Olive oil is considered to be Extra Virgin when the Oil has been produced by a simple pressing of the olives. Consumers will often look for a first cold pressed Olive Oil, but may ignore Extra Virgin Olive Oils when the are not labeled "First Pressed" on the can. However, in order for an Olive Oil to claim that it is Extra Virgin, the oil from the olives must be first cold pressed.
Lower grades of Olive Oil are produced using chemicals and other processes to extract the oil from the olives, and may also be blended with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Extra Virgin Olive Oil will also have a lower acidity (less than 0.8% to be exact) than a non extra virgin, and will have a superior taste.
Greece is a leader in Olive Oil production and produces the finest olive oil in the world. Olive trees were planted in Crete around 3500 BC in the Early Minoan times, and over time the olive fruit has become a staple in Greek culture.
Within the past few years there has been multiple media reports indicating many olive oil producers have been mixing extra virgin olive oil with processed oils, but still labeling it as “extra virgin”. This has happened because in the United States (aside from growers in California that have voluntarily implemented a more rigorous test of their own) there are fewer criterias producers must meet to achieve “extra virgin” status.
Where as in Europe there are essentially two tests that the oil must pass to be labeled “extra virgin”. Other olive oil producing countries may mix their oils, completely jeopardizing the integrity of the olive oil.
Today Greek olive oil is regarded as the best in the world as it carries very low acidity and peroxides which make them of premium quality,and can be recognized mainly from the fruitiness, the bitterness and the pungency in the taste.
Some benefits of olive oil include; it being rich in healthy monounsaturated fats, it is protective against heart disease, it contains large amounts of antioxidants, it is an oil that does not contribute to weight gain and obesity, and can help prevent strokes and help fight alzheimer's disease. Studies also indicate that consuming at least 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil can lower blood pressure.