Not all olive oil is created equal, and if you have browsed the oil section of your supermarket, you probably know that. But how do you choose the best from all the different types and varieties?

To make matters even more confusing, did you know that there are thousands of different types of olive oils in the world? Well there are. Olive oil can be differentiated by three major factors, including the variety of olive being grown and pressed (there are over 500 varieties of olives in the world!), the level of ripeness when the olives are harvested and pressed, and the quality or grade of olive oil, and not all olive oil, even within the same classification, is the same. That’s because these are merely generic terms related to a wide range of numbers on a chemical analysis.

Extra virgin olive oil comes from the first batch of pressed olives, and is the highest quality. A second press can result in virgin olive oil, which has a less robust flavour, and a third press can result in generic olive oil.

Seasonality is important in olive oil too—olive oil made from early season olives is often spicier and stronger, while olives harvested later in the season may have more muted, mild tones.

So What Should You Look For When Buying Olive Oil?

At the end of the day, the only thing that’s really important is finding an olive oil that you love. Olive oil should taste slightly sweet, green like fresh vegetables, and never have a musty, tangy flavour or smell of old nuts.

Here are some key factors to look out for – look for olive oil that was grown and pressed from a single estate that focuses on quality over quantity, and it’s best if the oil in question was pressed within the last year. Additionally, olive oil should be sold and stored in a tinted glass bottle. Last but not least, make sure your olive oil is pure, and not mixed or diluted with other vegetable oils.

When choosing olive oil, it’s best to go for extra virgin olive oil, as it can literally be used for everything, from baking to dipping to roasting. Extra virgin olive oil is the most flavourful olive oil, and is ideal for cooking. It also has a smoke point of around 375 degrees.

How Long Does Olive Oil Last? 

Once opened, olive oil typically lasts for about two months, so don’t try and save money by buying it in bulk unless you use it very frequently.