Olissea is a site dedicated to the production of high-quality Mediterranean extra virgin olive oil and, more widely, to the culture of oil. The roots of this culture are very ancient and for centuries were at the heart of an exchange of goods and ideas for all the peoples involved in producing this ‘liquid gold’.
On the site you’ll find a section devoted to the ongoing accounts of a group of olive growers in the Pratomagno hills, in the western Tuscan province of Arezzo.
Initially they got together to share information and experiences about the market price of oil and the difficulties involved in covering production costs. Their conversation then spread to the quality of the oil they make and to other aspects of oil production that came to light through these comparisons. With extreme openness they compare and discuss their cultivation techniques, times and ways of harvesting and their extraction methods.
This resulted in a determination to make better oil and in the creation of a production protocol. The group joined forces to buy a new extraction mill. We’ve been following the birth of this new association, and will tell the story of the steps they took and the results and developments they achieve.
We believe that this kind of close-up look at how oil is produced – understanding the problems and their solutions – can help both producers and consumers to navigate the array of oils on offer and permit them to make more informed choices about what to buy.
For us, this educational process includes putting consumers in touch with estates that cultivate olive trees without chemical fertilizers and that offer natural and sustainable products. This goes beyond talking about oils with great taste to bigger questions of care for the environment and for our health. Public opinion has only recently begun to focus on these important issues, and it’s vital that more and more people should seek out foods whose traceability is guaranteed. Good government can only take place when citizens are well informed.
We hope to help create a deeper understanding about the nutritional and health values of olive oil, and by doing so to defend the consumer from badly made or mass-produced oils. Many people still don’t realise that ‘crude’ extra virgin oil is bought in large quantities by multinational companies who may blend and bottle lots coming from diverse countries. These industries are able to ‘correct’ low-grade oils (known in Italy as ‘lampante’) using chemical strippers and then flood the markets with these poorly made products at very low prices. The problem is that they’re bad for our health.
The best extra virgin oil is a very pure product that is extracted from olives using simple mechanical processes. These trees are cultivated without the need for fertilizers or chemical treatments, relying instead on human care and well-tended soils. Sadly, these fine and costly products are being copied and counterfeited in vast quantities. That’s why it’s so important for us to spread the word about what defines well-made olive oil.
The site will be an open window into the lives of any and all producers of extra virgin olive oil who choose to work in the pursuit of excellence. We hope the’ll feel free to contribute their ideas and experiences here about all aspects of the production process of the real thing, from cultivation to extraction, pest-prevention and protection, storage and marketing.
The site is of course also open to people from other disciplines writing about aspects of the olive and its fruit: cultural, media, restaurant, and more. We hope that our readers, too, will feel free to join the conversation between producers and consumers.
It’s important to us to spread the word about the real culture of extra virgin olive oil, and we aim to do so as thoroughly and clearly as possible. This encompasses everything from farming and sustainability to work-life balance and how best to enjoy the most delicious extra virgin oils.
So please join us!