Feb 172013

In an effort to keep up with olive oil production and exportation in Israel, Hebrew University is providing a new certification for their students, olive oil expert. The olive oil certification course curriculum with be aligned with the International Olive Council standards and guidelines.

One of the duties the graduates will perform is as an expert witness in Israeli and international courts. This is considered essential in light of olive oil adulteration and misrepresentation.

New Major at Hebrew U: Olive Oil Expert – Inside Israel – News – Israel National News

May the sun shine through your branches.


Nov 132012

The International Olive Council awarded a perfect score to the olive oil taste testers (sensory panel) at the Australian Oils Research Laboratory in Wagga Wagga, Australia.

This is quite a big deal. People who ‘taste’ olive oil for a living must be able to make very subtle distinctions among the flavors and sensations present in olive oil, and this is very difficult to do.

This past July I attended the introduction to olive oil tasting and the master-level sensory evaluation courses at the University of California at Davis. The auditorium full of students, including me, spent days listening to lectures, taking notes, and tasting many olive oils. The lectures were in Italian and were translated by Darrell Corti of Corti Brothers Fine Wine and Gourmet Foods Italian Grocery Store in Sacramento, California.

Until I took these courses, I had no idea how tough it is to correctly evaluate olive oils. The main things that a sensory panel are looking for are defects in the oils. The defects are a very specific list. Here are some of the more common defects and a link to the list from the Olive Oil Times: Fusty, Musty, Muddy Sediment, Winey-Vinegary, Metallic, and Rancid. There are other defects which are less common but problematic none-the-less.

So why is it that defects are what a sensory panel is really looking for? As our Italian teachers told us, if there is a defect then there is no point in continuing a sensory evaluation. The oil can never be designated as a virgin olive oil and must be sent for refining to be used as a lower grade oil know as lampante (lamp oil) or tossed out.

While you are looking at the link above provided by the Olive Oil Times, take note of the positive attributes. Maybe you have noticed some of these when you taste your extra virgin olive oil. If you haven’t, give it a try, and don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t distinguish the flavors because it is very difficult to do. People who taste-test olive oil professionally take continuous courses to stay on track. I was only moderately good at this and will never sit on a sensory panel. One thing I can do, is tell that there is a defect present, I’m just not good at identifying the defect.

Many congratulations to the Wagga Wagga sensory panel on a perfect score. You have Olive Crazy’s deep admiration.

Wagga sensory panel obtains perfect score in olive oil test | Southern Cross

May the sun shine through your branches.


Mar 242012

I just read two articles regarding the alleged International Olive Council’s (IOC) intention to remove sensory evaluation from qualification for extra virgin olive oils from IOC member countries. The first article is from Tom Mueller, the author of Extra Virginity: the Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil entitled Vanishing Viginity? and the second from the Olive Oil Times entitled Non-Member Chemists Kept Out of Olive Council Meeting.

Let me give some unvarnished advice from someone who is familiar with and loves brutal public relations and political campaigns (same thing really). If what is alleged turns out to be true – this is a gift. Take it and spin the hell out of it!!!!!

May the sun shine through your branches.


Dec 112011

Every day I read lots of material about the olive, some from books and others from the internet. Each week I share with you the articles, recipes, research documents, and other information I find on the internet. Most of it is very interesting and some of it inspires me to write an article or two of my own. None of these links are in any way my opinion or are endorsed by me. I am sharing.

Olive Links of the Week

Edible gifts can satisfy every taste
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
For those of you who buy gifts for people who love to eat.

Locally Sourced Jordanian Olive Oil Factory Tour at Terra Rossa
Jen Maan in Amman blog
Jen visits a Jordanian olive oil processing facility. She has lots of great photos.

Boost your ‘good fats’ to help fend off diabetes
More on MUFAs and diabetes.

Sovena USA First Ever Lab to be Certified by International Olive Council in United States
PR Newswire
Largest US olive oil importers gets their lab certified by the International Olive Council.

Namibia: Local Olive Oil Takes Market By Storm
All Africa
Swakop River Olives entrepreneurs Eddie Angula and Wim van der Plaas are growing trees along Namibia’s Swakop river. Of interest is that they grew them from seeds purchased from South Africa. I don’t often hear of olive trees grown from seed.

VN Dalmia Offers an Olive Oil Reality Check
Olive Oil Times
India is marketing olive pomace oil to the Indian marketplace. If that is what the market demands then that’s okay. The key is truth in advertising.

Olive oils can prevent infantile diseases
Teatro Naturale International
According to many physicians and scientists, such as the pediatrician and neonatologist Giuseppe Caramia, extra virgin olive oils are important ingredients of preventive medicine.

Attack on olive oil consumption in Denmark
Teatro Naturale International
Denmark has a problem with obesity and is instituting a 7.1 % tax on each liter of olive oil. Is this ignorance or maybe a powerful dairy lobby?

Canton business offers imported oils, vinegars, gourmet foods
Watertown Daily News
Josie’s Little Pizzeria and Josie’s Olive Oil Company are selling California olive oils in Canton, New York.

Slick accents welcome on Oenotri’s dinner plate
Napa Valley Register
Oenotri’s restaurant in Napa has fresh extra virgin olive oils on the menu.

New Olive Pilot Crop Insurance Program Approved for Selected Counties in California
Insurance News Net
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) announces a new a pilot insurance program for table and oil olives in 12 California counties, beginning with the 2012 crop year. The sales closing date is January 31, 2012.

China could be strong S.J. farm market
Chinese delegation visits Lodi, California. China’s burgeoning economy and rapidly expanding middle class hold great potential for sales of premium San Joaquin County products – including wine, cherries, tree nuts and olive oil.

Critical Information for Olive Oil Decision Makers
The Olive Oil Times
The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in California’s Napa Valley will host a seminar on January 12th for industry professionals. They will receive the information needed to protect themselves and their customers by learning.what constitutes quality olive oil.

Banks squeeze oil industry
Weekly Times Now
Australian banks unwilling to make loans to olive oil producers. Dumping is to blame.

Olive oil producers feel price pain
Weekly Times Now
Lisa Rowntree of the Australian Olive Association weighs in on olive oil price wars.

Olive Oil’s Growers, Chemists, Cooks and Crooks
The New York Times Books section
A review of Tom Mueller’s olive oil industry expose, Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil

Chosen Bites: A hearty dish!
The Jerusalem Post
Recipes for Sautéed Butternut Squash, Kale with Pasta and Mushrooms and Turkey Meatballs.

Dining Out review: Schnitz Ada Grill offers good value, good food
A review of the Schnitz Ada Grill in downtown Ada, Michigan.

May the sun shine through your branches.


Dec 012011

I just read the latest article from the International Olive Council (IOC) entitled “International Olive Council Seeks Greater ‘Transparency’“. The first thing I thought was, “they must be in some serious trouble.” The usage of the word ‘transparency’ is one of those million dollar public relations words suffused with powerful meanings. And the meanings aren’t exactly what you’d expect.

Throughout my thirty-year-long career as a lobbyist and politician I’ve learned a thing or two about the use of the word ‘transparency’. I’ve seen it used to bolster the sagging careers of politicians who’ve been caught with their hands in the cookie jar. I’ve seen it used by company CEOs trying to save their jobs and the companies they run while a major screw-up worms it’s way into news headlines. In these instances, the word ‘transparency’ is used as a shield for hiding something, or as a means of deflecting notice from unpleasant actions or previously hidden information that is now subject to public scrutiny.

Another use of ‘transparency’ is as code for “you show me what you’ve got and I’ll take a good look” – like the transparency afforded to a peep show viewer. This instance is often found in legislation and regulations.

In any case, the term is used, but is not actually defined by the user. Why? Because the word is charged with positive connotations, and those connotations are seductive. Why define the word when the person who hears or reads it will automatically think you’ve have nothing but good intentions. Do not be tricked into substituting your own version of what transparency should be with the one presented to you, not just by the IOC, but by anyone.

Just for fun I did a search for all the uses of the word ‘transparency’ in The Olive Oil Times database and eleven articles came up, including the one above. I went to each and searched the word ‘transparency’ to determine it’s usage. In one instance it was loosely defined as traceability and in another as an olive oil production process audit. Neither definition conformed with the other. In all the other articles the word was used in such a way that the reader could then attach whatever interpretation they wished.

In order to find out just what the IOC means by ‘transparency’ and their intended actions as it relates to the meaning, here are some questions they should answer.

  • What are you attempting to make transparent, and be specific?
  • How will you affect these transparencies, and be specific?
  • Are these transparency actions mandatory or voluntary?
  • How will you police these transparency actions?
  • What are the punitive measures for violation of the transparency actions?
  • What are the benefits of adherence to the transparency actions?
  • What is your transparency actions implementation timeline?

I know I sound jaded and I am. When a secretive, quasi-governmental, international organization is interested in transparency, you can be assured it’s not in the best interests of the two most chronically-aggrieved parties in the world olive oil industry, growers and consumers. It has been proven time and again that the International Olive Council (IOC) doesn’t implement it’s own rules and regulations, and doesn’t give a fig for growers and consumers even in their own member countries.

May the sun shine through your branches.