31 Complete Sommelier Certification Course in London

A diverse group of olive oil professionals and hobbyists gathered in central London for the intensive five-day course.
Education Lab associate Collin Cord serves tasting samples at the London Sommelier Certification Program
By Daniel Dawson
Mar. 27, 2023 12:59 UTC

Aspiring olive oil som­me­liers from Istanbul to Ottawa gath­ered at the CIEE Global Institute in the Bloomsbury dis­trict of London ear­lier this month to attend the Olive Oil Sommelier Certification Program.

After five days, 31 atten­dees com­pleted the course, which cov­ered olive oil qual­ity assess­ment, cul­ti­va­tion and his­tory, har­vest­ing and pro­duc­tion, health ben­e­fits, chem­istry, regions and cul­ti­vars, stan­dards and grades, culi­nary appli­ca­tions and con­sumer edu­ca­tion.

I thought that the time had come to learn how to eval­u­ate olive oil qual­ity. I found the course excep­tion­ally good. Beyond my expec­ta­tions.- Mehmet Taki, asset man­ager and olive oil pro­ducer

The pro­gram is fab­u­lous; every­thing is cov­ered,” Christianne Noordermeer Van Loo, a non-exec­u­tive direc­tor in the health, finance and cul­tural sec­tor who trav­eled from the Netherlands, told Olive Oil Times.

Noordermeer Van Loo decided to enroll in the course after nearly a decade of pro­duc­ing olive oil as a hobby from a lit­tle grove on a prop­erty she bought in Umbria.

I was impressed by the fun I had dur­ing the har­vest and to have my own extra vir­gin olive oil,” she said. I noticed this course a while ago, and it was a dream to enroll, but I thought it was not for peo­ple with­out any or a very lit­tle bit of knowl­edge. In November 2022, I decided to enroll… and they let me in.”

Noordermeer Van Loo plans to iden­tify a more suit­able mill to take her olives for trans­for­ma­tion next year. She also wants to use her knowl­edge to enhance her sen­sory skills and fur­ther develop as a taster.

The pro­gram proved to be pop­u­lar among hobby farm­ers. Mehmet Taki, an asset man­ager, flew from Istanbul to London to par­tic­i­pate in the pro­gram after found­ing his olive farm in Turkey a decade ago.

See Also:Moroccan University to Offer Olive Oil Master’s Degree

I thought that the time had come to learn how to eval­u­ate olive oil qual­ity,” he told Olive Oil Times. I found the course excep­tion­ally good. Beyond my expec­ta­tions. It is a very well-bal­anced pro­gram, not only lim­ited to the tast­ing of the olive oil but also pro­vid­ing solid infor­ma­tion on every aspect of the olive oil, from farm­ing to stor­age, includ­ing new trends and prac­tices.”

Taki plans to share his mas­tery with his farm employ­ees to improve his pro­duc­tion. Furthermore, there are a cou­ple of ideas related to agri­cul­tural prac­tices and olive oil milling that I would like to exper­i­ment with on my farm and see the results,” he added.

Many olive oil pro­fes­sion­als and hobby farm­ers attended the pro­gram to develop exper­tise and help their busi­nesses.

Birger Vanacker, the owner of an inde­pen­dent del­i­catessen in Belgium that sells extra vir­gin olive oil, enrolled in the pro­gram to improve his com­mand of the prod­ucts and edu­cate his cus­tomers.


Birger Vanacker

Since olive oil is such an impor­tant part of my sales, I wanted to learn more about it,” he told Olive Oil Times. Not only for myself to make a bet­ter selec­tion in my assort­ment but also to be more in con­trol of qual­ity and vari­ety.”

I can bet­ter inform my cus­tomers and help them choose the right olive oil for their own per­sonal pur­poses and taste pref­er­ences,” he added.

Vanacker plans to use this pro­fi­ciency to run tast­ing work­shops. He ordered 144 offi­cial tast­ing glasses and will host his first class on May 30.

I will apply my knowl­edge to the selec­tion of my assort­ment, which might seem pretty obvi­ous,” he said. However, I also would like to pass on what I’ve learned to my cus­tomers by edu­cat­ing them through work­shops and demos because peo­ple still don’t know enough about extra vir­gin olive oil.”

While Vanacker already knew a bit about olive oil from pre­vi­ous expe­ri­ence, he said the course was valu­able due to the wide range of speak­ers dis­cussing their spe­cific areas of exper­tise.


I had no idea that some tast­ing notes were an indi­ca­tion of bad olive oil,” he said. Some things that I thought were nor­mal are, in fact, not nor­mal at all.”

Contrasting with Vanacker’s pre­vi­ous expe­ri­ence, Guy Hendrickx, an olive oil som­me­lier and importer from Belgium, trav­eled to London to fur­ther study the pos­i­tive sen­sory qual­i­ties of extra vir­gin olive oil after exam­in­ing olive oil defects exten­sively.

I am an olive oil som­me­lier and importer of pre­mium qual­ity Italian olive oil, so imple­ment­ing parts of what I learned will be done rather smoothly on the job,” he said.

My favorite parts were tast­ing some really good olive oils and get­ting to taste some non-Italian olive oils, as I mainly taste a lot of Italian oils,” Hendrickx added.

This year’s edi­tion of the London Olive Oil Sommelier Certification Program was pop­u­lar among retail­ers.

Elizabeth Kilvert, the owner of two stores called The Unrefined Olive, trav­eled from Ottawa to learn more about olive oil and pass that under­stand­ing to her cus­tomers.


Elizabeth Kilvert

It is our respon­si­bil­ity as sell­ers to learn all we can and be a guide to the cus­tomer,” she said. We need to pass on our enthu­si­asm for olive oil.”

Kilvert saw the course as an essen­tial part of the olive oil sec­tor dia­logue. She believes pro­duc­ers and con­sumers can learn from one another and help the indus­try grow.

I want to trans­fer what I have learned to take the cus­tomer on a jour­ney of appre­ci­a­tion for olive oil,” she added. I think that olive oil needs to be bet­ter under­stood and acces­si­ble to every­one.”

While atten­dees world­wide gath­ered in cen­tral London to fur­ther their hob­bies or improve their retail selec­tions, Marilena Joannides trav­eled from Cyprus with a dif­fer­ent goal.

For the past 21 years, I have been involved in research­ing and pro­mot­ing the tra­di­tional cui­sine of Cyprus,” she told Olive Oil Times. As a Cyprus culi­nary spe­cial­ist, I par­tic­i­pate in tast­ing pan­els for tra­di­tional prod­ucts, among them olive oil.”

Assessing extra vir­gin olive oil is one of those things I feel that I am good at, and I wanted to develop this skill fur­ther,” she added.


Marilena Joannides

Joannides, who pro­motes Cypriot cui­sine on her tele­vi­sion pro­gram and at domes­tic and inter­na­tional events, said she would use what she has learned from the course to edu­cate peo­ple every­where about the organolep­tic and healthy qual­i­ties of extra vir­gin olive oil from the east­ern Mediterranean island.

Apart from that, there is work to do with pro­fes­sional chefs, as this is a prod­uct of great gas­tro­nomic poten­tial,” she said. I would also like to pro­ceed fur­ther with my edu­ca­tion regard­ing the sen­sory analy­sis of extra vir­gin olive oil.”

Most atten­dees had pre­vi­ous expe­ri­ence with olive grow­ing and oil pro­duc­tion and tast­ing. Still, every­one learned some­thing new and sur­pris­ing dur­ing the pro­gram.

I really never knew that you can smell and taste so many dif­fer­ent fla­vors of fruits and veg­eta­bles in olive oils,” Noordermeer Van Loo said. That was a com­plete sur­prise.”

Another sur­prise was that despite the local farm­ers in my sur­round­ing told me that sed­i­ment at the bot­tom is com­pletely nor­mal and absolutely not harm­ful, I under­stand now that it is by far bet­ter to fil­ter the olive oil before bot­tling to avoid defects,” she added.

Meanwhile, Hendrickx was reminded how olive vari­eties have dif­fer­ent sen­so­r­ial attrib­utes depend­ing on where and how they were grown.

My most sur­pris­ing learn­ing moment is that olive oil is the only fat that evokes emo­tion,” Kilvert said. The smell and taste can trans­fer you to a field, a farm or a mem­ory.”

Joannides was pleas­antly sur­prised to learn the full extent of global olive cul­ti­va­tion, with com­mer­cial groves in 58 coun­tries on six con­ti­nents.

For Taki, the biggest sur­prise was the com­plete­ness of the pro­gram, which he had not expected when sign­ing up.

It was a recap of my 10 years of expe­ri­ence in five days, plus learn­ing to eval­u­ate olive oils on top of that,” he said. I wish I had attended the pro­gram 10 years ago.”

The next edi­tions of the Olive Oil Sommelier Certification Program will be held in New York City from May 22 to 26 and in San Francisco from September 25 to 29.


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