The Best Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Try Home Appetit
By Jessica Lymberopoulos September 5, 2013 No Comments
Finding the best extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is much tougher than it should be in the United States.
The problem is, even if you’re willing to do a bit of extra research before you shop, most popular taste-testing outlets like Consumer Reports and America’s Test Kitchen sample a lineup of big-box grocery store players. That’s a drawback because many of these EVOO brands aren’t so extra-virgin, and sometimes they aren’t so olive, either (but mixtures of olive, hazelnut, and sunflower seed oils).
According to Kurt Singleton, the founder of Home Appetit, the EVOO imports we get in the U.S. are often rejects from the European Union — the oil that didn’t quite pass the EU’s extra virginity test.
For olive oil to be confirmed as extra virgin, the EU requires it to pass a two-part test, which measures the acidity level (at 0.8-percent or less) and tests the soil that the olives were grown in. Luckily for EU olive oil producers, the U.S. measures EVOO acidity by a lower standard at up to 1-percent acidic. Not so luckily for us, that enables them to gleefully sell all their olio della lampada (translation: lamp oil) to their neighbors across the Atlantic.
So when you come across an olive oil like Home Appetit’s Estate Grown EVOO, you are encountering a very different oil than what you find at most places selling cooking oils in the U.S.
Here are the three factors that set it apart.
Home Appetit owns its own olive grove in Uruguay, tended to full-time by one of their founding partners, Santiago Alonso, who has a degree in agronomy and specializes in olive growth.
They call their product “estate grown” because Santiago oversees every part of their EVOO’s production, from the growth of olives to the pruning to the hand picking to the milling, which happens just 500 meters away from the plantation.
Home Appetit’s all-inclusive operation is important for more reasons than just creating an artisan producer vibe. The longer olives have to sit after harvesting and before they’re milled into oil, the higher the acidity of the finished product will be (because the olives oxidize while they wait). Unlike wine production, time is not on your side with EVOO. Having such a succinct “tree-to-table” process enables Home Appetit to produce EVOO that regularly tests at just 0.1-0.2-percent acidity — significantly better than the EU standard.
Another benefit resulting from the way Home Appetit’s Estate Grown EVOO is produced is very high traceability. This traceability made it much more simple for their EVOO to earn the endorsement of the Non-GMO Project, the most recognized label for non-GMO foods in the U.S.
Hello, back to the most important factor when it comes to defining the best extra virgin olive oil: taste!
Kurt encouraged me to do a side-by-side comparison of the EVOO I had at home next to his Estate Grown EVOO. This could be a little unfair, but here’s what I noticed when I put Home Appetit up against my Market Pantry EVOO (imported from Italy).
- Home Appetit: Springy, fresh
- Market Pantry: Synthetic, dull
- (A grass vs. astroturf analogy came to mind)
- Home Appetit: Pure, smooth, mild
- Market Pantry: Loud, sharp, burned my throat
- (Yes, I took swigs of pure olive oil. I guess it would have been smart to prepare with a loaf of bread.)
The most surprising thing was definitely the throat burn I got after a sip of my Market Pantry EVOO. And that was after I had tasted Home Appetit’s, so my throat should have been warmed up to the sensation of pure olive oil going down. I suppose that was higher acidity level proven with no scientific test kit needed.
Host your own EVOO comparison test at home with some of Home Appetit’s Estate Grown EVOO, and taste the tree-to-table difference.