What is early harvest & why does it cost more?
The olive is a fruit that grows on trees (I know, you know this already). All olives are green and then
black, just like we are kids and then adults. It’s all the same olive, only harvested at different
points in its maturation and ripening process. If a green olive is left on the tree, it will turn jet
In the US, the olive oil available to consumers via supermarkets and box stores comes from harvesting the
jet black olives.
However, through sensory and chemical studies, we know that when the olive is green, it has the highest
levels of antioxidants and robust flavor. These antioxidants, called polyphenols, have very well
documented health-promoting properties. Early harvest refers to the olive oil resulting from the
olives at this prime stage.
Why does it cost more? It takes 3 lbs of black olives to produce 250 ml of olive oil, and takes 10 lbs of
green olives (early harvest) to produce the same 250 ml bottle. This means the farmer must charge more
for early harvest, or not sell it at all. And to come full circle, this is why in the US we don’t see
early harvest: it’s easier to sell something less expensive (oil from black olives), especially if the
consumer doesn’t know it’s an inferior product.
What are the three destroyers of extra virgin olive oil?
There are three well known things to avoid with olive oil that, if not observed, will diminish the
health-promoting benefits: heat, light, and oxygen.
Avoid heat: Avoid putting olive oil near a heat source (e.g. stove).
Avoid UV sunlight: Store extra virgin olive oil in dark green or brown glass
bottles to avoid light.
Avoid oxygen: Oxygen will expedite the decomposition of the olive oil and its
nutrients (just like when an apple is cut, it quickly decomposes and turns brown).
decomposition starts as soon as the bottle is opened and the oil is exposed to oxygen.
maximize freshness and health-promoting benefits, I recommend consuming fresh olive oil within 6
weeks of opening. Purchase smaller, rather than larger, bottles: whatever you’re able to reasonably
consume within 6 weeks. And don’t leave olive oil sitting around in an open container.
What's the misconception around "cold-pressed"?
Cold-pressed no longer means what it did, and is now a marketing term that manufacturers put on labels.
Since all Extra Virgin Olive Oil can only be classified as EVOO when it's made without the addition of heat, the "cold" is unnecessary.
Back in the 1950's, oil was extracted from olives through large pressing machines and without adding heat. Today's top manufacturers (regardless of size)
use centrifuges to extract the oil because it's the best way to preserve the characteristics of olive oil with the least exposure to oxygen.
So, next time you see "cold-pressed" on the bottle, know that it's more of a marketing gimic than anything else. It's much more important to classify the quality of
an olive oil by the country it comes from, was it single estate vs a cooperative, when it was harvested, etc.
Is there fraud in olive oil?
There is olive oil fraud all over the world, taking on many different forms, and predominantly in
countries where there is limited consumer education on olive oil, as in the US. This excerpt from a New
York Times article says it all.
”Olive oil industry has also been racked by fraud, with millions of consumers around the world
regularly paying for extra-virgin olive oil that is cut with inferior olive oil, mixed with
cheaper oils like sunflower and canola, or colored with chlorophyll or beta carotene.”
The New York Times, August 30, 2019
One thing is clear: it’s the large brands found at the supermarket that are the most susceptible to fraud
because of the widely distributed supply chains: the oil passes through way too many hands before it arrives
on the shelf.
Two great reads from reputable sources:
Should I cook with extra virgin olive oil, and should I use your early harvest stuff?
Despite what you'll hear from competing industries (coconut, sunflower, avocado, etc.), extra virgin
olive oil is great for cooking as its smoke point is much higher than any domestic cooking temperatures
in our kitchens.
If this weren't true, the Mediterranean diet wouldn't be know for its health, as all their cooking is
done with olive oil. The Mediterranean diet, and fresh extra virgin olive oil as a key ingredient, is
the reason behind Spaniards having one of the longest life expediencies in the world.
However, I personally reserve the early harvest world-class stuff for drizzling and finishing my foods,
raw. It's a finisher. I will occasionally fry an egg in the good stuff, but it becomes cost prohibitive
for most people to use it for cooking. Every oil will degrade while cooking it. The good stuff has more
opportunity for degradation because it's packed full of antioxidants (compared to box store olive oil).
So, using the good stuff raw will be the healthiest, and I love drizzling it on fried eggs, salad, pasta
dishes, salmon, chicken, etc.
For frying, I tend to use other extra virgin olive oil from the supermarket, and always from small
bottles for lasting freshness.
What are harvest date, open date, consume date, and best use by dates?
There are four important dates to consider with extra virgin olive oil, and you won't find them all on
labels. We list them here in our recommended chronological order for filtered world-class and fresh
extra virgin olive oil (much shorter durations for unfiltered).
Harvest date: the date the olives were harvested and produced into olive oil.
Bottling date: Because mills have great storage technology (they create a nitrogen
blanket in the silos that prevents it from oxidizing. So, companies now use the bottling date to
assign the “best use by” date, as opposed to the harvest date.
Open date: Once opened, this is when your clock REALLY starts to click: consume
fresh olive oil within 6 weeks of opening to ensure the oil keeps its freshness and provides the
best health-promoting benefits.
Best use by date: for fresh extra virgin olive oil, this is usually two years from
the date it was bottled (not harvested).
How do you taste/sample olive oil?
To maximize the effectiveness of tasting and sampling olive oil, professionals follow a strict protocol and
will use red or blue tasting glasses. But a shot glass, or a tablespoon, or similar will do just fine for
sampling at home. One can effectively taste olive oil using the following steps:
- Pour about a tablespoon or two of olive oil into the glass, shot glass, or other
- Cup the glass in your hand for about a minute so that the warmth of your hand energizes the aromas
- Close your eyes and smell the aromas emanating from the olive oil
- Sip about a tablespoon of olive oil, and swish it around your entire mouth for a few seconds.
- Either spit out the olive oil or swallow it (if sampling many different varieties, most people won't
What are the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil?
There are great health-promoting benefits from FRESH extra virgin olive oil, especially
from the antioxidant-rich early harvest type.
Please see our EVOO Health
page, and know that the fresher the olive oil, the greater the health-promoting benefits.
So, as long as I'm choosing extra virgin, that guarantees that I'm getting the best stuff?
Selecting extra virgin will at least increase the chance that you're not buying the lesser grades of
However, just like with choosing wine, consumers must look for characteristics (e.g. harvest dates,
filtered vs unfiltered, olive variety, etc.) that impacts taste, quality, freshness, shelf life, and
price. Unlike wine, olive oil deteriorates in quality, taste, and health benefits over time. And since
olive oil is harvested once yearly from any particular region, we recommend getting the current year's
harvest. This will ensure you're getting the freshest, healthiest, version of that olive oil possible.
Going by the "best use by date" is provided to ensure you don't consume the product when it is rancid or
harmful, but it doesn't tell you when you should consume it to maximize freshness and quality. In
essence, consume olive oil as close to the harvest date as possible to maximize freshness, quality,
taste, and health benefits.
We've been in this business for a few decades, and this is how we view olive oil quality: