Olive oil is an integral part of the Tunisian diet and since the harvest season will be starting soon, it is the best occasion to observe the different methods of olive oil production and indulge oneself with oil-flavoured delights!
As we strive for excellence and transparency, we are delighted to invite you to onboard this journey with us through an interview with our Co-Founder and Quality and Production Director, Yahya Chemli. Here is all the information and details you need to know about the harvest season and about OLYFO’s experience during this critical period.
Q: Since it’s almost the beginning of the harvest season, how do we know that the olives are ready to be picked?
The period of fruit growth and development of the olives is between 6 and 7 months. There are considerable differences between cultivar and growing conditions.
During the green stage, olive fruit reach their final shape and size and their colour is yellow green. When the skin pigment (Chlorophyl) is replaced by anthocyanin. The fruit enters the black stage with purple black colour .
The phenolic compounds change qualitatively and quantitatively during the maturity period, reaching their highest content at the yellow green and purple colour.
The most appropriate stage for harvesting time is at optimum maturity of olive fruit. At that stage, oil content and oil quality are at their highest level. Too early or too late harvest have a negative effect on both quality and quantity.
Q: Do you think Tunisia is going to witness a promising olive harvest season this year and why?
Despite the difficult climatic conditions, it will be a good season for Tunisia. Tunisia is expected to produce between 160000- and 200000-Tons making Tunisia the among the biggest producers (Top 3) of Olive Oil in the World.
Q: Is it true that the taste differs due to the variety of olive trees and the different locations it is produced? If so, how can you describe the taste of the Tunisian / OLYFO olive oil?
Tunisia has approximately 37 local varieties of Olive Trees.
These trees grow in different conditions and climate areas making their taste range from sweet to robust and their smell rich of green and fruity aromas.
Among these 37 varieties, there are two trees that are planted the most in Tunisia: Chemlali/Sehli and Chetoui.
OLYFO specializes in the production and export of the Tunisian Award-Winning Extra Virgin Olive Oil that we produce at our farms in Kairouan and Zaghouan. Moreover, we have an extended network of small and big farmers that are producing quality that we describe as rare gems of Tunisia.
It is hard to simply describe such taste in words, but we know that Tunisia’s produce is one of its kind for the Olive Oil passionate and experts around the world.
Q: Can you describe the process of harvesting?
At OLYFO, Olives are always handpicked to ensure that the trees are well preserved and in good shape. Olives are then transported to the Mill in less than 4 hours to be washed and crushed.
Afterward comes the malaxation:
it’s a slowly mixing milled olives for 20 minutes, (the paste is heated at 25°C during this process), This step allows the smaller droplets to aggregate and more easily separated.
Then we separate the oil from the olive pomace and water.
Finally the EVOO is filtered and stored in large metallic tanks made of stainless steel under nitrogen and controlled temperature.
Q: What are the rules that the harvest season must respect?
In the last 50 years new practices have been continuously introduced that have brought us continuous flow processing systems ,harvest and handling techniques that do not damage the fruit, quick process after harvesting , time and temperature controlled extraction and stainless steel storage.
These are the rules to obtain a high-quality olive oil full of aromatic and bio-active compounds.
Q: How did Olyfo prepare for this harvest season?
Olyfo is always striving to do its best to provide high-quality products so here are some of the preparations for the harvest season:
-Monitoring of olive maturity of our lands
-Supply and maintenance of harvesting nets, crates and equipments.
-Mill plan maintenance and cleaning
-Cleaning the stainless steel storage tanks
Q: What are the right steps to take in order to provide the best extra virgin olive oil?
As a producer we must manipulate the choice of cultivars since plantation, tree spacing, pruning (taille/zbira), irrigation, fertilizing, pest control, coordination of the harvesting time and critical processing parameters in order to provide the best EVOO quality and keep costs low.
Q: The harvest season is a great chance to meet local farmers and enjoy the authentic process. Can you share more details about this tradition and about the Tunisian process?
Yes, it is and the harvest season is our favourite for this reason!
It is a special moment, starting with the tasty traditional breakfast, when the sun rises, to kickstart the day with positive vibes and energy. Then the hard work begins and the celebration of the harvest season too, and everyone can enjoy the beauty of nature with the Berber music and even participate in the chanting.
And when it’s time for lunch, everybody gathers for a delicious Couscous with lamb, a famous Tunisian meal full with energy and specially made for happy occasions!
Those are moments that we surely wouldn’t like to miss!