` In Land of Milk and Honey, Distaste for Bitter and Pungent EVOO

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In Land of Milk and Honey, Distaste for Bitter and Pungent EVOO

Jan. 13, 2015
By Sukhsatej Batra

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Amer­i­cans are not the only con­sumers who dis­like the bit­ter­ness of high qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil. Vis­i­tors at Gourmesse, a pop­u­lar trade fair in Zurich, who eval­u­ated 140 sam­ples, pre­ferred EVOOs with a ripe, fruity, and sweet taste over those which were more pun­gent and bit­ter.

The study, reported in the Jour­nal of the Sci­ence of Food and Agri­cul­ture, inves­ti­gated the over­all pref­er­ence of EVOOs by vis­i­tors to the fair. Eighty per­cent of the par­tic­i­pants were from Switzer­land; deep in but­ter coun­try to be sure, but a place where the Mediter­ranean diet has a small foothold.

The 140 EVOO sam­ples tested for con­sumer accep­tance were par­tic­i­pat­ing at the Inter­na­tional Olive Oil Award in Zurich. More than half of these sam­ples, 74 to be exact, came from Italy, while 43 were from Spain, and the rest were from Greece, Por­tu­gal, and Turkey.

The Swiss Olive Oil Panel con­ducted sen­sory analy­sis of the sam­ples and cat­e­go­rized 7 per­cent as good, 58 per­cent as very good and 45 per­cent of them as excel­lent, in terms of their fla­vor and sen­sory qual­ity. Over­all, the expert pan­elists clas­si­fied all the EVOOs to be of high qual­ity and with­out any defect.

Con­sumers at the fair, con­sid­ered more knowl­edge­able of gourmet foods than aver­age, eval­u­ated the EVOO sam­ples using a nine-point hedo­nic scale to indi­cate their pref­er­ence.

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Sur­pris­ingly, the con­sumers liked only 19 per­cent of all the sam­ples eval­u­ated, exhibit­ing a dis­tinct dif­fer­ence in expec­ta­tion and inter­pre­ta­tion of EVOO qual­ity from the Swiss Olive Oil Panel.

The vis­i­tors, 51 per­cent male and 49 per­cent female, had a clear pref­er­ence for the ripe, fruity, and sweet EVOOs and dis­liked the bit­ter, pun­gent, and green fruity taste of high qual­ity sam­ples.

Phe­no­lic com­pounds are respon­si­ble for the bit­ter­ness and pun­gency of extra vir­gin olive oil. They are also the com­pounds related to the health ben­e­fits asso­ci­ated with con­sump­tion of olive oil.

The authors con­cluded that con­sumers are unfa­mil­iar with the pos­i­tive sen­sory attrib­utes, and the asso­ci­ated health ben­e­fits, of high qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil that has a bit­ter and pun­gent taste.

Con­sumers in the United States also had an aver­sion to the bit­ter and pun­gent taste of high qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oils, accord­ing to a UC Davis study.


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