Tasting oil is really very subjective. The most important thing is whether it gives you a warm glow inside, but of course there’s much more to find if you care to search it out. It’s a bit like going to an art gallery – by just looking, you know which paintings touch you or leave you cold, then you listen to the audio guide and get a whole different perspective. Well if you want to delve the oily depths, follow our suggestions below…
How to taste in five easy steps:
1. Find a small cup, about the size of an espresso glass. The best thing is actually a disposable plastic espresso cup.
2. Cup it in your hand, put your other hand over the top and swirl the oil around. You’re warming the oil to release the flavour. The volatile aromatic compounds will evaporate out of the liquid state.
3. Stick your nose into the cup and inhale deeply, like someone about to make a great speech. What do you smell? Your nose can detect maybe 10,000 different smells, whilst the rather pathetic tongue can only taste 5 things so this stage should give forth some riches.
4. Now slurp the oil – sip a bit of oil and a bit of air to help spread the taste. What’s there? Grass, artichoke, almond, tomato leaf, hay, straw, spice and melon are all terms officially recognised by the International Olive Oil Council.
5. Swallow the oil and wait for the tingle – a gentle stinging in your throat; this is a sign of freshness and is caused by the antioxidants/polyphenols which make olive oil so healthy.
You’ll see that on the back of each of your tins, there are tasting notes from the olive farmer who made your oil. Do you agree with them? Or do you taste lemon when they taste almonds?
What to do next?
Now you know the basics, why not invite some friends round for a tasting of your oil? Suggest it really casually, as if everyone has their own olive estate. Do a bling tasting, and compare your oil to a supermarket oil and maybe another good extra virgin olive oil. Observe the colour, the nose and taste the night away. And do let us know what you – and your friends – think.
A few important things to remember:
• Olive oil never improves with age. It’s not like wine.
• The Italians say you should have your ‘wine old and your olive oil young’.
• Colour has no bearing on taste or quality.
• The bitterness at the back is from the antioxidants and a good sign.
• Olives all start green and then turn to black or purple or dark brown.