Part 4: Tasting olive oil
In the last blog post we discovered how human senses of smell and taste are irreplaceable in the process of certifying an olive oil as extra virgin.
So how does that whole process of tasting look like?
A group of certified tasters (from 10 to 12 people) called a tasting panel, get samples of oil, all in same dark glass bottles, each with a code. The members of the panel taste the same oils independently from each other, in usually three to four tasting sessions. Each session includes three oils, so as not to overwhelm the taster’s senses, and there is a break of a few hours between each session.
The taster needs to prepare for the tasting session in the way that he or she is not too hungry, but not full, can’t have coffee in the morning as it would affect the taste of bitter, can’t be drinking alcohol, can’t be eating spicy food, can’t be wearing perfume or clothes that smell of softener or detergent and can’t be smoking before coming to a session.
Sounds like fun, ha?
All this is necessary to keep the tasting environment as neutral as possible.
The taster comes to his tasting booth, usually white, where 3 to 4 samples of oil are prepared in cobalt blue tasting glasses covered with a lid, sitting in a thermostat at exactly 28 degrees Celsius. This is the temperature at which the volatile substances will be released from the oil and the taster will be able to perceive them as different aromas. He will have water and sour apple at his disposal, to rinse his palate between each tasting.
The taster then grades a set of elements on a standardised list, looks for possible faults, then all the results are considered and the panel leader will write the final result, which is the median of all the individual results.
You can replicate this process yourself, for a fun evening at home; set up an olive oil tasting with a set of different oils, some fresh bread, a few slices of sour apple, some water and a cheese platter with olives for some oil and cheese pairing afterwards. To make the evening more fun, add a bottle of a fresh rose’ (but only after you’ve tasted all the oils! ;-))
You’ll be surprised how many different aromas you will discover and how much you might enjoy it. :)