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5 Factors Affecting Quality

April 30, 2023 4 min read

olive oil

Olive oil is one of the most versatile and widely used oils globally. It is a staple in many Mediterranean diets for its health benefits and unique flavour. Olive oil is also used in various dishes, from salads to frying, making it a must-have in any kitchen.

However, not all olive oils are created equal. The quality and properties of olive oil can be affected by several factors, including variety, climate, soil, harvesting time and storage conditions. But which factors affect the quality and properties of olive oil? Here are some:

1. Variety

The variety of olives used to make olive oil is an essential factor in determining the quality and properties of the oil. There are hundreds of olive varieties, each with a unique flavour and aroma profile. Different regions have different native varieties.  Some representative olive varieties for olive oil making include the native to Spain Picual, the Italian Frantoio or the highly prized Greek Koroneiki.

  1. The Picual is a large and fleshy olive, which is the most widely planted olive variety globally, known for its robust flavour and high oil content. Picual olive oil has a fruity and slightly bitter taste, making it useful for cooking and frying.
  2. The Frantoio olive is representative of the olive oils of the Italian north and of Tuscany. Frantoio olive oil is fruity with a strong aftertaste.  It is often blended with a more delicate olive variety such as Leccino, so it can be used in salad dressings, marinades, and other dishes that require a lighter, more delicate flavour.
  3. The Koroneiki olive is the most representative olive variety grown in Greece since ancient times.  It also goes by the various local names of Lianolia, Ladolia, Vatsiki or Psilolia, which are all the same variety of Koroneiki. It is a small sized popular olive variety exclusively used to make olive oil of exceptional quality. It has a fruity, fresh and clean flavour and an  aroma that includes the herbs of the grove, green apple and green tomato, making it an excellent choice for multiple culinary purposes such as using raw, as well as for cooking, baking and shallow frying.

2. Climate

The climate in which olives are grown can also significantly impact the quality and properties of the resulting olive oil. Olives thrive in warm, sunny environments, requiring a specific amount of rainfall to grow correctly.

The Mediterranean region is known for its ideal climate for olive growth, with hot, dry summers and mild winters. This climate allows the olives to ripen slowly and develop their unique flavour and aroma.

3. Soil

The soil in which olives are grown can also impact the quality and properties of the resulting olive oil. Olives grow best in well-drained soils, rich in nutrients such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium.

The soil type can also impact the flavour and aroma of the olive oil. For example, olives grown in limestone-rich soils often have a fruity, spicy flavour, while olives grown in sandy soils may have a more delicate, buttery flavour.

4. Harvesting Time

The timing of the olive harvest is another critical factor in determining the quality and properties of the resulting olive oil. Olives are typically harvested in the fall and winter at their peak ripeness. Early harvest olives are picked when green and have a more robust, bitter flavour.  This is also the time when they are at their peak nutritional content in terms of antioxidants, vitamins etc.  Late-harvest olives are picked when fully ripe and have a sweeter, milder flavour.

The method of harvesting can also impact the quality and properties of the olive oil. Hand-picked olives are often considered higher quality than mechanically harvested ones, as they are less likely to be damaged and have introduced rot and oxidation during harvesting.

5. Storage Conditions

The storage conditions of olive oil can also impact its quality and properties. Olive oil should be stored in a cool, dark place away from light and heat. Exposure to light and heat can cause the oil to deteriorate and lose its flavour and aroma. Olive oil should also be stored in a well-sealed container to prevent oxidation. Exposure to air can cause it to become rancid, affecting its taste and smell.


Several factors, including variety, climate, soil, harvesting time and storage conditions, can impact the quality and properties of olive oil. By understanding these factors, consumers can make informed decisions when choosing olive oil for their kitchens. Whether used for cooking or as a finishing oil, high-quality olive oil can elevate any dish and provide numerous health benefits.

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