If you are anything like us you are passionate about food and flavors. So why not pursue those passions and throw and olive oil tasting party? A tasting party is a fun as well as delicious and healthy way to gather with friends, relatives and neighbors.
Tasting parties can be large with many types and flavors of extra virgin olive oils or they can be small with one or two producers and their product lines. Either way you and your friends will experience the vast array of flavors of various cultivars and producers as well as have fun, increase your knowledge of olive oils and eat great food!
Food can be a part of your tasting party, or you can limit the tasting to cups of poured oils for tasting and breads for dipping. Whatever way you choose to host your party, it will be a complete success!
Some tips and ideas for tasting parties:
1. Invite your guests to each bring a bottle of a certified bottle of extra virgin olive oil.
The bottles can be from all over the world, or you can limit your tasting to California Extra Virgin Olive Oils or oils from Spain , Italy or other countries. California oils should have the COOC seal that guarantees it is truly extra virgin oil and has no other added oils. Another way would be to ask guests to bring bottles from certain cultivars. You choose the cultivars and they can go and find them, kind of like a scavenger hunt. The fun starts even before the party does! Some cultivars would include Mission , Pendolino, Arbequina, Frantoio, Lecchino, Koroneiki, etc. You may want to limit your tasting to between 4-8 different bottles.
2. If you want to include food at your party, how about making it pot luck with everyone bringing an appetizer and or a dessert made with olive oil? Check out our “Recipe” link for some ideas. Copies of Recipes for the pot luck can be brought by each guest for the dish they bring so everyone can go home with a batch of new recipes to try.
3. Olive Oil Tasting Parties are great afternoon get-to-know each other gatherings as there is much conversation and mixing going on.
4. Supplies for the tasting party would include:
Small 3/4oz tasting cups (you can buy these at any food service supply house such as Smart & Final).
French bread (choose the run of the mill sweet French so as not to alter the taste of the oil).
Sliced apples to clear the palate after tasting.
Small paper cups to use to expectorate the oil after tasting
5. Start tasting!
Cleanse your palate by eating a slice of apple.
Pour a small amount of oil into a tasting cup. Holding the cup while covering it with your other hand, swirl the oil around slightly. This will warm the oil and release its scent and flavors.
Uncover the cup, bring it close to your nose and inhale deeply. Take in the scent and make note of it on a score sheet. Does it smell fresh, green, or rancid? Sip about 1 ½ teaspoons, rolling it in your mouth.
Note what it feels like in your mouth. Is it smooth, light heavy or greasy?
While the oil is still in your mouth, suck in a bit of air through your teeth to discover the flavors.
Keeping the oil in your mouth for at least 10 seconds, make note of how it tastes to you. Does it have a taste? Is the taste reminiscent of artichoke, grass, earth, apple, or almonds? Make note of it on your score sheet.
Swallow or spit the oil into a paper cup. Swallowing is quite preferred!
Decide if you like the oil or not and note it on your score sheet. Discuss how others are experiencing the oils.
Cleanse your palate before proceeding to another tasting.
Some of the positive aspects of extra virgin olive oils would be its freshness level; does it taste ripe or green or in between? Is the oil bitter? Is it pleasurable as it moves through your mouth. How is the pungency? Is there a biting or burning sensation in your mouth and later in the back of your throat? Burning sensations are a positive aspect; it shows that the healthy polyphenols and antioxidants are present in the oil.
Some of the negative aspects of extra virgin olive oils would be; Is it “fusty” meaning that the olive have been stored too long before pressing and have undergone the beginnings of fermentation. Is it “musty”, meaning the olives may have been stored in humid conditions creating yeasts or fungus. Is it “vinegary”, meaning the olives have fermented prior to pressing. Is there a “metallic” aspect to the oil, meaning the oil has come in contact with metals during processing. Is there a “rancid” quality to the oil. This is the very worst aspect. Rancid oils should be avoided and thrown away. You will more than likely be able to notice the rancid aspect when you smell the oil and you need go no further with tasting it.
7. Some final tips on tastings:
Try to start with the mildest or softest palate oils first or the later season harvest oils and work up to the more intense cultivors that are greener and early harvest oils. You may not want to taste if you have a cold (diminished tasting capacities). Do not taste after smoking, drinking coffee or after a heavy meal.
Whatever you choose to try or do at your olive oil tasting party…HAVE FUN!
Winterhill's Party Tasting Kit