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What it takes to make great olive oil

By Kerry Hart January 07, 2018 0 comments

Success at making award-winning olive oil comes at the price of intense discipline and exacting effort. There's a lot of hard work and decision-making that goes into making something that tastes as good as really good extra-virgin tastes. Like with any agricultural product, you’re always at the mercy of factors that are outside your control, like the recent weather bomb that devastated some coastal properties on the Coromandel and Firth of Thames. 

Making extra-virgin olive oil is not for the faint of heart. Anyone who has ever visited an olive grove or witnessed the production of high-quality olive oil knows the painstaking work, the everyday challenges, and the countless decisions that go into making this product.

We need the perfect soil and cultivars, ones that thrive in the Waiheke microclimate, the trees will take years before they bear fruit. We need some rain but not too much, we need to harvest olives at just the right time. From heat waves to strong winds, to getting pickers on the job at the right time, to making decisions about when to pick, to milling equipment maintenance, to bottling capping and labelling, there are countless details and obstacles on the way to creating a wonderful olive oil. The work is demanding and relentless.

But the end result, when customers from all around the world tell us that they love our oil and continue to buy it, is so very satisfying. That's why we are still in this business after 17 years.

When we first planted olives in 2000 we knew very little, apart from the research that we carried out on which varieties would do well and the likely yield if we grew the trees effectively. We knew nothing about processing or olive mills until we decided that we needed to be in charge of our own destiny and visited four manufacturers in Italy and purchased our olive mill in 2007. The learning curve was very steep indeed as we installed the equipment and learned how to operate it in 2008. With the assistance of Alfa Laval, the Italian manufacturer, we learned how to fine tune the operation and won our first two golds and a silver in 2009. Since then we keep learning from every vintage and every international medal won in Los Angeles, Tokyo and New York.

What we have discovered is that the making of great extra virgin olive oil depends on a multitude of factors that we need to consider every year. Not least of these is the expertise that our team has developed over the last ten years in growing, harvesting, oil making, storage and marketing. This has helped us build strength in the Azzuro brand so that it is recognised and valued. 

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