By Lucie Emerson
This was meant to be a straightforward review of a product, scrumptious olive oil, but then also became the story of a family’s tradition and passion.
I discovered Ahha! Extra Virgin Olive Oil when an old friend, who makes the oil with her husband, visited London and asked me to try it. No strings attached, she would just appreciate some feedback. I didn’t tell her that I was an olive oil snob unlikely to be swayed. Every year, I receive a fresh bottle of the liquid gold from my father who produces it from his own olive trees in Croatia. But aha! After a month of consuming Alex and Marina’s olive oil, I hate to say it but I think they have beaten his.
The olives for their oil are grown in Greece, in the southern part of Peloponnese in the beautiful landscape of Messinia. They create a taste so flavoursome it feels like the central ingredient to my dishes. A drizzle on toast makes a delicious snack, and just the oil alone dresses plain lettuce into a superb salad.
For the moment, you can only buy it on Amazon. At £8.55, including a current offer of a 10 percent discount* and free UK delivery, it is quite a bit more than most of us would usually pay. So aside from the main factor—its taste—why would you buy this over a similar, cheaper product in your usual shop?
Firstly, the olives have been traditionally cultivated and hand-picked instead of harshly collected by industrial machines that exploit and stress the trees. This family even makes sure that the surrounding areas from where the olives come are free of heavy industries, allowing for the air, water and earth to remain safe and clean. No chemicals are used to extract this oil, unlike most others like corn oil, and it undergoes cold extraction which allows all the good stuff to stay intact. But most importantly it is made only from Koroneiki olives, a variety blessed with one of the highest levels of polyphenols.
Their health benefits are immeasurable. Alex can speak for hours about the magical powers of high-quality extra virgin olive oil. It is this antioxidant, polyphenol, which is believed to fight age-related diseases such as heart disease as well as some cancers; it is an anti-inflammatory and so much more.
The crucial factor is that the higher the quality of oil, determined by its acidity level, the more polyphenols you will find—hence the power of this specific extra virgin olive oil. I am certainly quite happy to scrimp on something else to gain its benefits and the pleasure of consuming it daily, and I can tell you that after a month hooked on it, I feel great.
Plus I have the benefit of knowing and trusting the family behind it. I know it’s been produced in all the best possible ways to produce an excellent product. Alex is a certified Olive Nut—he can barely speak about anything else. After years in New York in the tourism and then food industry, he decided to return to his homeland with his young family. He told me his choice of business was a natural decision. His own children were eating olives before any other food and he told me: “Olives unite all Mediterranean people, Greeks and my family. When I see my son picking olives, he does it so naturally, I know it’s in his blood too, it’s what comes to us most naturally.”
So what more can I say than give it a try? Athens was named after Athena when the people chose her gift—an olive tree of course—over Poseidon’s spring. Today, I think it’s a no-brainer for us too. And hey, why not also give the ailing Greek economy a tiny helping hand by supporting one of its few entrepreneurs? Save on a few take-away coffees and enjoy a pure luxury that’s good for you too.
* The discount code is valid until 31 May 2015: 8ACBOE75.