Gold for local oil on world stage

‘We have won on quality’

Olive oil produced in Featherston has won gold on the international stage.

Olea Estate’s 2019 Picual virgin olive oil was one of 87 to be certified ‘gold’ at the 2020 New York International Olive Oil Competition.

It was chosen for the top category from 900 oils around the world entered in the prestigious competition.

Starting with bare Featherston land in 1999, Charles and Kay Chinnaiyah planted 2000 olive trees and began pressing the fruit into oil.

Picual olive oil is peppery tasting oil and the strength of that flavour depends on the climate of the year in which the olives are harvested.

It was one of five olive oils presented by Olives New Zealand to the international competition.

“It’s a credit to the New Zealand judges in the domestic competition that they picked five top oils to go to New York and 100 per cent of those won gold,” Charles said.

Their olive oil production business started with the couple taking a Sunday drive to Wairarapa from Wellington where they lived.

They loved the climate and countryside so much and combined it with a “crazy idea” to buy 20 acres near the Featherston township.

Fifteen acres of the land is planted with four varieties of olive trees: Pendolino, Picual, Frantoia, and Leccino.

Learning about making olive oil was not hard for Charles.

The key to success was to follow your passion, he said.

“Once you find your passion, the rest falls into place – it just comes naturally,” he said.

The couple love coming back from their Wellington business Sysware Group, Business Intelligence Consulting to the quiet of the countryside.

“I find happiness in nature here all around me,” Charles said.

“When I am closer to nature, I have clear thinking.

“After 26 years living in Wellington it is beautiful to be here and press the olive fruit.”

The 2020 harvest begins in a week and the couple will be busy at Olea Estate. They harvest, press, and bottle themselves.

Their olive oil is sold domestically, mainly to restaurants, but also online.

“The oil is very pure and the time from harvest to oil is faster than many other bigger countries with more producers because there is no time wasted with the fruit sitting before it is processed,” Charles said.

“This makes it better.

“We can’t beat the world on quantity, but we have won on quality and it feels very exciting.”

The couple, originally from Sri Lanka, experienced a variety of oils in their country of origin including Portuguese, English, and French, and say traditional Sri Lankan food uses lighter oils suitable for frying.

Kay said she loves to put olive oil in the bath and said it was also good for the skin.

“It is natural, the body likes natural oils,” she said. “Even having a spoon of it a day is good for you. Your body knows what to do with it.”

The New York International Olive Oil Competition is the largest in the world.

Its annual listing of award winners is considered the authoritative guide to the year’s best extra virgin olive oils.

Olea Estate wins accolades at the 2019 Olives New Zealand Awards and the Royal Easter Show Awards

Olea Estate Wins an impressive list of awards!

Olea Estate has again achieved recognition at the New Zealand Extra Virgin Olive Oil Awards 2019.

with itsOlea Estate - Picual variety of Extra virgin oils taking the Reserve Best in Show, Best in Class and the Gold Award.

The Olea Estate - Frantoio taking the Gold Award and the Olea Estate - Leccino a well earned Silver Award

 But thats not all at the Royal Easter Show – 2019 the Olea Estate – Frantoio collected the Class Champion - Delicate and the Gold Award - Delicate and the  - Picual taking  the Gold Award - Medium while Leccino won the Silver Award - Delicate.

We don't focus on winning awards we focus on making the best olive oil possible  to our very own high standards. So when we get recognised by the industry and other olive oil makers it makes it very special to be recognised.

Chemical Authentication Process Can Verify Olive Oil Origins

A three-year research project from Italy's University of Salento has yielded a new chemical imaging process that could certify the origins of olive oil blends.

With its widely extolled health benefits and beloved presence in dishes around the globe, extra virgin olive oil’s commercial heft is on the rise. But as the liquid gold of cooking increases in value, so does the risk of distributors diluting pure EVOO with refined seed oils — meaning your oil blend might not be exactly what its label says.

Currently, no official scientific process can certify the authenticity and geographic origins of a batch. And since 2009, when EU Regulation 182 mandated distributors in all European countries to label their olive oils with the olives’ geographical origin, the need for an official verification methodology has only become more urgent. But thanks to a three-year research project conducted by Francesco Paolo Fanizzi from the University of Salento in Lecce, Italy, a new chemical authentication procedure could provide a solution.

Southeast Italy’s Apulia region is the foremost EVOO producer in the country. It’s also the site of the University of Salento, where Fanizzi is a professor of general and inorganic chemistry. “Some years ago,” he said, “I realized that geographical origin assessment is a key factor to provide customers with a fully traceable product, and at the same time to improve the local economy.”

Over three years of research, Fanizzi developed a procedure that uses Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) to take images of EVOO samples from various regions of southern Italy. These images provide reference models, which can later be compared to EVOO blends to validate, or revoke, their authenticity.

Fanizzi compares the approach to taking an “olive oil fingerprint,” creating a snapshot of all the molecules contained in a sample of oil. This snapshot includes both the genetic factors (olive cultivars) and the external factors (such as soil and climate of a specific geographical area) where the oil originated. This data can be entered into reference databases, which can then be used to assess the origins of EVOOs.

The methodology’s future applications are promising. “There are commitments at national (Italy) and international levels for extensive use of these databases, but a huge amount of work is required for a comprehensive mapping of the most relevant cultivars and geographical areas where EVOOs originate,” said Fanizzi. “On the other hand, at the moment, we can easily put a sort of fence around a specific EVOO to buttress with a database the label-declared geographical area of production. We have several ongoing collaborations with companies, such as Certified Origins, aimed at this goal.”

As olive oil production becomes increasingly commercialized, the integration of sophisticated NMR authentication might seem like a departure from tradition. But it could ultimately safeguard the integrity of growers, suppliers, and consumers, ensuring that olive oil is held to the highest standard every step of the way. That’s as traditional as it gets.

Olea Estate Always Achieves Extra Virgin Olive Oil Certification

We are very pleased to announce that Olea Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil is Certified by the Olives New Zealand before it is offered to you and we are very proud at the high levels of quality of our product and believe it is our best pressing yet.

How to create the perfect extra virgin olive oil?

Any product produced by Olea Estate is one which is the production of a single estate. To put it plain and simple, the oil is produced on-site from the olives which are grown at Olea Estate in the clean, green environment of New Zealand.

If you ever picked an olive in your hand, there's no time to lose. The olives must be pressed as soon as possible so its peroxide content doesn’t climb too high, affecting its flavour. All our olives are pressed within 24 hours of being picked at the estate itself in The Olive Mill, Olea’s press room.

Once the olives are brought to The Olive Mill, they are weighed and sent through the de-leafer, which removes leaves and twigs, and then the washer, which removes dirt and any heavy particles, leaving the washed olives behind.  The olives are then put through a crusher which turns them into paste. The resulting olive paste containing oil, water and the fruit pulp is run through the malaxation process, which means that it is slowly mixed so oil droplets in the mixture begin to adhere to one another.

When the oil is ready to be extracted, the paste is passed through a centrifuge which separates the oil from the water and dehydrated olive paste (pomace). This oil then flows into a stainless steel vat where food-quality nitrogen is pumped into it to minimise oxidation. This maintains the integrity of our oil.

After this, the oil is left to stand, allowing sediments to settle naturally. Olea’s ‘liquid gold’ is then bottled at the right time for you to enjoy. When you pour any olive oil from Olea Estate fresh from the bottle, you’ll see it still retains a slightly cloudy appearance. This shows that no extra refining takes place. A product as natural and unprocessed as possible is exactly what we are aiming for.

The olives are cold-pressed, meaning that the process takes place at room temperature with no extra chemicals or mechanical tampering. It also certified by Olives New Zealand which consists of meeting specifics chemical and sensory analysis requirements and is based on the International Olive Council (IOC) standards for extra virgin olive oil. These factors are what define Olea’s oil as a New Zealand extra virgin olive oil.

What makes Olea Estate's Olive Oil so special?

Olea Estate uses four varieties of olive to make its high-quality olive oil. Each olive variety contributes a certain characteristic to the oil to create balanced oil. Olea only uses Mediterranean varieties in its blend.

Frantoio Olives

Frantoio olives are cultivated in Italy and are considered the main variety in national olive oil production. Frantoio olive oil can be characterized as very fruity with a wonderful aroma. As well as being extremely fruity the oil also has a hint of green apple, with a scent of green leaves and grass, a small bitterness and more-so pungent flavor  

Leccino Olive

The olive has a mild, sweet flavour and produces fresh-tasting oil, often used in blends—it is one of the four olives used in the “Tuscan blend,” along with the Frantoio, the Moraiolo and the Pendolino. Its oil has a slight fruitiness, very slight bitterness and pungency. Like Frantoio, it has a sweetish flavour. It’s a high-yield, tolerant (to weather) olive that is also enjoyed as a table olive. The oil has average stability.

Pendolino Olives

Pendolino olive oil has a distinctive flavour and texture with intense green colour and a taste of fresh almonds with a spicy after taste. Pendolino is particularly suitable for carpaccio of fish or meat or in vegetable or legume soups.

Piqual Olives

The flavour of Picual oil is also very distinct and recognizable. The polyphenols are very powerful and flavourful causing a noticeable "bite" in the back of the throat. There is a slight astringent quality to the oil also.

5 Easy Ways to Know Your Olive Oil is a Ripoff

So you splurged for extra virgin olive oil, but did you get what you paid for? Here are five sure signs you got ripped.

 With hundreds of articles in these pages about olive oil quality, some readers might feel overwhelmed and could use a few quick tips to tell a real extra virgin olive oil from one pretending to be. Not everyone can be an olive oil sommelier, but you can catch most of the imposters if you look for some common red flags.

Assuming you paid a little extra to buy what you thought was extra virgin olive oil, here are five sure signs you got ripped off:

It’s past its ‘best by date’

Just because an olive oil is extra virgin when it’s bottled, doesn’t mean it will stay that way for long. Even the best EVOOs degrade over time and, by the end of an eighteen-month of two-year shelf life, the oil you’re left with isn’t worth the hefty price tag. Unfortunately, that won’t keep some merchants from trying to sell them anyway.

It has no scent at all

Pour some oil into a clean glass and warm the glass with one hand, gently swirling it, while covering the top with your other hand. Now put your nose in there and take a long, slow sniff. Smell anything? If there’s virtually no scent, you probably have a refined oil that was never extra virgin, to begin with. If you find a pleasant, grassy fragrance, then you hit the jackpot.

It smells like rotten fruit, hay or mud

You know that faintly nauseating smell of fruit rotten to the point of being black? Olives and olive oil oxidize over time and will smell the same way eventually. Not only will it impart that rotten fruit smell and flavor to your food, the healthy nutrients you paid for are long gone.

It tastes like vinegar or wine

Common tastes that give away a less-than-good olive oil are the ones experts call “winey” and “vinegary.” If your oil tastes oddly like vinegar or wine, it signals that the olives underwent fermentation and that is a bad thing.

It just doesn’t smell (or taste) fresh

Fresh, healthy olives are bitter and the oil they produce should be, too. Take a sniff, sip it and swirl it around in your mouth. It should smell fresh, like green grass, have a pleasant bitterness on your tongue and cause a sting in your throat. If it has none of these, you wound up with a dud.

New Zealand Olive Oil Producers Set for Record Year

Olive harvesting season is in full swing in New Zealand, where producers are expecting a record-setting year.

 "There have to be good results financially to get more people involved. Passion isn't enough."

- Gayle Sheridan, Olives NZ

Gayle Sheridan, the executive officer of Olives NZ, attributed the increase to better weather. He also praised a joint effort, which is being led by the association and partially funded by the government, for helping to spur on the growth.

“2018, is looking to be a record year with some record tonnages being reported across the country and especially from the groves following the Focus Grove Project methodologies,” Sheridan said.

David Walshaw is one of the olive farmers taking part in the Focus Grove Project and the author of Olive Oil the New Zealand Way. He has run a small family operation of about 2,300 trees for the past 15 years.

Walshaw praised the Focus Grove Project and said that the implementation of many of their practices, including rotational pruning, allowing trees to grow to be taller, machine-harvesting and spraying protectant on trees, have led to an increase in his olive yields.

“[This] combination has ensured, certainly, that the focus groves and some others have been able to increase their production. My averages have increased considerably,” he said. “This year I ended up with about 38 kilograms [of olives] per tree, which was way higher than I was getting before. I think that result speaks for itself.”

Walshaw harvested 50 tonnes of olives from his trees this year, which was the largest amount yet in his 15-year olive growing career and a considerable improvement from last year’s total of 27 tonnes.

“This is mostly to do with the way we prune and the way we spray protective spray across our trees. We now do that uniformly across many groves,” he said. “The high performing groves, which mine would be regarded to be, would have nowhere near the same production if we weren’t spraying for protection against disease.”

New Zealand produced about 184 tonnes of olive oil last year, almost all of which was graded as extra virgin. Sheridan expects that figure to be much larger this year but does not have any official production estimates yet.

“This is a great result following on from 2017 when 40 percent of olive groves across the country had no harvest because of weather events,” he said.

Walshaw agreed that unusual weather affected olive yields, but said that last year was also an off-year for many growers in New Zealand, and that affected yields as well. As a result, he expects to have another down year in 2019 but thinks it will not be quite as bad as it was in 2017.

“We are gradually getting our production up and the production for the different trees is getting more uniform,” he said. “[But] I expect we will have a down year next year.”

Even as production continues to fluctuate between on and off years, olive oil consumption remains steady. The average New Zealander consumes about one liter of olive oil per annum, according to research released by Olives NZ in May.

“[Consumption will] probably remain pretty static, but extra virgin olive oil is by far the main oil used,” Sheridan said. “Olives NZ’s latest research has shown that 75 percent of consumers use olive oil, albeit maybe not exclusively.”

One of the main challenges in New Zealand is continuing to increase production in order to lessen the country’s dependence on imports. POne of the obstacles in doing so is getting started, which requires a large investment of time and capital up front with modest returns.

“Returns aren’t huge and one has to be well organized in the growing and marketing to make any reasonable income,” Walshaw said. “And that income doesn’t happen for the first 10 or 12 years, I suspect.”

New Zealand currently produces less than 10 percent of the extra virgin olive oil that is consumed there.

“However, [we have] the potential to at least double that by improving productivity,” Sheridan said. A production increase could also boost the country’s fledgling export market, which makes up about 10 percent of its production, and almost all of which is destined for Japan.

“While exporting is a niche area for some large growers, the best opportunity is to increase local consumption of New Zealand extra virgin olive oil,” Sheridan added.

Many of New Zealand’s current producers are driven by their passion for olive oil, but Walshaw said that is not enough to make up for poor financial performance by the crop. Even so, he is optimistic about the future as foreign judges continue to praise the quality of New Zealand olive oils.

“I think the sector will continue to grow, but in the end to get a large enough economy, there have to be good results financially to get more people involved,” he said. “Passion isn’t enough.”

Olea Estate Wins - Supreme Champion 2016

We did it again!

We are pleased to advise Olea Estate has once again been  awarded the Supreme Champion Award 2016 as well as Gold Champion in its class.

Olea Estate Wins - Supreme Champion 2013

Hot off the Press...we are delighted to announce Olea has cleaned up the Easter Show Olive Oil 2013 Awards.

Olea Extra Virgin Olive has been awarded the Supreme Champion Award 2013 as well as Gold Champion in its class.

The Auckland Easter Show is pleased to announce the winners of their annual Easter Show Olive Oil Awards for 2013, with Kay and Charles Chinnaiyah, Olea Estate, Featherston, taking out the Supreme Champion Award and the Logan Campbell Trophy with their Gold Medal winning Olea Naturae extra virgin olive oil.   Olea also won Class 2  Medium: ‘ Olea Naturae’  .

Judged on September 5th, the Easter Show Olive Oil Awards is a consumer-focussed competition featuring only product from olives grown and processed in New Zealand.  All entries must be available for sale here, and must be extra virgin oil representing production batches of at least 50 litres.

A total of 3 Gold medals, 12 Silver and 20 Bronze were awarded this year from a record number of olive oil  and table olive entries. Judges included leading oils and fats specialist Dr Laurence Eyres, olive oil researcher  Associate Professor Marie Wong from Massey University, food writer and food judge Pip Duncan and highly regarded chef Anton Leyland.

Chief judge Laurence Eyres commented:  ‘Unlike previous seasons where fruitiness was slightly lacking, this year’s oils showed a good balance between fruitiness, pungency and bitterness.  The field was very tight and there were only minor differences between most of the oils judged.  A small number of oils were ruled out because defects were detected.’