1. Olive oils are classified in three levels of intensity, mild, medium, and robust, start with a mild oil.
2. Pour a teaspoon of olive oil into the small white cup – You may use bread to taste extra virgin olive oils, but if you’re truly interested in the flavour of the oil, use just the cup.
3. Warm the oil: nest the cup in the palm of one hand, and cover the top with your other hand. Gently rock and twist the cup in your hand for about 20 seconds to warm the olive oil. The warming and the “swishing” release the fragrant aromatics in the oil – its “nose.”
4. Raise the cup to your nose but only partially lift your hand from the cup; tuck your nose into the cup, then take a deep whiff of the oil. The first, fragrant “top notes” of the oil (its “nose”) are your clues to its flavour.
5. Make a note of the nose—is it “big” (heavily fragrant), or is there little fragrance at all? Can you identify the characteristics? “Fruity?” “Grassy?” Or, is there something more subtle?
6. Taste the oil: draw a long, slurpy sip into while curling your tongue upward, taking a fair amount of air into your mouth along with that first sip in order to aerate the oil. Roll the oil across your tongue and all the way to the back of your mouth, allowing your tongue to identify as many aspects of the flavour as possible.
7. Okay, now you may swallow the oil -- some people spit at this point. By now your tongue and nose have all the information they need to tell you how it tastes. Note the flavour characteristics as well as descriptors and lingering sensations – even viscosity. Is it fruity? Peppery? Pungent? Bitter? What did you like most? These distinctions will point you toward your favorites, and rule out other oils.
8. When you know how to taste and identify the flavours of an extra virgin olive oil, you can start to narrow your choices down the varieties you’ll like. And with the vocabulary to describe them, you can ask for the particular characteristics you enjoy most. You’re on your way to finding a favourite.
(thank you to Nate Bradley from Veronica Foods for this tutorial)
Drop by Dana Shortt Gourmet (55 Erb St East, Waterloo ON www.danashortt.ca) to taste over 40 varieties of unflavoured, infused and fused extra virgin olive oils as well as balsamic vinegars and gourmet specialty oils.