Classification of Olive Oil as designated by the International Olive Council (IOC)
When we think of olive oil classification, we usually come up with the two types; extra virgin oil and pure olive oil. What is the difference between these two familiar types? What does it mean to be “extra virgin”? The International Olive Council (IOC) denominates them in detail as follows:
1）Virgin Olive Oil
Virgin olive oil is obtained solely from olive berries, without the addition of chemicals or a heating process, and contain no other oil type. It is categorized into the following four types:
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is virgin olive oil exhibiting flawless flavor and aroma with an acidity level of no more than 0.8%.
- Virgin Olive Oil
Virgin olive oil also exhibits perfect flavor and aroma with an acidity level reaching up to 2%.
- Ordinary Virgin Olive Oil
Ordinary virgin olive oil possesses fine flavor and aroma with its acidity level not exceeding 3.3%.
- Lampante Virgin Olive Oil
Lampante virgin olive oil presents a flaw in its flavor with an acidity level that exceeds 3.3%. It was named after its use in oil lamps. It does not meet the standards of the IOC for consumption due to its flavor and is most often refined or put to industrial use.
※The difference between extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil lies in the level of acidity, not the perceived flavor differences detected by the tasters.
2）Refined Olive Oil
Refined olive oil is derived from virgin olive oils, such as Lampante olive oil, refined via methods including deoxidation, decolorization, and deodorization. It has an acidity level no higher than 0.3%.
3）Olive Oil known as “Pure Olive Oil” in Japan
“Pure olive oil” is a refined blend of virgin olive oils, with the exception of Lampante olive oils, with an acidity level below 1%.
4）Olive Pomace Oil
Olive pomace oil obtained by treating olive pomace with solvents. Its composition is different to olive oil, and the IOC stipulates that olive pomace oil not be labelled as “olive oil”. However, olive pomace oil with an acidity level of less than 0.3% can be sold for consumption purposes if it complies with the country’s domestic standards – it must simply go by a label other than “olive oil”.
Among the four grades, all olive oil sold in Japan for consumption purposes must follow what the Japan Agricultural Standard (JAS) specifies as having an acidity level below 2%, in other words, only extra virgin oil and pure olive oil.
The acidity levels refers to the amount of free fatty acid contained.
⇒ What is meant by “free fatty acid”?
For all oils and fats, including olive oil, the principal component is triacylglycerol. Usually, triacylglycerols are synthesized from three fatty acids joined together by a single glycerol molecule. However, olive oil contains a small amount of free fatty acid, which is not bound to a glycerol molecule. It is said that the more free fatty acid an olive oil contains, or the higher its acidity level, the more susceptible it is to deterioration.
Some cookbooks say pure olive oil is suitable for heating, whereas extra virgin olive oil should be eaten raw. However, in reality, it has been proven that extra virgin oil is more acid-resistant and produces far better results in cooking than pure olive oil.
For example, when preparing a tomato sauce, simply fry your onions and garlic with extra virgin oil, preferably at a low temperature. This alone will lend your tomato sauce a surprisingly authentic flavor!
We do not stock pure olive oil because it is difficult to guarantee its quality, due to its production methods; there are scarcely any regulations regarding the quality of the virgin olive oils blended to produce refined olive oil.
The extra virgin olive oil we offer are all from our own farms, grown and pressed with special care. You can rest assured that what you buy from us will truly enhance your cooking.