The Ultimate guide to Spanish Olive Oil

Olive oil is one of the earliest known foods in the world and Spanish olive oil is the best and if you get the opportunity to go on a tour of a Spanish Olive Oil mill and taste the oil produced there you will begin to understand why Spanish food culture uses olive oil in virtually everything – even to take a tablespoon of olive oil a day for health reasons. Spanish olive oil is like nothing you have ever tasted, forget cod liver oil, olive oil from Spain is light and has an almost lemony flavour.

Ultimate guide to Spanish Olive Oil and how its made 1 Ultimate guide to Spanish Olive Oil and how its made

Spain is the world leader in the production, sales and export of olive oil, producing roughly half of olive oil in Europe, If you live, eat or travel through Spain you will come to appreciate the supreme quality of Spanish Olive Oil particularly that produced in the Andalusian region.

Explore Andalusian food and the Spanish way of eating – from desayunos to tapas

 Spanish Olive Oil the best in the world

The Extra Virgin Olive Oil Castillo de Tabernas comes from their own farm next to the Almeria Desert of Tabernas. More than 300,000 olive trees and 700 hectares make them one of the largest international producers of gourmet extra virgin olive oil with only 0.1 degrees of natural acidity.

This Spanish Olive Oil mill is located just a few miles from Mojacar and is in the Almeria region and grown in the Tabernas Desert.

We were fortunate enough to tour this facility and we learned a lot about the production of olive oil and its uses and how to judge a good oil for ourselves.

Spanish olive oils - Castillo de Taberna olive oil plant in Almeria

Carmen was our tour guide and has an encyclopedic knowledge of olive oil production. Not only that she is passionate and informed about all that is involved with the harvest and production. This is an excellent tour and it is completely FREE!

a large yellow olive oil tree shaker
Olive tree shaker for harvesting

Spanish olives are harvested in November and December and the fruit must be picked and into the processing plant within 12 hours or the quality of the oil diminishes substantially. The fruit must not be picked off the ground it must be ‘combed’ manually from the trees into nets or some Mills have more modern equipment but even with these new machines, there is no substitute for hand harvesting.

inside of a spanish olive oil plant

The elevated belts that the olives travel on into the plant

Castillo de Taberna is a small plant even though it produces 600,000 to a million litres of oil a year, The oil has 0.1 acidity which is the best in the industry. Every part of the olive is used – oil, cosmetics, massage oil; ground seeds used for heating, other parts used as fertilizer.

an olive grove

Carmen even explained that the crushed olive pits are recycled as filling for pillows that can be heated in the microwave and even fuel. Apparently, the crushed pits take a while to burn but once they do they burn hotter and longer than any other fuel source.

crushed olive oil pits
Crushed olive pits

According to the Olive Mill owners, the “unique flavour of our oil is based on the high number of solar hours which it gets in the Almeria Tabernas Desert, a protected natural area. This produces a product with a lot of oleic acids, natural antioxidants and Vitamin E, making it the best ally of the Mediterranean Diet and a great source of natural health benefits.

Ultimate guide to Spanish Olive Oil and how its made 2 Ultimate guide to Spanish Olive Oil and how its made

In fact Carmen our guide told us that a lot of Spanish people take a tablespoon of the unfiltered olive oil every morning. Tasting this oil we found that it was light, very unlike anything we had ever tried before – nothing like that nasty North America cod liver stuff. The oil is bright, light and kind of citrusy, very easy to take a tablespoon of that. Pure unfiltered Spanish Olive Oils are one of the best natural medications in the world, not only that but it is great for overall health and skincare.

stainless steel drums for holding Spanish olive oil
Sorting, labelling and bottling facility

The best pressing of good Spanish olive oil is the first one. It must be cold-pressed (no heat extraction used) and generally, this pressing is unfiltered so you will get some residue (like a good wine) in the bottom of the bottle.

Ultimate guide to Spanish Olive Oil and how its made 3 Ultimate guide to Spanish Olive Oil and how its made

The flavour and quality are superb on these first pressings. The cost is immensely reasonable at the factory around $10 Canadian a bottle, at home you would pay at least double if not triple for oil this fine quality. The taste is light, fresh peppery and has a faint hint of fruity citrus flavour.

the stainless steel storage vats for the Olive Oil
the stainless steel storage vats for the Olive Oil

Beware as some of you know there has been a lot of reporting on crap olive oils in North America recently so if you want to obtain all the benefits and flavour of real olive oil – do your homework. Purchase your olive oil from a reputable store or supplier.

Ultimate guide to Spanish Olive Oil and how its made 4 Ultimate guide to Spanish Olive Oil and how its made

Tips for choosing the best Spanish Olive Oils

  • Look for extra virgin olive oil – cold pressed
  • Don’t buy a blend and don’t be fooled by the advertising and marketing jargon of many “name brands” that are actually blending their oils.
  • Check that the oil is 100% pure with a low (under 1% acidity)
  • Make sure the country of origin of the oil is noted – a product of only Spain, for example, signifies that the oil was packaged in that country
  • Choose only oils grown, pressed and bottled in that specific country
  • How old is it? A good bottle of extra virgin olive oil will have a “pressing” date or sell-by date. Unlike wine, olive oil does not age well.  Most oils will only be “good” for one year, but to get the best flavours use within a month.
  • Colour is not an indicator of good oil. The colour depends on the chlorophyll of the olives themselves when pressed. Good colour could be anything from grass green to bright yellow.
    spanish olive oil groves

Cooking with good Spanish Olive Oils

It is a myth that you cannot cook with good olive oil. The difficulty with olive oil is that its smoke point is quite low so it is not suitable for deep frying – although it can be done.

Here is a great quote from Dr Joanna’s Blog

Extra virgin olive oil has an unqualified body of research supporting its role as a protective, beneficial food in a healthy diet. It is extremely versatile and can be used cold in dressings and for drizzling, as well as in almost all cooking applications. In this regard it is not only safe but also beneficial to our health, not to mention delivering exceptional flavour! So do as the Mediterranean countries have traditionally done for hundreds of years and enjoy cooking with your extra virgin olive oil.

more spanish olive oil groves

Spanish Olive Oil in the Almeria Desert –  the Castillo de Tabernas

The Castillo land and facility have been used as movie locations: Exodus: Gods and Kings and Spanish TV shows. The Tabernas desert, in fact, is a well-known filming location for the spaghetti Westerns of old. However, these days the desert is used for filming everything from TV shows like Game of Thrones to Spanish soap operas and it is still a stand-in for a good cowboy film. Other famous movies filmed here include Cleopatra, Never Say Never (James Bond), Lawrence of Arabia, Indiana Jones, Conan the Barbarian and How I Won the War with John Lennon.

Two of the olive trees burned during the making of Exodus: Gods & Kings
Two of the olive trees burned during the making of Exodus: Gods & Kings
Two of the olive trees burned during the making of Exodus: Gods & Kings

At the end of our tour, we had a taste of the oil from the 3 types of olives they grow, as well a green filtered and unfiltered oil. The green unfiltered oil was our favourite and a bargain at $10 Canadian a bottle, perfect for pouring over our Tostados, drizzled into our gazpacho – we are now confirmed Spanish olive oil fans.

Ultimate guide to Spanish Olive Oil and how its made 5 Ultimate guide to Spanish Olive Oil and how its made

And if you want a tour send Carmen an email, she speaks English incredibly well (far better than our Spanish) and she will get back to you right away to arrange a tour, [email protected]

Ultimate guide to Spanish Olive Oil and how its made 6 Ultimate guide to Spanish Olive Oil and how its made

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