You Can’t Judge an Extra Virgin Olive Oil by its Color

Extra virgin olive oil comes in various colors, from golden to green. But don’t let color sway your judgment about the actual quality of the oil inside the bottle. It would be like judging a book by its cover or a horse by its color. In other words, not a good idea.

Freshly pressed extra virgin olive oil“Color isn’t an accurate indicator of quality or taste,” olive oil expert Fran Gage writes in her excellent book The New American Olive Oil (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2009).

That’s why professional olive oil tasters use a special blue glass when they taste oils.  The blue tint is intended to mask the oil’s color so it won’t influence a taster’s judgment – although perhaps a black glass might do an even better job!

That said, an olive oil’s color will tell you other things. Olives harvested early in the season, for example, are naturally very green and therefore produce a greener oil.

“Olives picked early in the season tend to make green colored oil as they contain higher levels of chlorophyll,” Australian olive oil expert Richard Gawel writes in an excellent FAQ.

“Olives harvested late in the season will typically produce more golden colored oils due to a higher level of natural occurring levels of carotene-like substances. Both oils may be technically equivalent in quality but very different in style.”

So you want to avoid buying extra virgin olive oil in a clear bottle to see its color. Light is among the enemies of EVOO.

Together, heat, light and oxygen promote oxidation and can make the oil rancid.

“If you purchase a very green looking oil, make sure it is stored in a dark bottle in a dark place,” advises Gawel. “The stuff that makes it green (chlorophyll) helps start the reaction that makes oils rancid, but only in the presence of light.”

That’s the main reason we choose dark colored glass to bottle our extra virgin olive oils.

Bon appétit,

Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
California Olive Ranch