What is extra virgin olive oil?

Extra virgin olive oil is the natural fruit juice that has been extracted from olives at a temperature below 30ᵒC, without any additions or modifications. It has zero defects on sensory tasting and meets certain chemical conditions to ensure that the free acidity (oleic acid) value is 0.8 percent or lower and the peroxides are less than 33g per kg. It is completely natural and has not been refined or modified in any way.

Cold pressed or fist cold pressed are terms referring to the temperature at extraction, (99% of extra virgin olive oil in South Africa is extracted by centrifuge, not by pressing) for extra virgin olive oil this may not be higher than 30ᵒC. (Body temperature, for comparison, is at 36.4ᵒC).

Extra virgin olive oil should be consumed within 24 months of harvesting. The level of anti-oxidants and vitamins decrease with time. It should be stored in air-tight containers and kept in a cool, dark place. Light and air are the enemies of EVOO.


Virgin olive oil is a lesser quality olive oil than extra virgin, it is extracted in the same way, is a natural, unrefined oil with a free acidity level below 2%. Virgin oils may have minimal defects.

Olive oil is refined olive oil that has been blended with a minimal amount of virgin olive oils. Refined olive oil is often sold as Light or Pure olive oil. This oil no longer contains the natural anti-oxidants of extra virgin olive oil.

Pomace oil is banned for human consumption in many countries in Europe but is still sold and consumed in SA. It is advisable to avoid this product.

(Taken from The Guide To Extra Virgin Olive Oil in South Africa, Harvest 2016)