Which are the different types of olive oils?
There is a lot of confusion, about the different types of olive oil and which are their differences. Below you can see a summary of all of them. They are classified by families.
1) Virgin olive oils, obtained only by mechanical processes:
This family of olive oils are the most natural ones. They are like an orange juice, simply squeezed without using any chemical product for their production. They are prepared in olive oil mills. There are three different types, according to their quality. From highest to lowest quality are:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil. This is the higher quality type of Olive Oil. It has a level of acidity below 0,8º and a taste and smell irreproachable. Directly on sale to the consumer.
Virgin Olive Oil. It has less quality than the previous one. It can have a máximum level of 2 degrees in acidity and slight defects of scent and flavor. Directly on sale to the consumer.
Lampante Virgin Olive Oil. It has an acidity of more than 2 degrees and an unpleasant taste and smell. It is not suitable for its consumption directly and it is necessary to refine it.
2) Olive oils extracted by chemical processes:
The remains of the olive fruits in the mills once virgin olive oil have been removed are called alperujo and still contains olive oil. This olive oil is extracted by using solvents in the so called "orujeras" (chemical factories) and is called raw pomace olive oil. It is not marketable and it is always necessary to refine it.
3) Refined olive oil:
Lampante olive oils and the raw pomace olive oils have to be refined in refineries because its taste and smell are very unpleasant.
As a result of the refining process these olive oils are obtained:
Refined olive oil. From the refining of lampante virgin olive oil. It is a colorless, tasteless and odourless olive oil and can not be sold directly to the consumer.
Refined pomace olive oil. From the refining of raw pomace olive oil, and like the previous one, is a colorless and odourless and tasteless olive oil. It can not be sold to the consumer either.
More information about the refining of olive oil, here.
4) Types of olive oils that are a blend of the above ones.
Olive oil. It is the most consumed olive oil in Spain and probably around the world (sadly). Is a blend of refined olive oil and virgin or extra virgin olive oils. The proportion, which does not usually appear on the label, is between 10 and 15% of virgin olive oil, and the rest is refined.
Pomace olive oil. Like olive oil, is a blend of pomace refined olive oil with a percentage of virgin or extra virgin olive oils.
According with the European law, there are 8 different types of olive oils, 3 of them are virgins (extra virgin, virgin and lampante), 1 has been produced chemically (raw pomace olive oil), 2 have been refined (refined olive oil and refined pomace olive oil) and finally 2 that are a blend of the previous ones (olive oil, pomace olive oil)
Of the 8 types of olive oils, only 4 can be sold directly to the consumer:
- Extra virgin Olive Oil (virgin)
- Virgin Olive Oil (virgin)
- Olive Oil (blend)
- Pomace Olive Oil (blend).
6) Classifications or subtypes within the extra virgin olive oil.
Within the type of extra virgin olive oil, it could have been produced by following some rules or legislations:
- Pressure in cold. Produced by pressing at a temperature below 27º C.
- Cold extraction. Produced by removal at a temperature below 27º C.
- Integrated Production. Produced following the rules of this regulatory board.
- Ecological (Bio). Produced following the rules of this regulatory board.
- Origin Denomination. Produced following the guidelines of its Regulatory Board.
7) Other subtypes of extra virgin olive oil without regulatory framework.
- Filtered or unfiltered extra virgin olive oils.
- Single varieties olive oils, produced with a single variety of olive (Picual, Hojiblanca, arbequina, etc.)
- Early harvested Olive Oils: They are produced approximately from October to the beggining of November.
- First pressed or first extraction Olive Oils. Most of the extra virgin olive oils are produced from the first extraction or pressing. Those of second extraction or pressed, called mend olive oils, are almost always lampante olive oil. Being very careful it is posible to get virgin olive oils during this second process in exceptional cases.
8) Other more or less questionable subtypes:
Sales techniques encourage the indications striking on the labels in olive oils. Some of the most commonly used are:
- Olive oil from hundred or thousand years old olive oils. Under our point of view, the age of the olive tree has no influence on the quality of the olive oil.
- Countryside or mountain Olive Oils. Among them there could be some difference but imperceptible for the consumer.
- Unirrigated or irrigatied Olive Oil. Among them there could be some difference but imperceptible for the consumer.
9) Former denominations:
Pure olive oil is the former name of olive oil. Its use has been deprecated since 1987, the year when the new designations of olive oil were approved.
It is curious that it was called pure olive oil to the blend of different olive oils. It is true that at that time there were fraud by blending olive oil with other cheaper vegetable oils.