Olive Oil Primer: Can You Judge Olive Oil by its Color? (No)

Just like you can’t judge a book by its cover or a horse by its color, you can’t tell whether an olive oil will taste good by its color.

Olive oil expert Fran Gage says as much: “Color isn’t an accurate indicator of quality or taste,” she writes in her book The New American Olive Oil (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2009).

That’s why professional olive oil tasters use a special blue glass – like the one pictured here – when they taste oils.  The blue tint masks the oil’s color, so it won’t influence a taster’s judgment.

But 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.

Australian olive oil expert Richard Gawel offers more details:

“Olives picked early in the season tend to make green colored oil as they contain higher levels of chlorophyll,” he writes in a very informative FAQ posted on the Internet.

“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.”

What’s more, 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, including our new Everyday California EVOO.  Stay tuned for more information about that new oil.

Bon appétit,

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