There are many terms and keywords, like first cold pressed, that are important to look for when seeking out a good extra virgin olive oil. We think it’s great that consumers are learning more and more about which phrases will indicate a genuine and high-quality product. But, we find that there is sometimes confusion about what these terms actually mean! (What makes an olive oil extra virgin anyways?!)
Generally, this term means that the fruit of the olive tree was crushed exactly one time, the “first press.” And additionally, it was a “cold” press – the temperature range of the fruit at the time it was crushed didn’t exceed excess temperatures and not a lot of heat was applied. If the temperature is too high during the crushing process, the quality of the oil will suffer. Lower quality oils – those that aren’t extra virgin – typically are the product of olives that were too mature at the time of harvest, sat too long after being picked before being milled, or sat too long in the malaxer at the mill causing oxidation and high heat.
First cold pressed is not a grade of olive oil, but a descriptor for how an extra virgin olive oil is made. In fact, in order to be extra virgin, the oil is required to have been not subject to any heat or abuse during processing. Otherwise, it can’t qualify as extra virgin olive oil under standards established by the Olive Oil Commission of California and the USDA.
We hope this clears up any confusion!