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Why does olive oil taste spicy?

Why does olive oil taste spicy?

Surely, sometimes, you have tried an EVOO that has caused you some itching in the mouth and throat. You may even have had to clear your throat or cough a bit to reduce this sensation. However, do you know why olive oil tastes spicy? 

At Hacienda Guzmán, we continue to reveal the secrets of liquid gold to you. On this occasion, we explain to you what the itching in olive oil is due to and what the factors that produce it. In addition, we will clarify if this characteristic can be considered a positive or negative quality, since so much power can generate some rejection in some palates or, vice versa, give it a differentiating “touch”. 

What is itching in olive oil? 

The first thing you should know is that the itching of olive oil is one of the organoleptic attributes taken into account in the professional tastings, along with the degree of bitterness and fruitiness. Specifically, this property is defined as the flavor that is noticeable at the end of the tongue and in the throat and that indicates the degree of spiciness of the product. 

Therefore, itching is a virtue, a positive characteristic highly valued by experts. However, various determining factors influence the greater or less spiciness of olive oil. In other words, it must be made clear that if an oil does not sting, it does not mean that it is not of good quality; there are Very soft Premium EVOOs, if you prefer lighter options. It all depends on consumer preferences. 

Why does olive oil taste spicy? 

In the case of intense olive oils, the origin of this itching lies in the high content of polyphenols, those organic compounds that make EVOO one of the foods with the most benefits for people’s health. 

These natural antioxidants are generated by breaking down oleuropein, present in the pulp of the olive and the olive leaf. They are substances such as tyrosols, hydroxytyrosols and oleocanthal, a powerful anti-inflammatory that is mainly responsible for why olive oil itches. 

Do all olive oils have the same itch? 

The answer is no. As you may have seen for yourself, there are olive oils that are spicier than others are. What accounts for this difference? 

On the one hand, unripe harvested oils, that is, those obtained from an early harvest that have a higher degree of spiciness. This is because, when the olive has not begun its ripening process, so that it maintains all the organoleptic complexity of of the fruit and the polyphenol index is higher 

In the same way, in the case of extra virgin olive oils, the intensity is also usually greater in the mouth. Why is extra virgin olive oil spicier than others are? By preserving largely the properties of the olive, through a collection system  that does not damage the fruits, a fast and careful transport and storage and a cold milling (below 27 degrees), the content of organic compounds is not diminished. On the contrary, refined olive oils lose part of their phenolic qualities throughout the production process. Hence, a high itch is associated with an EVOO of the highest quality. 

How does the variety of olive influence the itching? 

Now, this relationship between spiciness and quality does not always occur. Among the factors that determine why olive oil is spicy is also the olive variety. 

For example, if you like strong emotions, the Picual, Manzanillla or Hojiblanca varieties will allow you to experience a more powerful flavor on the palate. On the other hand, varieties such as Arbequina, Picudo or Royal produce a softer EVOO, without thereby the resulting product being of inferior quality.   

Now, you know why olive oil is spicy. Therefore, what if you check this intensity firsthand. Among the different products of Hacienda Guzmán, we have the EVOOs HG Hojiblanca and HG Manzanilla, early harvest olive oils with strong features. Get them in our online store!