With the abundance of fresh, high-quality California-made extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) on market shelves, it can be an easy choice between locally made oil versus imported. Studies show that up to 69% of imported EVOO on the market has been adulterated with other oils or lower-grade olive oils.
But why California?
Our state is gaining on Europe as a coveted origin of extra-virgin olive oils. California shares the ideal Mediterranean growing climate that offers olive oil its rich and dynamic flavor profiles. Currently, California has the world’s highest standards for extra-virgin olive oil, and for domestic consumers, California oils are closer to market, ensuring freshness and a smaller carbon footprint.
So, the harder choice could be simply which California producer’s bottle on the shelf to take home. Here are a few simple ways to ensure you are making a good choice, even if you don’t have the opportunity to sample.
Look for the COOC Seal
First, make sure the words “extra-virgin olive oil” appear on the label. Then look for the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) seal. Since 1992, this local trade association has encouraged the consumption of certified California extra-virgin olive oil through education, outreach, and communications. Their seal on a bottle guarantees that the source olives were grown in California, that laboratory tests have proved the oil to be 100% extra-virgin grade, and that the product in your hands is fresh and free of defects, according to their panel of expert tasters.
Look for a Date
You should always find a harvest or bottling date on the package. Even a properly made EVOO deteriorates in quality over time, so buy when it’s fresh and use it up within 12 to 18 months of when it was made for best flavor.
Note How It’s Packaged and Stored
One clear way a producer indicates they care about their product is to package it in dark glass or tin. This cuts down on exposure to light, which dramatically shortens the shelf life of extra-virgin olive oil. A good retailer knows not to display the bottles in a window or on a top shelf.
If you are at a specialty food market, ask whether they have samples available. Getting to know the taste of good olive oil is the best way to start enjoying it fully.
For a list of COOC certified extra-virgin olive oils on the market now, visit 2018 Harvest Sealed Certified Oils.