Jul 072011

I am a bit bummed (U.S. version – not U.K. version of word). I tried to get a copy of the results of the following taste test from the U.K. magazine that conducted the test (Which?) but their website says: “At present we can only accept online registrations from UK and Republic of Ireland residents.” Of course I am welcome to call and sign up, but since I’m in California – my sleeping hours and their hours of operation conflict.

I will venture to report on the report as best as I can.

Recently the British consumer product testing magazine “Which?” did a taste comparison of several extra virgin olive oils sold in Great Britain. The oils that were tested are those in common use, and the oils varied greatly in price.

The panel of tasters consisted of three people, one of which was, Charles Carey, a U.K. olive oil importer. The four factors the panel were looking for are: aroma, balance, complexity and taste.

The oils tested were:

Aldi EVOO, Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Asda, Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Bertolli Originale, Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The Co-operative, Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Filippo Berio (Standard), Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Lidl Primadonna, Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Marks & Spencer, Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Morrisons, Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Napolina (Standard), Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sainsbury’s, Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Tesco, Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Waitrose, Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Also tested were two higher priced brands, Napolina Special Selection and Filippo Berio Special Selection, to see if they were worth their pricey tags.

The results were interesting. Here are the rankings. (Note: Take a look at the size of the bottle in comparison to its price.)

1. Napolina (Standard), 500ml, £3.79, 67%
2. Aldi EVOO, 750ml, £2.25, 60%
3. Bertolli Originale, 500ml, £3.69, 58%
4. Morrisons, 500ml, £1.84, 56%
5. Co-operative, 500ml, £2.29, 56%
6. Asda, 500ml, £1.84, 52%
7. Filippo Berio, 500ml, £2.98, 51%
8. Lidl Primadonna, 750ml, £2.25, 48%
9. Waitrose, 500ml, £2.48, 45%
10. Sainsbury’s, 500ml, £1.99, 45%
11. Marks & Spencer, 500ml, £2.79, 41%
12. Tesco, 500ml, £1.84, 38%

The two fancy bottles of evoo, Napolina Special Selection and Filippo Berio Special Selection, were declared to be “inferior” to their standard counterparts. Since I can’t get a copy of the Which? report I don’t know what “inferior” means. It could be anything from disgusting to not-quite-as-good-as. I’m not ready to disparage either oil without the facts.

The information I could glean about the two lowest performers comes from articles in the Daily Mail and The Olive Oil Times. In the Marks & Spencer oil were detected “farmyard flavors”, and in the Tesco oil were detected “dusty” flavors “like a moldy piece of bread”. That sounds absolutely gross.

Now to all of us in other parts of the world, taste test results on store brands do not translate from country to country. The best thing to do is to perform your own taste test with an assortment of oils you might commonly find on your grocery shelves. Unfortunately, consumers seem to have only themselves to rely on since olive oil labels are not consistent, useful or even accurate; but I will end here and save the labelling rant for another day.

May the sun shine through your branches.