The Complete Guide to Olive Oil

Olive oil is the chef's essential across the globe, and a quality oil is the foundation as well as finishing flourish to so many dishes. The world of olive oil is vast, as different types vary by region, producer and variety of olive to result in a diversity of rich olive flavour. A classic smooth flavour or spicy peppery kick to finish, a good olive oil can add a new depth of flavour to cooking. 

Our olive oil hub has everything you need to know about this extraordinary ingredient.  Enjoy profiles of the finest producers and their unique qualities, explore recipe inspiration and get your frequently asked questions answered! 

Only the best quality should be stocked in your pantry, so browse our bestsellers with new-found insight and knowledge to choose your perfect olive oil.

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Different Types Of Olive Oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil is the purest form of olive oil, made from cold-pressed olives that haven’t been pressed before. This gives the oil a stronger, more complex flavour profile, which closely reflects the variety of the olives and the climate they were grown in. Extra virgin olive oil is unrefined, and has an acidity of less than or equal to 0.8.

Virgin Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil are both unrefined, however virgin olive oil has a higher level of acidity, between 0.8 and 2.0%. This means the flavour of virgin olive oil isn’t quite as nuanced as extra virgin, however the difference is very minimal.

Cold Pressed Olive Oil

Cold pressed olive oil is produced when the temperature of the olives during extraction does not go above 27°C. The olives are crushed into a paste, then separated into oil using a mechanical press. The simplicity of the cold pressing process means that no nutrients are removed or repurposed, and the natural aroma and flavour can shine through.

Pomace

Pomace is a by-product of olive oil, created during the olive oil making process. Pomace is the olive pulp which is left behind once the oil has been extracted. The pulp is then chemically treated and blended with other oils to create a finished product. Pomace is much lower in quality than olive oil – it lacks flavour and aroma.

Unrefined Olive Oil

Unrefined olive oil is produced without any chemical or heating interference, creating an incredibly high quality oil. As the oil is unrefined, you might sometimes find tiny pieces of olive within the oil. All extra virgin olive oils are unrefined.

Refined Olive Oil

Refined olive oil is treated with chemicals and heat to change certain characteristics of the oil, without altering the glyceridic structure. Unlike unrefined olive oil, refined olive oil is blander, lacking nuanced flavours.

Olive Oil Producers

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FAQs

How is olive oil produced?

Olive oil is the liquid that comes from pressed olives. Chefs across the world use olive oil for cooking, seasoning and finishing dishes. There are many different types of olive oil, and the flavours and characteristics vary depending on the type of olives used and how many times they have been pressed. 

How does olive oil vary in taste?

The taste of olive oil differs depending on the variety of olives used, how fresh it is and how many times the olives have been pressed – some olive oils might have grassy notes, others sweeter, others rich with notes of almond. Oils made with pitted olives are less bitter than other varieties – this is because the tannins and polyphenols that contribute to bitterness in oil are mainly found in the stones.

The first olive pressing produces the best olive oil with the most distinct flavour, called extra virgin olive oil. Look out for new season extra virgin olive oil each year – this is made with the first pressing of the year’s first harvest of olives, and offers up some of the most excitingly complex, nuanced and ‘olive-y’ flavoured oil you can buy. 

How does olive oil vary by region?

The flavour and colour of olive oils differ by regions and countries. This is due to the variety of olives used, the climate and even the soil conditions. Italian olive oil has a darker hue, while Spanish olive oil is typically golden yellow. Olive oils made with ​​Spanish Arbequina and Picual olives tend to be sweeter, with a less bitter after taste, while an olive oil made with Apulian coratina olives has a pronounced spicniess – this is due to the exceptionally high levels of polyphenols in this variety of olive.

Olive oils produced in the same country can differ dramatically, too. The French Grand Brahis vert is nutty and buttery, while the Grand Brahis noir has an intense aroma of fresh black olives.

What are some good alternatives to olive oil?

Grapeseed oil is the best alternative to oil olive as it has a high smoking point and can also be used to roast and saute vegetables. Similarly to olive oil it has a stronger flavour profile to other oils with a mild aroma and nutty finish. You can also substitute olive oil with another neutral oil such as canola, vegetable or sunflower oil but they won't have the same flavour.