In this video I teach you how to taste extra virgin olive oil by using the “Four S’s” process.
– The Video Blog of Olive Fantastic –
I would love to have everyone learn how to taste olive oil because it’s a product we consume and use in our cooking every day. In this video I teach you a very basic process for tasting and analyzing olive oil, one that you can follow anytime. First I want to acknowledge Nancy Ash, because it has been her work that lead to the Four S’s, she’s awesome, and has very much been an influential pioneer in the olive oil industry. You can check her out at Strictly Olive Oil. Here are the “Four S’s“:
By following these four steps, you can learn to accurately evaluate olive oil. I believe there are three reasons you taste oil: One – to determine if you like it or not, Two – to determine if it’s good or bad, Three – to judge it in a competition. Depending on it’s flavor, like wine, there are several ways to describe the flavor of the oil. If you’d like positive and negative descriptors for olive oil I have listed some below.
Check out my tasting video:
Here are a few notes on each of the Four Steps:
*Note: any small cup will suffice for tasting oil, ideally I recommend a small plastic cup, that can fit inside the palm of your hand. I regularly use 3/4 oz souffle cups from Smart & Final. When you fill the cup with oil for tasting, fill it up about 1/3 of the way, so you can taste at least twice from the same cup, but not so much it sloshes out when you are swirling it. After a few pours, you’ll hone in on exactly how much to pour.
When you are swirling the oil, or agitating it in your hands, you are doing this for two reasons: One – you are cupping the oil with one hand to warm the oil slightly, optimal tasting temperature is right around 80 degrees F. You just don’t want the oil to be too hot or too cold, then it becomes hard to taste the oil. Second – you are covering the cup with your other hand to trap all the aroma inside the cup that is coming off the oil as you agitate it, so that you can “sniff” it (step #2).
Once you have a taken a few seconds to “swirl” the oil in your hands, bring the cup up to your nose, without uncovering the oil with your top hand, because this will be your first experience with the oil and you want to be able to smell all those aromas you have trapped in the cup. Open your top hand towards your nose, and take a deep breath, at the same time sticking your nose into the cup. This step allows you to evaluate the aroma of the olive oil. You can also get an initial idea of what the oil might taste like. Some oils might smell green, grassy and have strong olive notes, others might be fruity like apples and apricots, or some might not have much of a nose at all, and that is OK. If you can’t smell the oil very well, that’s neither good nor bad, it just means that oil has very little aroma or bouquet.
It’s time to taste the oil. This is not a shot folks! Many times I have customers shoot the whole cup full, and that’s not going to allow you truly “taste” and “judge” the oil. You want to take a small sip of oil, enough to coat the inside of your mouth and go through the slurping process. I know, “slurp” is sometimes a hard word to get past, some say it sounds gross, but it’s actually exactly what you are doing once the oil is inside your mouth. To slurp, you suck in air through your mouth in a couple quick breaths to get the oil to roll back over your tongue to the back side of your mouth, then breathe out once done through your nose. This process helps to get your nose involved in the tasting of the oil. It’s important the you have both your tongue and nose involved when tasting, because between the two, this is how you taste all food. Once you have slurped and breathed out your nose, start to think about how you would describe the oil (use my descriptors below), and also think about if the oil tastes good to you, and if you could picture using it in your cooking.
Once you have slurped the oil a couple times, and started to evaluate it, swallow the oil. This is the last step in analyzing the oil, where you experience the pungency of the oil. Which is a burning, tickling, peppery, scratchy sensation on the back of your throat. This unique sensation you get from swallowing olive oil is caused by the polyphenols in the olive oil, it’s what makes olive oil a power food and so good for you! The more burn, the more polyphenols in the oil, and the better it is for you technically (read more here on the health aspects of olive oil). Some oil’s pungency will make you want to clear your throat, some will make you even cough because they have stronger pungency. Typically we call these “Robust” oils, and oils that have very little to no pungency “Delicate” oils.
Additional LINKS for more information on tasting olive oil:
Olive Oil Tasting & Review – Olive oil tasting, they even have special tasting cups you can buy with the 4 x Ss! COOC – How to taste olive oil, and always a great resource for extra virgin olive oil and California olive oil (California Olive Oil Council). Sue Langstaff – Applied Sensory, Sue also teaches several classes on tasting olive oil, and judges olive oil in competitions. Paul Vossen – UC Davis Cooperative Extension, fantastic resource for everything olive and olive oil. UC Davis Olive Center – Offers classes on tasting olive oil, classes on milling olives, and provides several industry reports you should take the time to review, they provide great value to the olive oil industry.
Fruity / Mature
Mild / Buttery / Soft
Green / Herbaceous / Pine
Green Olive / Grassy / Leafy
Nutty / Strong Nut / Wood / Earthy
Floral / Stone Fruit
Tropical / Mango
Rock / Flint
Citrus / Grapefruit
Hardy / Thick
Hay / Straw
Wow! / This is blowing my mind! / Amazing! / Waahoo! / Yes, I need 12 of these!
Rancid – oxidized, old oil
Fusty / Muddy – Anaerobic fermentation (without air), rotting, fermenting, old, improper handling, damaged, oil in contact with bad sediment
Musty – humid, earthy, fungi and yeast, or muddy dirty fruit
Winey / Frozen – Aerobic fermentation (with air)
Acid / Sour
Muddy / Sediment
Dewey tasting extra virgin olive oil in his tutorial video
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