About our olives and oils

spainSpain is the world's biggest producer of olive oil - 3 timesMap Spain the amount of its nearest competitor. Output is increasing due to improvements in quality control and production methods. Better quality has led to greater demand. Spain is also the world's biggest exporter. This is not obvious if you look at the supermarket shelves here in the UK, where you could assume Italy exported more, but a large percentage of Spanish Extra Virgin olive oil is exported to Italy (and other countries) where they label it and pass it off as their own product. Beware of labels saying ‘Bottled in Italy' - it might well be Spanish oil.

Within the Spanish market Andalucia produces 80% of national production and Jaen is considered to be the olive Map Andaluciaoil capital of the world. Production in 2003/4 was 1,153,230 tons of which Jaen produced 609,353 tons (Guía Mercacei de los Aceites de Oliva Virgen Extra de España 2nd Edition, 2004. Madrid: Edimarket)

However it is not only in statistical terms that Spain excels. Its Extra Virgin Olive Oil is of the highest quality - no wonder they export so much.

Other countries are now starting to produce oil in an attempt to compete but they have a long way to go to catch up with the original and the best: Spain.

andaluciaThe people I deal with are situated some 17 and 24 kilometres from the city of Jaen in the middle of the Andalucian olive oil producing area. Jaen itself lies an hour north of Granada by bus (about seven hours by train!). Nobody in either business speaks English and the Andalucian accent is far from what is taught in British universities! You will not find anyone working there after 1pm during the baking summer months. It is as far removed from slick, superficial, oppressive Wall Street-style practices as it is humanly possible to be. However, that only adds to the region's attractions. Both Torredelcampo (for olive oil) and Torredonjimeno (olives) are small towns although we would probably call them villages. By soon after midday the scorching sun and the attraction of the bars and the gazpacho have cleared the streets and the shutters are closed on all the houses. There are no tourists here and few foreign businessmen ever visit. In winter, the freezing, biting wind and the deep snow remind us of the difficult existence people in this area of Spain have endured for centuries, and continue to endure given the severe winter of 2004/5 and the drought which has gone on for 18 months or more.

Neither our olive supplier nor the olive oil cooperative has ever exported to Britain before and their products are aimed at, and suited to, the Spanish domestic market. Their products are as authentically Spanish as it is possible to get and they sell widely across the whole of Spain. The Olive Store now brings that authentic taste of Spain back home to Britain.

Olive Oil Production

While Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil has traditionally been marketed internationally by a few large multinationals from Catalonia and the Basque Country in the north of Spain, far from the main olive growing regions, small producers had neither the financial backing nor the technological know-how to reach out to foreign markets. Oleocampo was established to represent and commercialise the oil from three local cooperatives in Torredelcampo, Andalucia. The beauty of this has been the mix of 100-year-old plantations with some more modern ones and with state-of-the-art production and quality processes.

The olives are picked (better than collecting) and are sent as quickly as possible for pressing to avoid squashing those at the bottom. They are washed to remove the mud, twigs and leaves. The olives are pressed and the first juice which comes out is the Extra Virgin Olive Oil. You will often see it referred to as a ‘first pressing'. The residues at several further stages are then sold off to other companies and used to produce lower grades of Olive Oil and Orujo. You would be staggered if you saw what is used to make these lower grades. Always insist on Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

At Oleocampo, storage is in new stainless steel vats and the bottling is done in-house. The desire to supply only the highest quality has resulted in the company obtaining Product Certification and it has the Environmental Management Certificate ISO 14001. Tasting is carried out in their own tasting suite, which resembles the set from the Generation Game television show, by the region's top tasters.

The Picual variety is the most important in Spain with 700,000 hectares dedicated to its growth. It is predominant in the province of Jaen which is the largest olive growing area in the world. The Picual grows well in hilly and mountainous areas and can deal well with cold or snowy winters. It is a very juicy variety which has adapted well to modern, mechanised production techniques which have actually improved the texture, purity and taste of olive oil. Its taste diminishes over time and so it is best to consume quickly and not leave it sitting on the kitchen shelf for months. It is high in natural antioxidants and Vitamin E (303 ppm).

Spain is renowned for the best olives. And Andalucia is the heart of the fine olives industry in Spain.

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