East Asian Olive Oils Reach the World Stage

As extra virgin olive oil culture slowly expands in China and Japan, high-quality production in two of the world’s largest economies does too.

(Photo: Kunisaki Olive Garden)
By Paolo DeAndreis
May. 30, 2023 19:41 UTC
(Photo: Kunisaki Olive Garden)

Typhoons and the chal­lenges posed by unpre­dictable weather did not stop five olive oil pro­duc­ers in Japan from par­tic­i­pat­ing and win­ning at the 2023 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

The pro­duc­ers earned five Gold and three Silver Awards, two more than they did at the 2022 NYIOOC.

We believe that our cus­tomers are dis­cov­er­ing how extra vir­gin olive oil comes in a vari­ety of fla­vors- Yuko Iwado, Nippon Olive Company

Since 2015, the num­ber of Japanese pro­duc­ers par­tic­i­pat­ing in the NYIOOC has steadily grown, with their results reflect­ing a sig­nif­i­cant inter­est in olive oil in the coun­try.

In Japan, olive oil is per­ceived as a healthy oil. This con­sid­er­a­tion is espe­cially strong for extra vir­gin olive oil, even if most peo­ple still believe that any extra vir­gin olive oil will do,” Yuko Iwado, the head of qual­ity con­trol in the research and devel­op­ment depart­ment at the Nippon Olive Company, told Olive Oil Times.

See Also:The best olive oils from Japan

Ayako Ohno, the owner of the Kunisaki Olive Garden, con­firmed the grow­ing inter­est in olive oil by health-con­scious Japanese con­sumers.

However, cheap for­eign olive oil is more pop­u­lar than expen­sive Japanese olive oil,” she told Olive Oil Times. We would like to pro­mote the fact that Japanese domes­tic olive oil is a high-qual­ity olive oil.”

Nippon Olive won two Gold Awards at the 2023 NYIOOC and has been awarded at the com­pe­ti­tion every year since 2020. Kunisaki Olive Garden debuted at the NYIOOC in 2023 and earned a Silver Award for its blend Yumeshizuku.

Iwado said Nippon Olive is focused on pro­vid­ing an oppor­tu­nity for local con­sumers to explore the olive oil world.


(Photo: Nippon Olive Company)

We have many cus­tomers who look for­ward to our extra vir­gin olive oil every year, and they can taste the dif­fer­ence in fla­vor [com­pared to lower qual­ity olive oils],” she said.

We believe that our cus­tomers are dis­cov­er­ing how extra vir­gin olive oil comes in a vari­ety of fla­vors,” Iwado added. Above all, we want our Japanese cus­tomers to taste this olive oil so that they can dis­cover the true taste of olive oil in Japan.”

The com­pany pro­duces the Ushimado and Ushimado Superior brands from about 2,000 trees in the Ushimado hills, which face the inner Japanese waters in the cen­tral-south­west­ern region of the coun­try.

Weather is not the only chal­lenge Nippon Olive has to cope with to pro­duce its award-win­ning prod­ucts.

Our farm is cul­ti­vated with­out spray­ing her­bi­cides,” Iwado said. Therefore, we must mow the grass con­stantly. We also have to do hard work to con­trol pests and pre­vent tree dis­eases.”

To man­age a vast 10-hectare farm with a small num­ber of employ­ees, we use mech­a­niza­tion and have all employ­ees mow the grass at the base of the plants twice a year,” she added.

In south­west Japan, con­stant work and pas­sion are behind Kunisaki Olive Garden’s extra vir­gin olive oils.


(Photo: Kunisaki Olive Garden)

We care for each of our trees adapt­ing to its indi­vid­ual con­di­tion,” Ohno said. We take extreme care in cul­ti­va­tion, har­vest­ing and pro­cess­ing the olives.”

Olives are hand­picked by the com­pany, which selects the olives to ensure only the best fruits will go to the mill. Within 12 hours of har­vest­ing, we process the olives with the goal to pro­duce an olive oil rich in fla­vor and low in acid­ity,” she said.


We are con­fi­dent in the qual­ity of our prod­ucts, but we were not sure how they would be accepted over­seas,” Ohno added, hint­ing at how sig­nif­i­cant the NYIOOC win has been for the com­pany.

The unpre­dictabil­ity of the weather is one of the major chal­lenges for Kunisaki Olive Garden. We had a typhoon last year that came just before the har­vest and brought down almost 900 olive trees,” Ohno said.

We are work­ing hard to replant the olive trees that we have care­fully nur­tured,” she added. Our hopes are to have them return to their orig­i­nal states as soon as pos­si­ble.”

The com­pany man­ages about 4,200 olive trees, all Italian cul­ti­vars. Last year the farm pro­duced about 10 tons of olives and approx­i­mately 1 ton of olive oil.

Inclement weather has always been a rel­e­vant issue for Japanese olive grow­ers. Framed by the iconic view of Mount Fuji in the back­ground, Crea Farm has once again won a Gold Award at the NYIOOC for its Coratina mono­va­ri­etal.


Mt Fuji (Photo: Crea Farm)

Since the begin­ning, we started cul­ti­vat­ing our olive trees know­ing how strong winds, rain­fall and even typhoons could hit us,” Tatsuya Okumura, the company’s senior man­ag­ing direc­tor, told Olive Oil Times.

Crea Farms’ trees include a dozen Italian and Spanish cul­ti­vars; for each one, the farm fol­lows a spe­cific approach to cul­ti­va­tion. And that is an essen­tial part of the qual­ity rec­og­nized by the NYIOOC analy­sis team.

Winning the 2023 NYIOOC is a great achieve­ment and an honor for us,” Okumura said. It show­cases the qual­ity and excel­lence of our extra vir­gin olive oil, and it is a recog­ni­tion of our hard work and ded­i­ca­tion.”

The Japanese pro­ducer, who has won awards in New York since 2019, noted how large inter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion moti­vates to con­tinue improv­ing qual­ity.

Since we first entered the com­pe­ti­tion, we have been striv­ing to win the best pos­si­ble award,” he said. Our efforts are aimed at reach­ing that goal.”

Across the East China Sea, Chinese pro­duc­ers earned two Gold Awards and a Silver Award at the 2023 NYIOOC. The two Gold Awards were the first for Chinese pro­duc­ers at the World Competition since 2019.


(Photo: Shanghai Olive Light Biotechnology)

All three win­ning extra vir­gin olive oils came from the Longnan region in cen­tral China’s Gansu province, the coun­try’s most rel­e­vant olive oil-pro­duc­ing area.

Whispering Flowers is a del­i­cate-inten­sity Ezhi‑8 mono­va­ri­etal pro­duced by Shangai Olive Light Biotechnology under its Olive Times brand. It is part of a com­mu­nity project to improve the liv­ing con­di­tions of thou­sands of farm­ers and their fam­i­lies.

It is a region shar­ing the same lat­i­tude as the Mediterranean Sea,” founder Jane Gong told Olive Oil Times. We are using our own trans­for­ma­tion mill with Italian tech­nol­ogy. Our olive oil mas­ter tastes and eval­u­ates all of our olive oil to mon­i­tor every sin­gle detail.”

See Also:The best olive oils from China

According to Gong, high-qual­ity pro­duc­tion is the main goal as extra vir­gin olive oil is increas­ingly pop­u­lar among highly selec­tive health-con­scious con­sumers in China. While not part of the tra­di­tional Chinese diet, olive oil’s pop­u­lar­ity is grow­ing.

Most of the olive oil con­sumed here comes from abroad,” Gong said. We hope to win even more awards with our prod­ucts in order to pro­mote the ben­e­fits of olive oil in China.”

Quality is the rea­son why we located the olive mill very close to our orchards, to ensure that no delays hap­pen when har­vested olives have to be processed,” she added.

I think one of the major rea­sons for the high qual­ity of our prod­uct is that every bot­tle is full of love for the farm­ers, the con­sumers and the project,” Gong con­cluded.

Share this article


Related Articles