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Under the Olive Tree, quality olive oils and vinegars at Tysons Corner, Virginia

Written By | Aug 1, 2014

VIENNA, Va, August 1, 2014 — The quest for olive oil perfection continues and a Virginia purveyor, Under the Olive Tree, in Tyson’s Corner Mall aids in that quest.

Since olive oil’s popularity burst upon the scene some time ago and aficionados as well as experts shared with the public the technicalities in using the best types — pure, virgin, or extra virgin — selling it only in dark glass bottles to protect taste and aroma, clear glass totally prohibited, we have been schooled in what to look for when purchasing the best product.

Keeping it in a cool, dark place, not keeping it on the shelf longer than suggested, all of these aspects of “olio d’ oliva” have been brought to our attention via television and newspapers alike. And it doesn’t take five minutes to ascertain what a bad oil tastes like.

Now a new procedure has been announced, and the Marcel Beraud family at the Tyson’s store is proud to have been selected to participate.

Standards for olive oil have been modified through the last few decades, one of the last being in 2010 when the International Olive Oil Council, an intergovernmental organization based in Madrid, Spain, further defined the standards.

The United States does not belong to this 23-member group, instead relying on the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture to assure quality and authenticity, adopted in 1948 prior to the IOOC coming into existence, and governmental certification is available from the USDA on a fee-for-service-basis.

It appears to judge basically only on the level of free fatty acid content and little more. Purists, and those who really appreciate the oil, are interested in a more stringent approach.

Veronica Foods, a national supplier that was founded in 1924, has launched a national certification program to ensure certain extra virgin olive oils to be of “premium” quality, compared to the heretofore mentioned existing standards set forth by the IOOC.

The Tyson’s store was chosen to pilot the certification program on the East Coast, hoping that certification will spread nationwide and even beyond our borders.  This certification would assure normal consumers and purchasers on what they should be looking for when they purchase extra virgin olive oil, the most popular of the types used in food. This supplier hopes to end up with a higher quality standard for the oil than presently exists.

The new category of Ultra Premium was created by Veronica Foods to separate high quality extra virgin oils from what dominates the so-called “gourmet” oils and “premium” oil markets as well as the broader category sold in mass markets everywhere under thousands of brands and private labels.

The average purchasing consumer would have to read extremely fine print on labels to definitively ascertain whether the “extra virgin oil” he purchases came from Italy, Spain, Greece, California or any other oil-producing entity. And one name does not mean the same in varying producing countries!

To be able to use this Ultra Premium designation with its distinctive UP label, the extra virgin olive oil  (EVOO to its more knowledgeable purchasers) must meet or exceed a comprehensive set of production, storage, transportation, testing, chemistry, and organoleptic requirements. If it sounds impressive, it really is, but it will affect the taste and texture of the final product in a positive and satisfying manner.

The certification program is handled through the Modern Olives Laboratory in Australia, which conducts chemical testing on the oil to measure quality. The results or certifications of the oils that exceed the normal standard set by the IOOC then go to the supplier, providing the retail store direct access to these certification figures. The supplier normally does not buy oils which do not meet the UP standards.

This, in the final analysis, allows the retailer to place a special tag on the bottles as well as proper documentation on the fustis, which assures their quality in the same way that “Organic” assures quality in foods with that label, almost like a culinary Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

The Beraud family: Marcel, Fabiana and Marie Clare, take pride in the fact that they will be able to mark their oils with the highest type label it can have.

For newcomers, these oils come in a wide variety of flavors including blood orange, basil, Tuscany, chocolate, and some 30 others. All culinary folks out there will find there is something for everyone at the little niche store on the lower floor of Tyson’s, and tasting is definitely allowed.

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Martha Boltz

Martha Boltz was a frequent contributor to the long-running Civil War features in The Washington Times America At War section in both print and online editions. A regular contributor to the original Civil War Page and its successor page dating back to 1994, she is a civil war buff, historian, and writer. "Someone said that if we don't learn about the past, we are condemned to repeat it," she said, "and there are lessons of all sorts inherent in this bloody four-year period of our country's history." She is a member of several heritage and lineage groups, as well as the Montgomery County Civil War Round Table. Her standing invitation is, "come on down - check the blog - send me your comments and let's have fun with its history and maybe learn something at the same time."