The Unrefined Olive

by jc

Olive oil, in my humble opinion, is one of those few things that everyone can agree is good for us.

It boasts a plethora of phenolic compounds as well as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.  Because of this, olive oil consumption has been positively linked to overall heart health, cholesterol regulation, and is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties.  These links are backed in large part by strong scientific evidence, with some of the most profound being published this past February in The New England Journal of Medicine .  This study showed an inverse relationship between the adherence to a Mediterranean diet (a hallmark of which is high olive oil consumption) and the risk of cardiovascular disease.

There are however increasing concerns with regards to the production and quality of the olive oils many of us trustingly purchase in our local grocery stores.  It is for this reason that I was so very interested to check out what the new olive oil store in the Glebe, The Unrefined Olive, had to offer!


“Oh those brownies? SO GOOD for you! Made only with olive oil, no butter! Can you believe it?!”

I first became aware of the controversy surrounding olive oil when my Mom came across the book Extra Virginity by Tom Mueller.  In the book Mueller basically states that much of what us consumers buy is hardly olive oil at all, despite the high prices we pay and the labels we trust.  He is critical of many international olive oil companies, lax governmental regulation (i.e. the International Olive Council) for this downfall in quality.  On the flip side, Mueller is optimistic that the increased consumption of olive oil in North America will drive a resurgence of true extra virgin olive oil, similar to what we’ve seen in the rise of microbrewing and fine wine.

Back to the focus of this post though – The Unrefined Olive in Ottawa.

That's what I'm talking about.

That’s what I’m talking about.

Upon walking into the shop I was greeted by a very friendly and enthusiastic man.  He briefly explained the layout of the store and that I was free to sample any oil or balsamic vinegar I wanted – like wine tasting!  He also gave me a few useful pieces of information…

  • They only opened back in November so are currently selling exclusively southern hemisphere oils as they have yet to receive the oils from the northern crops
  • Oils go bad!  They should always be consumed within one year of pressing.
  • They sell only 100% pure EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL… meaning only physical/mechanical means were used to extract the oil from the oil (no chemical processing, etc.).
  • The less processed the oil (i.e. extra virgin), the higher its smoke point and the better it is for cooking at higher temperatures.
  • A product can have as low as 3% olive oil in order to be labeled “olive oil” in Canada – THIS WAS SHOCKING TO ME!

I began weaving my way through the aisles, first with the pure oils then moving on to the flavour-infused oils as well as the white and dark balsamic vinegars.  I was amazed at how different oils from different regions could taste.  Some tasted so grassy, while others were completely different – it really was like wine tasting.  Errr… or maybe how I envision wine tasting to be as I am not nearly sophisticated enough to have tried that yet.

So many to try, to little time!

So many to try, to little time!

Even more special oils.

Even more special oils.

3 sizes, 3 prices – all reasonable for a great product!

3 sizes, 3 prices – all reasonable for a great product!

I was a bit apprehensive at first to try the flavoured oils as I normally find them artificial tasting but these ones were so different.  The flavours were genuine, light, and delicious.  I was having a hard time choosing just a few on my first visit!

There were too many good ones in this aisle!

There were too many good ones in this aisle!

I ended up selecting four products: a Tuscan-herb infused olive oil, a “butter” [vegan] organic olive oil, and a cranberry-pear white balsamic vinegar.  I absolutely loved all of them but I have to say that the butter olive oil is my favourite.  It’s completely dairy-free but has the yummiest smell and taste of butter.  My Mom and I have been using it to make popcorn over the stovetop and it’s absolutely delicious!

My first three babies at home... more to come!

My first three babies at home… more to come!

Overall I would give my experience at The Unrefined Olive a 10/10.  The staff was extremely helpful, friendly and knowledgeable.  My main complaint from my visit is that they were closing and I just wanted to stay longer.  I really cannot wait to go back, it was truly a pleasant experience for the senses!  All that and I can feel good about the money that I’m spending on a genuine and pure product!  You really do get what you pay for.