Do you know how to buy a good olive oil? Well I sure didn’t! With so many options these days, it can be confusing. A year ago I had what I like to call my olive oil epiphany! After some research, I realized I didn’t have any idea how to buy a good olive oil or what to look for. I came across Kasandrinos Olive Oil and my life, and tastebuds have never been the same! It’s by far the best olive oil I’ve tried. I wanted to share with you the tips, and tricks of buying a good olive oil. So I interviewed Tony from Kasandrinos. In this podcast, he gives all the tips on how to buy an olive oil, what to look for on a label, the process of making olive oil, and so much more. It’s all on the podcast-check it out!
Not only is Kasandrinos Olive Oil seriously delicious, but they’re also family owned, which I love. They have been so kind offer 15% off to all my readers through March 31st. Use coupon code: gurlgonegreen. Shop their olive oil here. Also, in case you missed some key points during the podcast, check out Kasandrinos FAQ’s here.
Transcript Kasandrinos Olive Oil
Suz: Welcome to another GurlGoneGreen Podcast. This is a little different than the typical podcast with my Naturopath, Dr Matt. From time to time I’m going to be including podcast that cover a variety of topics. Today, we are talking all about Olive Oil. I have the honour of having Tony Kasandrinos, an expert on Olive Oil from Kasandrinos International here. And his business is actually co-owned by his sister, Effie. So I’m so glad you are here Tony. Welcome!
Tony: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
Suz: Yeah, and before we get into any nitty gritty of Olive Oil I wanted
Suz: you to kind of give a little brief background of how Kasandrinos got started and a little bit about your Olive Oil specifically.
Tony: Okay, well down and dirty it has been in my family for generations. Pretty much most people in Greece have olive oil in their family. Everyone have some trees, so it’s nothing I really planned on doing. I happen to have a case of my uncle.
He has his own private label that he’s been bringing it over upstate New York for about the last 20 years. He wholesales it up there. But I happen to have a case in the trunk of my car, and I was training in CrossFit Center City in Philadelphia. We were having a big dinner party in the gym. And it was somebody’s birthday and they had like some really not so good olive oil. So I was like let me go grab some of my stuff and I brought it in and everybody really liked it. So now we have to get some of that stuff. I gave a few bottles away and then I had more and more people asking for it and like after a few weeks I was like making trips from Philadelphia up to Rochester New York,
Tony: to go get cases and I was pretty much just sharing with my friends essentially. I was active; I was a recruiter in the Marine Corp at the time. So my focus was on like working 70 hours a week with the Marine Corp, and not thinking about starting a business. And then my friend Diane Sanfilippo convinced me to actually start selling it. Yeah, that was four years ago and it’s been growing ever since. It’s gone through a lot of changes and its growing a lot, so it’s just selling my uncles’ label and then after about a year, I was like I can’t do this on my own.
I was working a lot of hours, I was thinking about getting ready to go on a deployment. So that’s when I talked to my sister who is one of the smarter humans I know. She was working with JP Morgan who has a financial background, which was what I am not. I am better with the marketing, networking, the fun stuff, and she likes the numbers.
So then I said, “Hey, let’s do this together”. And that was three years ago and then we decided to privatize our own label which is Kasandrinos, get our own. I started a website that I built and I don’t know a lot about websites , learnt a lot and then we were like, “Okay let’s spend a lot of money and get a really good one done” which we did, and we launched our own private label, Kasandrinos. And I was actually in Japan when that happened. So–
Tony: And my sister was pregnant with her first child. That was a crazy time. It was about two and half years ago and here we are now
Tony: years later.
Suz: That is so cool. I love that first of all working with your family, which is your sister. That is so cool, that you guys basically took it from something small and created this amazing business.
Tony: Yeah, and it was pretty just… I think that in this community like a food community, or people make their own products, you find that a lot where people just sharing whatever they have with their family or friends.
Tony: And essentially that’s all we were doing. “Hey, here try this oil; it’s a lot better than what you’re using now”.
Suz: Right, totally.
Tony: And it just kind of snowballed in and we took it from there.
Suz: Yeah I love it. Can you talk more about your actual– I don’t know if you call it a farm in Greece or what you guys call it, a vineyard or–
Suz: Orchard, okay.
Tony: You know we all got plots of land. I always tell people to do this, if you ever go on Google earth and zoom into Greece, essentially what you are going to find is mountains, beaches and olive trees.
Tony: It is as far as you can see, cause when you are at Greece you really don’t realize till you are there. But olive trees make a ginormous portion of the landscape itself, it is everywhere.
Suz: So cool.
Tony: They are literally everywhere, it’s crazy. Until you’re there you will be like sitting in on a mountain, and looking into like a valley, and it’s like miles and miles of trees, the whole country is olive trees.
Tony: We all have like our own plots, a lot of times they’ll be scattered. Somebody might have 10 acres in one area and 30 in another and we pretty much, it’s like a cohab. There’s a few villages we have one olive press. That’s like a mill that presses all the olives. We harvest them once a year and everybody brings their olives for that day, brings them to the mill, we press them the same day.
We’ll talk about it earlier about what to look for on a bottle. One of the things we have is a PGI, is a type of Protected Geological Indicator, which means that our olive oil comes from one specific area of Greek. And it’s not only that Greek olive oil is literally from one area. That’s one little valley.
Tony: And that’s one of the things in the olive oil industry and a lot of times you will have those mega corporations that will buy out olive oil from all sorts different countries. They might buy some from Tunisia, some from Greece, some from Spain and they’ll mix it all together. Some might be older than other oils. And yeah, so that’s one of the things about our stuff, is it comes from bunch of families owned little farms. And we do it once a year and that’s what we are bringing over here.
Suz: That is so cool. So the olive trees, do you actually pick the olives by hand or is it–
Tony: Some are. Yeah, okay. So, it depends on what type of land you are on, and what kind of limited to, like if you are on the hillside , we could you know a lot of times, people literally bring donkeys up there and put a tarp under the tree.
Suz: That’s so crazy!
Tony: It’s like there’s different ways of collecting olives. You can pick them by hand. There’s a few different machine that will pretty much vibrate the tree a little bit, and the olives will fall off in a tarp. And there’s like a wand that pretty much vibrates and you know like wand it, and it’s like I won’t say wand it, put it around the branches and then it gently knocks the olives off the tree.
Tony: So there’s few different ways of going about getting it. But a lot of times, like if you see in California the way– you will see miles of rows and rows of trees and really flat land, and then as you get into Italy and Greece where it’s very mountainous and rugged. Some of your trees will be like in nice valleys but what I am telling you olive trees are everywhere, they are literally everywhere. Some like on the side of cliffs and every tree produces olives so you’re going to especially when you are dealing with the farming communities there, pretty much their annual income a lot of times they rely on pretty much harvesting every olive as much as possible.
Suz: Crazy, so how does the process work when you press it?
Tony: It’s kind of hard to explain without seeing it visually. If you can imagine a bunch of olives and you are basically… best way to explain it is, you know what a sponge is, looks like say you have two sponges with the olives in the middle and it squeezes down, but you will have them stacked up on top of each other, and they will pretty much press the juice right out of the olive. A lot of people don’t really look at olive oil like this, but it’s a fruit juice you know, no different from a grape or an orange.
Tony: It’s a fruit when you are pressing the juice out of it. And that’s what you are getting with olive oil. Granted the olive oil will last much longer. Thank goodness!
Tony: Yeah, you pretty much just pressing it down and the biggest thing is not, it’s all done mechanically now. But that’s where the term cold press comes from you are not heating it up over 80 degrees, and it’s a very slow process.
Suz: Which is what you want?
Tony: Yeah. Yeah. Definitely, and then once you press the oil and you filter it, because there is going to be sediments in there just like you would filter orange juice. If you squeeze an orange so that you don’t have all the pulp in there, some people do like unfiltered oil which is very rare to find in America, but you don’t see it too much. It has got a much, much more bitter taste.
Suz: Got you.
Tony: So if you could filter the oil, make sure you’re not getting the sediments in there.
Suz: I don’t think I would want sediment in my olive oil.
Tony: It’s not a bad thing I like it. And it’s much, much stronger though.
Suz: Got you.
Tony: Definitely different than what we are used to here in America.
Suz: Yeah. Would you say, why would you say that someone should get extra virgin? What does that mean?
Tony: Well extra virgin is basically– there is a definition that characteristics but it mainly deals with the acidity level of the olive oil. The only way you can really tell if an olive oil is pure and not mixed with anything else or what level of oil it is, is by doing a chemical analysis on it and anything that is below .8 acidity level in the oil itself will be considered an extra virgin.
Tony: Now with that there is a big difference between a .7 and a .2 acidity level of extra virgin olive oil. So just because something is extra virgin, not to say something is wrong with it but there is a noticeable difference that you will taste between a lower acidity extra virgin and a higher acidity or as generally tested out around .2 ,so for as low as you can get it. And it’s very similar to wine in some ways. Every year a harvest will have a slight difference in taste you know, and if you test one bottle will be like .22 and another one will be .28.
And another thing too is how fresh it is, and that’s the most important thing with olive oil if you are talking about a no kidding fresh pressed olive oil. And how fresh is that oil because something that might be say a .7 extra virgin olive oil today, in about a year and a half or two years of sitting on a shelf underneath a grocery store light, if you were to test it, it probably wouldn’t be extra virgin anymore.
Suz: Wow! That’s crazy!
Tony: Yeah, so that’s why your source and where you get it is very important. And that’s the biggest thing when purchasing or looking for olive oil is, how old it is.
Suz: Would you say or why would you say the importance of getting organic then?
Tony: Well, we just got certified organic last year, the biggest– It’s important but I don’t think it’s the end of the world cause there is a lot of smaller olive oil companies, that are organic but aren’t going to spend the money to get the certification. And we did it at first for three years, it’s good to have an organic certification, people like to see it.
Tony: But even myself personally will be the first to admit it. I buy a ton of different kind of olive oils. I usually buy a new bottle every month, granted I have like an unlimited amount of mine, but I would like to try out once.
Tony: But that’s it really. I am not going to buy that cause it’s not organic because I know especially when you are dealing with the smaller families estate it’s not, especially in Europe. It’s not a very big push for getting the certification with olive just because olive trees are very hearty and don’t require the type of chemicals like a lot of guess less hearty plants do. I guess it’s like wine.
Suz: Yeah, sure.
Tony: Are you looking for an organic wine when you are at the store?
Suz: I mean probably, but that’s probably just because — I am sure that. I don’t really drink a lot anyways. But I am sure that a lot of… I just read different things have more like have sulphides or it just can be contaminated more but I am sure.
Tony: If they are using chemi… pretty much we were organic before we got certified, it’s just–
Tony: We had the certification that we were able to put on our bottle.
Suz: Which kind of chemical is probably the majority has?
Tony: In the olive oil world it depends on where you are at. Not going to say anything bad about California, but there are a lot of great companies out there. But a lot of our trees or where the trees are indigenous pretty much the Mediterranean region, they have been there for hundreds of years, and they were pressing olive oil regularly before any chemical like those were even invented. It’s really a hearty tree. Olive oil will probably grow with some water and air. That’s what it needs.
Suz: Cool, that’s so good. Okay, so I know that I kind of mentioned too about the UC studies, like what would you say if—what are your thoughts on it? And or maybe give a background I guess to the listeners to
Suz: What it was
Tony: Okay, well it was pretty much a study they conducted which was a few years ago, probably 4 or 5 years ago. And pretty much an olive oil, I guess claims of olive oils saying they were extra virgin but really were not. I think that that study was promoted in a way that really I don’t know if it was intended to come out like that, but they said that 60 something percent of olive oil available in stores is fake.
First in any report or study, first thing to look at is who funded it. And that study was funded by California Olive Ranch. So right off the bat I’m like okay, cool well they funded it, let’s see what it says and how the study was conducted. So what they said was a bunch of companies are claiming to be extra virgin and are not.
Now the way they did this study is, they went to local grocery stores in the Southern California region. I think there’s three different ones. And they bought bottles of olive oil from those stores and then they got them tested and they fell outside of the parameters for being extra virgin which is .8 or below.
So my issue with the study was okay you conducted a study by going and buying probably old olive oil because they’re getting it off the store shelf so right away–. Perfect example, I can sell like my bottle of olive oil today that was on a tree few months ago and it’s a very high quality extra virgin. But if you let it sit around for 3 years on a store shelf it’s probably going to test outside those parameters.
Tony: So is it really not an extra virgin while maybe three years after the fact it’s not but when it was pressed it was.
Suz: Right. Got that.
Tony: And that’s some of the information they didn’t name in the study. And they name a bunch of these and they use a lot of bigger cheaper brands out there pretty much like your Wal-Mart brands. And it was like okay when you tested them say 2011 when were they harvested? Was it 2008, 2009, 2010? You know and I read into it and I looked into it and I saw how they conducted the study. But that’s information they didn’t include in the study like how old was this olive oil?
Tony: That really plays such a very huge important role in it when you test it. And I think that guy somehow mix in with some articles that were written about olive oil companies blending their olive oil with other oils. And that study that they conducted didn’t mention any of that. So my question a lot of people says well olive oil is fake and what not. I was like okay don’t get me wrong I’m sure there’s companies out there that do do it especially those huge large corporations that sell their olive oil for cheaper than what it’s worth, what actual olive oils worth. So if you’re going to name companies that are supposedly fake, name them, because they didn’t name them. They just name the few companies that tested outside the parameters for being extra virgin.
Suz: Got you. Right
Tony: And the way they conducted it I was like that’s not really a fair way of doing it in my opinion especially when you’re testing the local California oils that have a quick, easy distribution to Southern California. So chances are you’re testing their current year’s harvest and then you are getting this old store shelf bought Italian olive oil whatever it was. And all of a sudden that stuff was probably 2 years old, and now that stuff is fake olive oil or whatever they wanted to word it.
Tony: So in my opinion if you want to conduct like a no kidding fair study, you should test a fresh oil of whatever oil it is you’re testing you know. Not something that has been sitting around. And that’s one of the things that kind of sets our company aside is for one, where we don’t sell in store like that. But the reason we don’t is because we only offer this year’s harvest of olive oil.
Suz: It’s awesome!
Tony: And anything we have made available to the public is from this year. And olive oil will last a lot longer not like its edible up to 3 years a little bit longer even if it’s kept sealed. But it does start to breakdown essentially you know, as soon as it’s pressed overtime.
Tony: There’s certain things you can do to slow that process as far as not keeping it pretty much in the light, keeping it in a cool place. But that’s kind of one of the problems of buying it in store, you’re buying oil that has been sitting under light for who knows how long.
Suz: Yeah, that’s kind of what I wanted to get to next. My question is what are some tips like for just you know us, like regular consumers that they don’t know necessarily like how to tell if like olive oil is good or like tips on what you would give to buy a good olive oil.
Tony: Well, first thing to look for and to me it says a lot about a company is, if you see olive oil in a clear glass bottle. Just a little background I like to look at olive oils whenever I go to grocery store whether it’s Whole Foods or Essential Market or wherever I’m at. I like to look at them.
Tony: Cause that’s what I do. If I were buying an olive oil that was not mine. If I do see olive oil in a clear glass I’ll dismiss it, because to me as a company that’s saying you don’t really care about your product that much, because you’re willing to compromise a little bit of money in clear glass instead of dark glass.
Tony: and it does make a difference like I’ve actually done my little studies at home, like put olive oil in a dark glass then in a clear glass and set them underneath in the kitchen, with the sunbeam on a normal day down in Texas. And I think I did it for 3 months a few years ago and there was a noticeable difference in the two and also had one in the cupboard.
Tony: And the light and the heat really does make a difference. So the storage of that oil over time is really vital. So if I’m shopping if someone is using a clear glass, and its sitting on a store shelf for months, especially when you go to some of these grocery stores that have 50 to a 100 brands of olive oil, they really not moving that much. So they sit up there for a while. I will get to what to look for in a minute. But you could go and find old, old olive oil on grocery store shelves, like I’ve found passed the best before date. I’ve found bottles that are over 4 years old on shelves.
Tony: But most people don’t know to look, and then a lot of people think, oh that’s 4 years old, it’s probably good cause it’s so old it’s like wine.
Tony: And I’ve had a lot of people tell me they thought it gets better with age.
Suz: That’s so good to know and you would kind of think that way.
Tony: A lot of people compare it to wine and it’s not. It doesn’t get better with age. So that’s a first and foremost, if I see clear glass I’m skipping over it. The next thing to look for is, if you really want organic, look for organic certified. But if you’re getting a European olive oil, look for a PGI which is a Protected Geographical Indicator. You really do want a single sourced olive oil; because what a lot of companies do, they will just buy olive oil in bulk from all sorts of different region of the Mediterranean.
I’ll talk about the California Company in a minute. But they will buy it from all over and then they’ll just blend it together. And a lot of time the oils they’re buying, they’re going to get the cheapest product available. A lot of times when money is the bottom line and profits are most important, people are going to buy the cheapest oil they can get their hands on, and then they’ll blend it all together. And then they’ll send it to America where a lot of European have the mindset that most Americans don’t know any better
Tony: when it comes to olive oil and they’ll just buy it, just to buy it and use it. So you always want to find out what’s the source of your olive oil. So if you’re getting European look for that PGI certification that’s like a little blue and yellow certification.
Tony: And then exactly underneath that it should say exactly what region it comes from. So that’s another thing to definitely look for. If you flip on to the back or on the side or if you’re buying a can on the top there’s two dates that you need to look for. And this is the most important thing when getting oil. The date of expiration or best before date, that date isn’t that important but it should have it on there.
Tony: I mean there’s no set date we use 24 months, most companies use 36-48 months but the important date is the harvest date
Tony: like when was this olive oil actually harvested? Now the problem is a lot of time in fact I should say majority of time, you will not find that date because that date doesn’t exist, because of what I just explained.
Tony: There’s no harvest date because you’re buying oil that some of it could be 2 years old. Others might be 3 years old, some might be this year’s harvest and they blend them together.
Tony: So you are getting a subpart quality oil for sure. So you always want to look for single sourced olive oil. You want to know when it was harvested because you can have a great olive oil and its 3 years old, and it’s definitely not so great anymore.
Tony: So you want to look for the fresher stuff available. Right now is probably the best time to buy olive oil probably from now till summer, just because it’s fresh as you can find it. If you can find this year’s harvest, because we harvest in the winter and so now is definitely the freshest you can get. Those are the biggies; the color of the olive oil really makes no difference.
I’ve heard a lot of people say its greener, it’s more yellow. Every olive oil is going to be different from year to year. And what kind of olives you’re using and what part of the world they’re coming from. That’s like saying; well this wine is better than this wine because it’s darker or lighter. The color doesn’t make much difference. And another little tip / trick if you do buy olive oil in a grocery store, find whatever one you want to find and then like get to one all the way in the back then pull out 3 or 4 of them that hasn’t been sitting in the light instead of grabbing the one right in front.
Suz: So smart. Yeah. Would you say that just because of the light you said?
Tony: Yeah, just because the one in front have been sitting underneath the light.
Tony: For who knows how long.
Suz: Cause you will think to grab the front one because it’s like the freshest. Again–
Tony: No, it’s generally the oldest.
Tony: They’ll put the freshest in the back so they can move it up.
Suz: That’s good!
Tony: And that’s one of the biggest problems. And that’s one of the things with the European oil is, you know they have already have to come across the world and they get stucked in distribution centers and you can only store so much on a shelf. So a lot of time stuff will get held over and it could be a year, 2 year 3 years so.
Tony: We kind of cut out that whole process and pretty much bring it from Greece to our Fulfillment Center where we store it. And it’s in a climate controlled area. And it basically just goes from there to our customers’ homes.
Suz: That’s awesome!
Tony: And we cut out the whole distribution centers and grocery stores and it makes for fresher product for sure.
Suz: Do you think that it matters like what’s the olive oil contained in as far as long as its dark as you said? But like I would probably be more apt to buy something that’s in a dark bottle versus that in a dark plastic or
Tony: Yeah, I wouldn’t use plastic at all. I mean we have BPA free tin cans that we bring over in three liters and then 18 liters for wholesale. We sell some to commercial kitchens and Pete Paleo here very shortly.
Suz: Okay. Cool
Tony: Did you know of them?
Suz: I’ve heard of them. Yeah
Tony: Great people! I’ve actually known them for years and they’re going to start using our olive oil for their cooking over there.
Suz: That’s so awesome!
Tony: Yes, so we bring over those big tins for them. But I would not use plastic. I’ve tried olive oil from plastic and you could taste the plastic more than anything.
Suz: That’s so gross.
Tony: Yeah it is. It definitely is gross
Suz: That’s good to know. And you think that it has to be expensive in order to get a good olive oil?
Tony: No, but it shouldn’t be cheap either. If you’re buying a bottle of olive oil and you’re spending under $15 on it, it’s probably not good at all. Honestly!
Suz: Got you.
Tony: And granted depending on the size of the bottle. But I’ve had really expensive olive oil and I felt ours is better. But I mean ours is medium ranged price. Pricing is a balancing act. And this is som