GREEK OLIVE OIL VARIETIES
Despite the abundance of olive groves now scattered across the world, in both the northern and southern hemisphere, most olive oil continues to come from the Mediterranean. The intricate nature of the olive tree is evident in the many varieties of olives that exist. While colour, size and composition may all point towards a certain variety, the maturity of the olive plays an important role as it affects both the taste and the oil produced. Additionally, some olives are suitable only as table olives and others are suitable only to produce oil.
Kalamata is unique to Greece as it generates some of the finest extra virgin olive oil in the world primarily from one type of olive; the regal, smaller variety of olive known by its botanical name “Koroneiki”. The olives are harvested when they are still green in order to ensure the title of “early picked” or “green” olive oils and are mainly present in the south Peloponnese and in some areas of Crete. What sets the Koroneiki apart when referring to the seed and the olive oil produced is the unique method of farming. What it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. These olives yield approximately 6 to 7 litres of the best olive oil which is golden-green in colour and is highly acclaimed for its fruity and fresh flavour.
Athinolia is a variety of olive that matures slowly and is collected from the end of December until the beginning of January. Its fruits have a medium size oval shape, with a weight of 2.2 to 2.9 grams and a length that can vary from 7.5 to 25 millimeters. When Athinolia and Koroneiki olives are mixed they produce a full-body extra virgin olive oil of a balanced and intricate fruity flavour.
Black olives are a typically Greek type of olive which has been allowed to fully ripen on the tree before harvesting. The distinguishing characteristic which gives them the name “Greek” is the lack of lye in the de-bittering process. Their colour varies from red-violet-black to purple and deep black and their taste is fleshy and slightly fruity.
Green olives come from varieties of Chondrolia in Chalkidiki a region in Northern Greece. They feature large sized berries, bright green-yellow colour and slightly bitter taste while they lack in grassiness. They are harvested by hand between 15 September to 15 October and after pitting they are re-evaluated in large tanks, so that only the best berries will be used.
Kalamata olives are named after the city of Kalamata in Messenia, southern Greece and are also grown in the nearby region of Laconia. They are almond-shaped, with a rich aubergine colour, smooth and meaty in texture and are harvested by hand only when fully ripe to protect their sensitive skin against bruising. Cured in salt brine and immersed in olive oil & wine vinegar, they acquire a characteristic light fruity flavour and sweetness. These olives are protected under the European Protected Geographical Status scheme.
Often referred to as Chalkidiki, the Halkidiki olive is grown exclusively in Greece in a region that is adjacent to Mount Athos. They are also known as “donkey olives” because of their large size and make excellent table olives.