Olive Oil Expert

March 8, 2019, 12:52 p.m.

My all-time favorite food? Olives.

My mom used to crack open a can of black olives for me as an after-school snack and I could eat them in record time. Whenever my family goes out to eat, the unwanted olives from salads always get passed down to my plate. It’s awesome.

This week my university was offering a trip to an olive oil factory outside of the city and I nearly sprinted to the international student office to sign up.

Olive oil is essential to Spanish culture and cuisine. Just like other countries along the Mediterranean, olive farming is a long-held tradition.

Our trip took us to the Basilippo Olive Oil Factory, a family-run oil producer that has passed the grove down for multiple generations. They have over 6,000 olive trees on site!

I knew that this excursion would be interesting, but I had no idea that it would be so informative. By the end of the tour, I could tell you all about the process of making olive oil as well as how to choose the best oils from the grocery store at home.

Hopefully by the end of this post I will have passed some of my new expertise on to you!

As far as appearances go, this place doesn’t really fit my definition of ‘factory.’ The grounds of the property look more like a colorful Spanish country-side retreat than a facility for food production.

To be fair, this particular farm focuses more on quality than quantity. They really produce the best of the best here.

First, we learned about the different types of olive oil.

‘Virgin’ means that the oil was extracted from the olive by mechanical means. Anything else means that it was extracted using chemical processes—yikes!

Tip #1: Always go with 'Extra Virgin Olive Oil.' That’s the good stuff. Our tour guide, Isaac, also told us to steer clear of ‘Extra Extra Virgin Olive Oil.’ He says that’s not even a thing! Therefore, it doesn’t actually have any real certifications.

The Basilippo Family Museum walks visitors through the history of olive oil extraction. Some of the methods showcased were used even until the 1990’s.

Next, it was time to learn about how they do it now! The process now is much more efficient and it improves the quality of the oil.

Isaac told us all about how we can distinguish the quality of the oil just from the packaging!

Tip #2: True extra virgin olive oil will never be sold in plastic bottles or clear bottles. In order to decrease exposure to light and oxygenation, genuine extra virgin olive oil is required to be sold in darkened glass bottles or metal cans.

Tip #3: Extra virgin olive oil is also required to have an expiration date on the bottle. Be weary if it doesn’t!

Now time for the best part of all: the tasting!

Our guide led us into the beautiful dining area to let us finally get our hands on the goods! He explained to us the whole tasting affair—what to smell for, what notes to be looking for in the taste, and even how sip it in order to get the full experience.

First, we tried their classic extra virgin olive oil. The smell, to my surprise, was very tomato-y. This is a good thing!

Tip #4: Good oil should smell like fruits, vegetables, or grass.

The cups are blue so that professional tasters can’t be influenced by the color of the oil.

We were then served the miraculous combination of chocolate ice cream with Basilippo’s orange infused olive oil.

Our guide warned us: “This might be one of the best foods you try here in Spain.”

He was absolutely right. It was outstanding. We were tempted to lick the bowl clean. But, we held back because our next stop was the olive oil shop!

All of the yummy flavors of olive oil from the tasting are there as well as so much more. They have everything from olive and pepper paté to beauty products made from their oil.

I couldn’t walk away without at least one of those bottles of orange-infused extra virgin olive oil.

This was easily my favorite tour I’ve done so far in Spain. It was nice to get out of the city for a while too—I love Sevilla but sometimes you just need to breathe in that fresh olive air.

It didn’t help me too much with my olive obsession, but that was a risk I was willing to take.