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Roasted rack of lamb - Rosemary

Photo courtesy of grongar(CC Attribution)

This is a lot sweeter than the last strawberry I tasted? Do you have a lemongrass balsamic? I swear I went to a store just like this in Ashville, NC. (or somewhere else in Charlotte!)

Does Tropicana secretly produce all the orange juice on the shelf, regardless of brand? Would one individual producer of Persian Lime Olive oil be able to supply the entire global market with their product? I’ll kill the suspense and give the short answer. 

No. 

The expansion of the olive oil market has lead to a number of great innovations and establishments as people are beginning to demand unadulterated olive oil from honest sources and still be able to make safe purchases knowing they have done they best they can. 

     In order to meet the public interest, a large number of ‘olive oil’ bars and tasting shops have opened throughout the country with new ones constantly on the way. Tagging along for the ride, many major and minor grocery store markets and chains have expanded their available selection of olive oils and balsamic vinegars, including gourmet flavors such as ‘garlic’ and ‘basil’ olive oil. 

     As with any market, it can be initially overwhelming on where to begin and wondering how did something that had only ever been ‘olive oil’ become an intricate delicacy, seemingly overnight. 

     I don’t know if I’ll necessarily set the record perfectly straight, but I will certainly be able to answer some simple and basic questions to the sudden rise of olive oil in the American diet.

     I emphasize ‘The American Diet’ because, in the last twenty-five years, our olive oil consumption has gone up by seventy-three percent. 

“World olive oil consumption in 2015 was pegged at a record 3,295,911 tons in the report. Italy led the list of consumers with 640,443 tons, followed by Spain with 540,133 tons and the United States, which consumed 339,512 tons — a 250 percent increase over 25 years ago.”

    In that same period, Italy and other Mediterranean countries have increased by a more marginal eight percent. 

    So yes, if you suddenly feel that everyone you know plus one has suddenly gotten into or spoken of the benefits of extra virgin olive oil, you are not in ‘The Twilight Zone’, just on the fringes of a European-born American food trend. 

    The biggest affecting factor is at length a combined result of globalization and the advent of the internet. As exotic as Europe may seem today, it was far more so before movies, blogs, youtube, and planes made it easier to get a glimpse of what life was like across the pond, as fragmented and filtered as these sources remain. 

     A third concept example would point to the fact that fifty years ago, it would have been near impossible to learn Japanese without actually going to Japan. While that option still might remain the best, and most effective, it is now entirely feasible to learn the language within a reasonable time from your computer. 

     This rapidity of knowledge and communication has been integral to the growth of interest in olive oil as it relates to health. 

     As it may be, the most distinct quality of the rising olive oil culture, is the infusion of flavors, both single and complex blends ranging from basil to Herbes de Provence.

Bowls Of Olives

Photo courtesy of garryknight(CC Attribution)

Two key takeaways about these products are as follows:

     The infusion of flavor may be done a variety of different ways, both natural and unnatural. The most popular natural method, the Italian ‘Agrumato’, meaning fusion crushed is when the desired herb or flavor is crushed with the olives, extracting and producing a blended oil at once. Often, it is the finest method for producing flavor and the most widely used with ‘Olive Tap’ Products. 

     A second, more important fact to remember is that not all flavored oil comes from any singular producer. If two olive oil tasting bars offer the same product, such as ‘Strawberry Balsamic’ or ‘Tuscan Herb’ olive oil, then the two products will likely taste very different from one another despite having the ‘same’ flavor.

Edy’s vanilla is different than Breyer’s which is different than ‘Ben and Jerry’s’. 

     There are thousands of producers of olive oil in the world, each experimenting with flavor and trying to come up with ‘the best’ in their class and so it would be inviting to taste the same flavors at different stores so one has an idea which product one prefers. This allows you to make an honest and educated decision as to what you personally like.

     The same goes for the single varietal offerings of extra virgin olive oil. While infusions may be fairly distinct, the single unflavored varieties are for those ready to venture into delicacy territory. There’s much more to be said, but we hope this at least put you in the ballpark of understanding that there are differences to be sought and experienced.  

Matthew

The Olive Tap, Ballantyne

REFERENCE LINKS

Global Olive Oil Consumption

60 Minutes Olive Oil Fraud 

Olive Oil ‘Megatrends’

Rosemary not as Strong: The Rise of Olive Bars in America

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