paste is not heated tends to be of better quality compared to when it is heated.
- First Pressing – The term “First Pressed” is often used as well. It refers to the olive oil only being pressed once. By repressing the olive paste, more olive oil can be produced, but the quality of this is not desirable. For olive oil to be Extra Virgin it needs to be pressed only once.
- Filtering – At the end of the pressing process, olive oil is filtered. Though this step is not entirely necessary, it is done more for aesthetic reasons so that the customers can see a clear substance in the bottle. Unfiltered oil will appear cloudy and parts can pile up at the bottom of the bottle, making it look undesirable. Of course, this is completely natural; however, the norm today is to filter olive oil
- Storage – Once the olive oil has been pressed it will be stored for a while. Once it comes out of the press it gives off a very strong taste, which many like. But for commercial reasons, it is left to sit for about 3 months for the taste to stabilize. During this period, the storage tank needs to be appropriate. The best is to use stainless steel tanks designed for olive oil. Unfortunately, some farmers can’t afford these, instead, they use plastic tanks that create reactions with the olive oil and reduce the quality of the oil. Therefore, the storage tank is very important. Keep in mind that the olive oil must also be stored away from sunlight and away from too much heat.
- Packaging – Olive oil is usually packaged in either Glass or PET bottles, Bag-in-box, or metal tins. Glass bottles are usually darker to protect the oil against sunlight and it is recommended that olive oil is stored in a dry cool place away from sunlight. If it is stored in the sun, it can deteriorate quickly.
- Life – In Greece, it is mandatory to put a storage life of 18 years in the label once it is packaged. But in truth olive oil will not go bad if stored properly and will last many years.
List Of 5 Olive Oil Brands To Avoid:
Avoid those following olive oil brands that failed the EVOO test:
Carapelli Olive Oil
Are you surprised to see this brand?
Though it is a decent brand with lots of popularity. Unfortunately, Carapelli failed to be passed as Extra Virgin Olive Oil several times in the past like in 2010 and 2015. They are also of poor quality according to some users.
Mezzetta Olive Oil
For many people, it’s a good brand and there is no scam or mislabeling accusations against the brand.
However, some people described it as olive oil with horrible flavor! If you don’t get it from a trusted supplier or distributor, you may get the counterfeit product of Mezzetta.
Pompeian Olive Oil
Another brand with issues, and a lot of people don’t like the brand because they find the taste to be bitter than it used to be in the past is the Pompeian. Some people even claimed that it has a very little taste of extra virgin olive oil from this brand.
Mazola Olive Oil
The brand claims to have extra virgin olive oil and comes with an extraordinary aroma and bold flavor. However, I found lots of negative reviews on some renowned online stores, whereas most of the negative reviews were related to bad taste.
Primadonna Olive Oil
The reason Primadona is included in this list is that it failed to meet the requirements of extra virgin qualifications. Though the brand contested the findings, it is still safe to avoid it, right?
Tips On Buying Quality Olive Oil
Here are some tips to remember when buying olive oil:
- Only buy oil labeled extra-virgin. Though it does not guarantee that the oil will be the best, at least it will probably not be among the worst. Bottles labeled just plain “Olive Oil” and “Light Olive Oil” are just refined oils; while they’re not bad in any way, they are not very interesting.
- Read the label. Though it’s written in Italian, French, or Spanish, you can probably recognize harvest and “use by ” dates. The finest producers always put the harvest date proudly on their olive oil. The use-by date can be misleading since it is usually 18 months from bottling, rather than from harvest.
- Do not buy olive oil placed in a clear glass bottle, no matter how pretty and enticing the label. Olive oil hates the light and the oil inside will likely have lost most of its flavor and aroma. Look for extra-virgin olive oil put in dark glass bottles or, better yet, opaque tins.
- Know the term “first cold pressing. By legal definition, extra-virgin oil must come from the first pressing, which is done with no added heat (at ambient temperatures no higher than around 80ºF.
- Extra-virgin olive oil does not improve with age. The fresher it is, the better. Fresh oil may have unexpectedly assertive flavors of bitterness and pungency that sometimes cover the fruitiness. These exciting flavors are loved by connoisseurs because they mean high quality, and by nutritionists, because they’re evidence of lots of healthful polyphenols.
- Keep your bottles in a cool, dark environment. Olive oil hates sunlight, as it can easily deteriorate and lose its quality.
- Use your oil. Don’t be afraid to cook with extra-virgin. It is perfectly stable up to about 420ºF. Learn to love a hot baked potato, cracked open and topped with lots of the freshest finest oil you can buy, a sprinkle of fleur de sel, and freshly ground Telicherry pepper.
Best Olive Oil Brands
If you are looking for great olive oil brands, here are the two best brands from Amazon:
Ellora Farms Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Ellora is one of the best cold-pressed olive oils for several reasons.
Unlike other olive oils that are combined with several olive varieties from various regions, the Ellora Farms Extra Virgin Olive Oil comes from a single region: Crete, Greece. Though it does only come from Greece, it’s produced right on the spot using low temperatures and cold pressing to preserve both flavor and quality.
The Ellora Farms Extra Virgin Olive Oil has a rich, fruity aroma and a bold, peppery flavor. It has won a gold medal at the Mediterranean International Olive Oil Competition in 2019. Although you can cook with it, it’s best as a finishing or drizzling oil. Customers gave this oil high marks for its delicious, well-balanced flavor.
Napa Valley Naturals Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Napa Valley Extra Virgin Olive Oil is made from blends of regional olives that come from the Mediterranea. They are cold-pressed to create a smooth buttery flavor mixed with light, fruity notes. Olive oil enthusiasts love the taste of this olive oil, because of its mild taste.
This brand is available in different sizes, ranging from 12.7 ounces to 128 ounces. They are packaged in wine bottles, making them feel kind of fancy.