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Like wine tasting and coffee cupping, successful olive oil tasting requires its own method for getting the best results from the palate. Here are some tips to determine the good from the bad when it comes to olive oils.

The Basics

Extra virgin olive oil can be described by three key characteristics: fruitiness, bitterness and pungency. Fruit characters in olive oil can include grassiness, tomato, tomato vine, melon, rocket and many more. Tasted sharply at the side of the tongue, bitterness describes the sometimes sharp bitter green flavour, present within most olive oils to varying degrees. Pungency is the peppery bite that felt in the back of the throat that can sometimes induce a slight cough.

What you'll need: 

  • Paper and pen - record your findings after each oil tasted

  • Small containers for olive oil - one for each oil you are tasting

  • Water - give your mouth a swish after each oil and swallow so that the back of your throat is refreshed

  • A palate cleanser - we often use apple slices but water crackers are also a good option 

Now, taste...

Take a big sniff of the oil at close range, breathe out through your nose and take note of the fruit characters present through smell.

Then take a sip of your oil and slurp over the tongue. Swish across the palate before swallowing. Again, note the fruit characters, bitterness on the side of the tongue and pungency (peppery bite at the back of the throat).

Record your Findings

Note the fruit accents and level of bitterness and pungency (a scale of 1 to 10 can help with these two characteristics).

If your olive oil smells like putty, tastes like rancid nuts, wet dog (yes, it's possible!), dirty socks or is showing any other unpalatable characteristics - throw it in the bin and buy some new oil. These defects are consistent with oils that are past their used by date, have been processed without necessary care or were harvested too late in the season and they will affect the way your food tastes.

By Mount Zero Olives