Koroneiki: The Little Olive that Makes a Real “Cougher” of an Olive Oil

Wine gets rated on a 100-point scale. For extra virgin olive oil, we use a different system:  the cough system. In other words, how many times do you cough when you swallow the oil and you get that peppery zing in your throat. More robustly flavored oils elicit more coughs. Our Koroneiki oil is a classic example of a robust oil – it’s a “two or three cougher.”

The Koroneiki olive is the third of the three olive varietals we grow in northern California. (Click the following links to read blog posts about our other two varietals: Arbosana and Arbequina.)

The small, slightly asymmetric Koroneiki olive hails from Greece. Koroneiki oil, which we blend into some of our other oils, is the most robust oil we make. We’ve hosted olive oil tastings for chefs and consumers and, sure enough, our Koroneiki has people clearing their throats.

By the way, there’s a scientific explanation behind that peppery and pleasant tickle you get at the back of your throat when you swallow a good extra virgin olive oil. And researchers say the findings may prove useful in combating deadly diseases. (Click here to see a blog about the scientific significance.)

In addition to a fruity nose and a strong, peppery finish, our Koroneiki is characterized by aromas of fresh grass and artichokes. The aromatic flavor elicits words like herbaceous, green tea, fruity and ripe banana. Our Master Miller Bob Singletary says the complexity of Koroneiki makes it a favorite among people who enjoy a Tuscan-style flavor profile.

In terms of acreage, the Koroneiki olive ranks as our No. 3 olive, accounting for 3% percent of the 12,000-plus acres of trees we have under cultivation. (Arbequina accounts for 78% and Arbosana 19%.) Koroneiki also is California’s No. 3 olive crop.

Like Arbequina and Arbosana, we plant our Koroneiki trees using a special system: The trees are spaced much more closely together than in a traditional olive grove. That allows us to harvest the olives more quickly and rush them to the mill to make the oil.

A 2009 report from the Olive Center at the University of California, Davis, showed that Koroneiki accounted for 6% of California’s olive acreage that’s planted using the same type of planting system we use.

Unlike Arbequina and Arbosana, we don’t bottle our Koroneiki oil as a single varietal oil. Instead, other oils we make get a “shot” of Koroneiki, including our Everyday Fresh and Miller’s Blend. (Our single varietal Arbequina and Arbosana oils don’t get Koroneiki.)

That Koroneiki “shot” kicks up an oil’s flavor and fruitiness, giving the oil a better and more complex taste. Winemakers do the same thing with their various grapes when making wine.

The Koroneiki olive tree has grown in Greece for more than 3,000 years and is cultivated there for its oil. This drought resistant tree is a prolific olive producer. And the olive itself is a prodigious producer of oil.

Like the Arbosana olive, we have to be especially careful when we harvest our Koroneiki olives. If harvested too early, the flavors are green and harsh and take time to settle out.

In addition to producing a robust oil, the little Koroneiki olive delivers a healthful punch. It has a very high level of polyphenols, the chemical substances found in plants that may reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch