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Why Does My Olive Oil Taste Peppery?

Ask the Chef

Question:

I have purchased some very expensive olive oil, first pressed, extra virgin, etc . . . and yet sometimes there is a peppery taste to it and it even burns the throat. I’ve had to toss it out. Can you explain what has happened to the oil or what I should look for in the future to avoid this? Thanks, M.L.

Answer:

Actually, the peppery or bitter taste is a sign of a desirable olive oil – one that is newly pressed with strong flavors, low acidity, and a high degree of antioxidants. As olive oil matures, the peppery flavor becomes milder. Many prefer olive oil with notes of black pepper. Connoisseurs actually consider coughing when the olive oil hits the back of the throat a good sign, which would explain why what you purchased was more expensive. Olive oil is distinctive, and prized, for its flavors – black pepper, fruitiness, etc.

Since you don’t care for that flavor, you may want to avoid the Mediterranean oils and look for the milder oils. Avoid any that say ‘first pressed.’ I would aslo recommend that you go with a less acidic “Virgin” olive oil rather than “Extra-Virgin” olive oil. For your tastes, look for Ligurian oils over Tuscan oils – the Ligurian are more fruity and less peppery. Blended olive oils that are labeled ‘light’ or “pure” may also be more palatable to you, and have a very mild olive oil flavor. You can experiment with different manufacturers to find the flavors that work best for you.

A couple of good resources with more detail are found here:

www.oliveoilsource.com

www.olio2go.com