It is believed that the cultivation of olive trees began in Asia Minor, between Syria and Greece around 3000 BC and later moved to other Mediterranean countries. It is the common bond between the countries in the Mediterranean area, bridging different cultures or religions like Christians, Muslims and Jews.
Cultivation in Spain started with the Phoenicians in 1100 BC and later the Roman Empire (218 BC onwards) increased production all over Spain. At that time Andalucia (then known as the Baetica region, around Guadalquivir river) was famous for supplying olive oil to Rome.
After the Romans followed the 8 centuries of Arab rule (711 AC), during which new varieties of olives tree were introduced into the Iberian Peninsula. Andalucia called Al-Andalus in this period, was once again the supplier of olive oil to Muslim-Spain. This influence is preserved when talking about olive oil, the Spanish word “aceite” (oil) comes from the Arabic az-zayt, “aceituna” (olive) from az zaytuna, and mill or “almazara” comes from al-ma’sara .
It is predicted that in the 2013-14 harvest Andalucia will have produced around 35% of all oil from olives produced worldwide, and 17% of the table olives found in cafes and bars. To put that into numbers that’s 1.4 millon tonnes of oil and 425,000 tonnes of olives (worldwide it’s 2,500,000).
That’s a whole lotta olives!
Olive oil is the oil obtained solely from the fruit of the olive tree. They are classified into the following commercial categories depending on the way that it is obtained and the chemical and sensorial analysis (made by a laboratory and panel test):
- Extra virgin olive oil: oils obtained from olives solely by mechanical or other physical means, has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams and free of organoleptic defects. It preserves its full aroma and taste and nutritional quality unaltered.
- Virgin olive oil: oils obtained from olives solely by mechanical or other physical means which has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 2 grams per 100 grams and with an small organoleptic defect just perceptible by a panel test.
- (Pure) Olive oil is the oil consisting of a blend of refined olive oil (obtained from virgin olive oils not fit for consumption before refining methods) and virgin olive oils (normally 10%).