For thousands of years, olive oil has been the fundamental element of the Mediterranean diet. Bread, olive oil and wine is the oldest existing food combination.
Through the history of the ancient world, the olive tree and its derivatives have been featured as a source of wealth, research and development.
Today the global food market offers a variety of olives and olive oils, along with olive oil beauty products, supplements and etc. The supermarket shelves are filled with different types of olive oils from different countries.
Greece, Italy and Spain are the main producers of olive oil and the cultivation of the olive tree is the focus in the whole Mediterranean region. Portugal, France, Turkey, Syria, Israel, Palestine, Tynisia, Morocco, South America and Australia are also contributors in a smaller scale.
The producing countries export their olives and olive oil, but they also import olive oil. The world’s largest producer is Italy, but the Italians consume much more olive oil than they produce.
In Italy the law permits the producers to import oil for blending and bottling, without stating the place of origin on the label.
Some Italian olive oils come from single estates. They are the top extra virgin olive oils with the lowest acidity and great flavours and aromas. They excel in quality. Some come from other Mediterranean countries and they are blended and bottled in Italy.
Many varieties of olives are cultivated in different regions and are known by the regional name. Greece is known by its Kalamata and Koroneiki varieties of olives. Italy is known by its Frantoio, Leccino and Pendolino. Spain is known for its Picual, Andalucia, Hodjiblanca, Arbequina and Cornicabra.
The acidity of the olive oil, followed by flavour and aroma, determine its grade. Extra virgin olive oil has the lowest acidity and a pleasant flavour and aroma. The IOC (International Olive Council) sets the regulations for the quality of the olive oil and determines the terms and descriptions on the labeling.
In Greece the consumption of olive oil per ca pita is higher than Italy and Spain. Greece consumes 26 litters per ca pita yearly and Spain and Italy 14 per ca pita yearly.