In our first part of our coverage of the olive harvest season, we took you on a journey through time of how olives were harvested in the bronze age and turned into olive oil, and compared the historical methods with the modern ones.
In today’s blog post, we will be walking you through how the harvest season looks like for OLYFO, from our farms to your tables.
It all starts in fall, specifically from around the start of November to early December time. Temperatures are in the low 20s at their warmest, low 10s at their coldest: ideal for harvesting and milling olives.
All over Tunisia, the harvest season has begun. In Kairouan and Zaghouan located in the center regions of Tunisia, our farms stretch over more than 350 acres and our trees are ready. They have been pampered throughout the seasons, nurturing the olives until they have reached their signature plump shape and purple-ish green color, signaling that they are ready for harvest.
Over the next 4 to 6 weeks, the men and women who have been working tirelessly to nurture the trees and provide them with the nutrition and care they need, will be reaping the fruits of their labor.
OLYFO’s olives are harvested over a cycle averaging 25 days, where 10 men and 50 ladies are busy hand-picking hundreds of tons of olives off of rows of meticulously planted trees of different varieties. The hand-picked olives fall on the fabric laid around the tree, to soften its landing and prevent it from getting muddy.
Because so many factors come into play when it comes to growing the olives and the time at which they are ready to be harvested and pressed, harvested quantities can vary.
However one thing is for sure: Once those olives hit the ground, the race to get them to the processing plant as soon as possible has begun!
The harvested olives are indeed ready for transport. Bearing in mind the time constraints, they are loaded gently in aerated. Special attention is given to the receptacle to avoid bruising and stacking which ultimately results in oxidation and fermentation. The olives also risk being impregnated by the scent and aftertaste of exhaust fumes. Hence, the importance of transporting in well maintained vehicles and making sure that the mill is close to the harvesting grounds.
Our ultimate goal at OLYFO is to mill the harvested olives and store the extra virgin olive oil within the same day, which is why we make sure that the process takes 6 hours on average.
The mill, situated a rough 4km away from our lands, is operated by the chief supervisor and 3 workers, who take over the following part of the journey.
The olives are gently unloaded and washed under cold streams of water. The leaves and superfluous twigs and debris are removed: the olives are now ready to be pressed.
Because heat is known to negatively affect the quality of the olive oil, our olives are cold-pressed, once. The result is an extra virgin olive oil composed of 4 types of trees which are: Chemlali, Koroneiki, Arbonsana and Arbequina olive trees, ready to undergo a series of meticulous quality control checks.
Once pressed, the olive oil is separated from the fleshy by-product and is stored under Nitrogen in large stainless steel tanks, ranging from 10 to 50 tons capacity, to prevent oxidation.
Our newly extracted extra virgin olive oil is subjected to several meticulous checks to make sure that it meets our strict, high quality standards.
Several criteria are taken into account such as the acidity levels, the UV absorbance levels, and most importantly the taste.
To judge the latter, our experts and ourselves take the time to sample the yield. The results would determine the perfect blend of each variety for our brands: 2500 years of tradition, Ifriqya and Al Atika.
The first phase is all about the smell, where we look for an olive oil that is rich in aroma and flavors, and sends strong smells of green herbs, reminiscent of the dry land of Kairouan where it is originally harvested.
The tasting phase follows next, where testers look for bitterness: a main attribute of extra virgin olive oil, which indicates a high tenure in polyphenols and antioxidants. Absorbing air through the teeth allows for detecting the peppery feeling, which will indicate the freshness and robustness of the olive oil, and classifying the overall taste in terms of strength and sweetness.
Because varieties differ in taste, some of our extra virgin olive oil would be reminiscent of its green and fruity environment and have a thin, fresh almond flavour. Meanwhile, others would have a fresh smell, a medium fruity taste with a background of artichoke.
Ultimately, we strive to strike the perfect balance between sweetness and bitterness.
Because olives are harvested once a year, the end of one harvesting season also marks the start of the next one. And at OLYFO, we like to be prepared. Which is why we get a head start by carefully pruning our trees right after harvest and use organic fertilizers to ensure healthy crops for the next harvest, which we hope is plentiful.
Our extra virgin olive oil is the culmination of an entire year’s arduous labor, and shared efforts from farmer to distributor. If you would like to know more about OLYFO or stock our brands, feel free to contact us.