Olive Vitality earns coveted certification for olive-oil tasters

Wine has Sommeliers, and beer has Cicerones (pronounced sis-uh-rohn) , turning out batches of certified beer experts, as we wrote this summer.

The olive oil industry — booming in California — also has its own elite certification program, and a local has just been certified.

Jeanette Campbell Angell, who owns Olive Vitality in downtown Grass Valley with her husband, Matthew, just completed the intense training and testing to earn certification as an expert olive oil evaluator by the oldest and most respected olive oil school in the world.

The National Organization of Olive Oil Tasters, or ONAOO, is the No. 1 worldwide school of olive-oil tasting. “ONAOO was set up to teach people to recognise bad and good qualities of an olive oil, so that the consumer may be guided by a wider culture,” it states.

Though olive oil consumption is growing, the quality of the oil consumed has recently been a concern. “The UC Davis Olive Center evaluated 21 olive oil samples sold to the restaurant and foodservice sectors based on the voluntary standards of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and tests that have been adopted by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).”

The analysis found that:
•”All but one of the 15 “extra virgin” samples passed the most commonly used USDA chemistry standards (free fatty acidity, peroxide value, and ultraviolet absorbence) to test quality;

• “Despite this high passage rate, 60 percent of the samples failed the USDA “extra virgin” sensory standard, which is a standard rarely used for quality-control purposes in the foodservice and restaurant sectors. Some of the oils were so defective that they were classified by sensory panels as “not fit for human consumption” under the USDA standard.”

As a result, having a local with Ms. Angell’s credentials is a real benefit to local olive oil connoisseurs.

Olive Vitality, at 126 Mill Street, also has begun teaching “Olive Oil 101” classes. The class focuses on understanding the differences between olive oils, how to choose a high quality olive oil, introductory olive oil chemistry, health benefits of extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars, and an extensive guided tasting tour. The cost is $15 and includes an ultra-premium extra virgin olive oil.

Olive Vitality features a store full of extra-virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar bars, where customers choose their favorite blends and purchase them in an attractive bottle.

It also offers tastings that pair the gourmet olive oils and vinegars. Food education, such as the “Olive Oil 101” classes, also are one of its strengths.

Olive Vitality has more than 40 Italian-made fustis lined along the walls of its colorful store to keep the product fresh. There are fused and infused blends.

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