I received an email from a customer last week regarding the newest buzz words regarding extra virgin olive oil : acidity level . Advertisers are always looking to repackage extra virgin olive oil in a way the consumer cannot discern, and so here comes yet another marketing technique to sell EVOO.
To start with, if you purchase quality EVOO the acidity level is already low at no more than .8% (That’s less than 1%) The International Olive Oil Council set those requirements, together with specific methods of production : no chemicals no heat used in extraction, for classifying extra virgin as the cream of the crop from any other grade of olive oil. My customer told me she was purchasing an EVOO from Greece with an acidity level of .3%. She wanted to know if the EVOOs I carried had the acidity level listed on the label like hers. Much like customers that look for the words first cold pressed/ing on the labeling because marketing tactics tell them to specifically look for those words, her concern arose because of this newest method to market olive oil.
Acidity levels are determined solely by the variety of olive and by production methods. Some olives have a naturally higher acidity level. If they are not harvested with care and quickly processed into olive oil they will have even greater levels. Some on the other hand have lower acidity to start but if they are not harvested and processed properly the levels will increase. This is why olives from the same variety and the same grove can produce different grades of olive oil. If the olives are picked and pressed within 24 hours, as all of the ones in my line are, they will never have acidity levels greater than the required .8%. If oils are blended, as is done routinely with lower grade and refined olive oil it can produce lower acidity levels and then be passed off as “extra virgin”.
As a serious cook and person who takes to heart the nutritional value of the ingredients in the foods I prepare and eat, the acidity levels of extra virgin olive oil mean very little unless someone has a medical condition where a .5% to .8% would cause stomach upset. So long as the oil is real EVOO (and many are not even though they claim to be) there is no reason to choose based on acidity. It should be based on taste and what one wants to do with the olive oil. All that being said, if a customer has problems with acidic foods and digestion I suggest any of these 3 EVOOs in my line that are on the lower end of the acidity spectrum. They are not labeled as such but are less than .5%.
The rest hover around .5% , though my Kolympari Organic EVOO from Crete Greece is at .7%