Have you ever wondered if the color of your olive oil will tell you how good it is? Or hear that Extra Virgin Olive Oil that’s green is better quality than its yellow counterpart?
Make no mistakes, these quality assumptions based on color are unfounded. It’s a myth! You can’t depend on the color of Extra Virgin Olive Oil to indicate how good of a quality it is. Why? We’ll explain.
Keep in mind-- this discussion is looking specifically at Extra Virgin Olive Oil... Not the other grades.
Let's dive in!
Color Is A Result Of The Olive Itself
The color of olive oil is a direct result of the color of the olive. Depending on the variety and how ripe it is, colors can range from pale green to dark purple. The pigment in the skin and the flesh, once pressed, becomes and natural component of the oil and affects the final color.
Tom Mueller warns in his book, Extra Virginity, “Don’t pay much attention to the color of an oil. Good oils come in all shades, from vivid green to gold to pale straw”. It’s more important to pay attention to the taste and smell of the oil as an indicator of freshness and quality.
This is, in fact, why professional tasters sample olive oil in blue glasses-- to avoid any “color bias” each may have been ingrained in their minds.
Why The Myth Started
There’s a few reasons why this myth started.
1.) Certain regions often produce a particular type of olive variety, which gives their signature oil a color that that population is used to and grows attached to. As they tell their friends, “our olive oil is the best!”, the color becomes an attribute of that oil and word starts to spread.
2.) Exposure to air and sunlight is often a reason that olive oil will begin to age and loose it’s freshness prematurely. One indicator of this aging is when the oil is very light in color, as you can see from these home-experiment photos. Aging and improper storage is one reason that oil will turn from dark to light-- but don’t be fooled, good olive oil can just as easily start out that light color too.