There have been rumors long circulating about olive oil imposter syndrome – vegetable oils being sold as olive oil, or olive oils being diluted with other oils.
Obviously, we spend the money on a quality olive oil because olive oil is a very healthy choice for our bodies. These reports make us wonder, are we being ripped off? Do we think we are making a healthy choice and really still consuming vegetable oil?
These reports, however, always seem to be produced by people selling *their* elite (and extremely expensive) “pure” olive oil. It didn’t exactly seem like impartial science when they are telling you that everything except what they are selling is inferior. I use a lot of olive oil, and admittedly I do spend (ahem, “invest”) a lot on healthy ingredients, but I couldn’t seem to justify the price they were charging for their fancy mail-order oils. I wanted to find an oil in the store that I could feel assured was, truly, olive oil. Naturally, I embarked on Internet research to find the answer to this question.
You’re probably hoping this post will contain an unequivocal answer that I found through my online research of which companies are reputable and which are not… Unfortunately, it doesn’t. I couldn’t figure out how to determine, of brands available on the shelf, which ones were pure olive oil or if there really were diluted oils out there. I did find some test results – but often they pointed me to brands that I didn’t see in my local stores, or again, were really expensive. When research failed me, I decided I have one other tool at my disposal to answer this quest: my own tongue. I eat a fairly clean diet free of sugars and artificial flavorings and synthetic ingredients – e.g. I can taste and appreciate more ‘subtle’ flavors than some (like my hubby). I figured, why not buy a whole bunch of oils at once and *really* taste them, alone, and let my tongue guide me to an olive oil that tastes like olive oil with depth of flavor and a rich aftertaste.
I went to Marc’s, and looked at all “mid-tier” priced extra virgin olive oils per ounce, e.g. I ignored the cheapest and the most expensive ones (though granted, a ‘most expensive’ oil at a store like Marc’s is still going to be mid-tier in reality). The next filter I used was looking for the “Product Of” line on the label. One thing I did deduce from my research is the olive oil is sourced from all over, many different countries, and then combined into one bottle. *If* there was, in fact, an olive oil scam going on, it seemed logical to me that diluted oils would be more probable when combining oils from many different countries (distributors) than a single source. So I excluded bottles that were sourced from any more than one country. Of note, I used to love Wellsley Farms Olive Oil sold at BJ’s, but something changed last year and it didn’t taste so good anymore. I did note that this brand is sourced from many countries.
This was the line-up for my Olive Oil Taste-Off:
Top Winner: Coosur (bonus, has a cool bottle if I ever start to enjoy peeling labels off things 😉
Very Close Runner Up: Italica
Sample Size: my taste buds and two additional family members voted after tasting plain oil on their tongue (not with food).
Both of these brands had an excellent, “full-bodied” taste with a superb, rich aftertaste. My assumption/hope here is that diluted oil simply wouldn’t taste rich and full… in the absence of data, let your intuition be your guide. They are both sourced from only one country (so hopefully can keep better tabs on their operations). Both of them are reasonably priced, and actually cheaper than the name-brands of Pompeian and Berio that were included in the samples.
I share this non-scientific study with you because, personally, I hate being confronted by the stress of eighty-five choices in the store. How do you pick one? This is only my opinion, and how I’ve personally ended my debate (for now) between expense and assumed-quality. Hopefully this may help you narrow your choices if you are in the same quandary.
(P.S. Remember, olive oil is a low-heat oil – so drizzle it on *after* cooking, not during or before.)