ralo olive oil 2019 PRE-ORDER "NEW HARVEST" NEWSLETTER
Sunday, March 31, 2019
[Pre-Order Deadline: 11:59:59 pm, Sunday, April 14, 2019]
A snowy Spring 'hello' to all.
We hope all is well, and that warmer days will soon be upon us.
OUR NEW WEBSITE & ONLINE STORE
After almost two decades at www.myolivetrees.com it was time to update our website.
We are now at www.ralooliveoil.com.
There are new photos, videos, Testimonials and an Online Store. We are still building our new site and welcome your requests, comments, feedback and suggestions (please send to email@example.com).
We hope you will explore and find your visit worthwhile.
We thank all of you who wrote Testimonials, as laudatory words are always better coming from you. Keep them coming. Kind words are always welcome and appreciated.
Don’t worry, if your memory and habits take you to our previous website (www.myolivetrees.com) you will automatically be taken to the new www.ralooliveoil.com. Any emails to our old email addresses will be redirected to firstname.lastname@example.org. Our telephone contact numbers remain the same.
Natural grass and weed control by a local fluffy grazing team
A HANDFUL OF “MIRACLE OILS” IN THE WORST HARVEST EVER
Many of you will have no doubt heard about how terrible the olive harvest was this past Fall throughout most of the olive growing world, both in terms of quantity and quality.
Depending on the region, olive oil production has fallen by 30-50% and there are significantly less quantities of “extra virgin” quality in what was produced.
One olive press owner reported that there was significantly less oil pressed this year and 98% of the new oils were “awful”. Sadly they were far from alone in this observation.
Not one person I spoke to could remember or had even heard about a worse harvest. There are even fears that Italy may run out of olive oil by April 2019.
Here in Canada, our Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has issued warnings due to the disastrous harvest and is stepping up their inspection efforts to identify fake oil and protect Canadian consumers: CFIA cracking down on olive oil after bad European olive harvest.
There is no need to panic. We always and only operate in the premium top quality percentiles. So, don’t get discouraged by the dire news and read all the way through to the end.
This Newsletter has a happy ending. Miracles do happen.
...art in the streets ... and in the shady groves the funky 'Sixties live on...
OUR 2019 NEWS IN A NUTSHELL:
We have 3 fresh single-grower extra-virgin olive oils (2 organic, 1 conventional) for you to pre-order.
This is a year for milder oils, across the board.
We have less oil this year than we had last year, and last year we were sold out by the end of September.
Our conventional (non-organic) 42Trees oil is the strongest in flavour though at the Medium intensity level compared with the flavour range offered in other years.
If you like high intensity oils and have bought full flavoured vintages of Ionian, Koroni or Kalamata in the past, this is the oil for you. If you insist on organic then you may be surprised by how much pleasing complexity is present in milder oils.
Our organic Argolid and Ionian oils are very subtle, smooth and buttery this year, each in their own way. We have a considerably smaller quantity of Ionian than Argolid.
If the Fall 2019 Harvest is as challenging as that of the Fall 2018 then we will all be risking going without fresh oil next year.
We strongly recommend that you keep this in mind when placing your pre-orders so that you are not left without your favourite oil in your pantry.
The Pre-Order period ends Sunday, April 14, 2019 just this side of midnight.
Details on how to place your Pre-Order appear below. You will be able to select one of three designated Pre-Market dates for pickup at 356 Cambria Place in Waterloo, Market Pickup or to have your Pre-Order shipped to you.
Please Pre-Order online. We kindly ask that you place your Pre-Order online from our website Products/Store. As our business has grown this is the only way we can reliably keep track of orders and fulfilment and continue to provide the level of service and efficiency that you have come to expect.
There may be some discomfort and inevitable bumps on the online road but we ask that you give it a try. You can take comfort in knowing we will always make things right and are here to help guide you through it.
To jump to the Pre-order section of this newsletter, scroll down until you see "Pre-Order Deadline: Sunday, April 14, 2019 at 11:59:59 pm".
Or, if you wish, you can go directly to the Products/Store page of our new website and place your Pre-Order right away.
ST JACOBS FARMERS MARKET SEASON 2019
We return to St. Jacobs Market on Saturday, May 4th, outside.
For May and part of June we expect our Market location to be in the main produce aisle near and on the same side as the 100 Mile produce vendor.
The rest of the season we expect to be where we have been the past number of years: in spot #825 in the fruit and produce aisle that runs parallel to the short-term parking lane and Weber St.
Now, for the full story of this year's oils.
Ancient stones, some laid low and others still standing after all these years
SOLD OUT EARLIER THAN EXPECTED IN 2018
So, you may have read the final score, but you don't know the story.
Last year we were effectively sold out of all oils by the end of September.
We try to adjust the amount of olive oil we buy each year to meet projected demand so that we have stock until May of the following year.
An unprecedented “Harvest Fresh” Pre-Order response last spring and growing consumer awareness of our products outstripped our estimates.
So, our plan for 2019 was to increase the quantity of oil so that we would have oil to sell until May 2020 (ie when this coming Fall's oils will arrive in Canada).
GREECE, Olive Harvest, circa late Fall 2018
Temple of Olympian Zeus Arch of Hadrian
Past reflections, 2nd Floor terrace of Acropolis Museum, after a rain
Even before arriving in Greece at the end of October, I had touched base with our growers. While one of our growers was cautiously optimistic it was clear that this was going to be an extremely challenging year.
There was not going to be a lot of oil and there were already concerns about quality. It was going to be “wait and see”.
NORMALLY EXPECTED VARIABILITY
Keep in mind that olive trees are alternate-year bearing with one good year followed by a less productive year.
Since there are many olive varieties and numerous microclimates in Greece, in the past there always seemed to be a “checkerboard” effect – not all regions had a bumper or light crop the same year. If there weren’t many olives “here”, there were olives and oil to be found “there”.
It is also common for some regions to be hit by disease and others not to be; for some areas to be heavily infested with olive fruit fly and other areas not at all; for hailstorms to afflict certain valleys and leave others completely untouched.
This is common in mountainous landscapes which feature numerous microclimates.
One has to be patient, keep things in perspective and wait until the complete picture emerges.
This year it was a (not-so) perfect storm...
"IOANNES FRANCISCVS ALBERGHETVS" forged beautiful cannons but...
did he have something against cruise ships?
AFTER THE FALL
For the first while there were anecdotal reports from different areas of trees dropping their olives overnight for no apparent reason. As this news spread, many growers started harvesting a full month earlier than planned to ensure having olives to press.
While the fresh oil was safely “in the tank” and some of it of good quality, some of it was alarmingly bad. There were reports of acidity values above 1% and as high as 2%+, even from entirely green olives, something previously unheard of.
Then, on the next batch the results were reversed. Those who had produced good oil then had several bad batches, and vice versa. Scratching of heads. Ongoing apprehensions.
CALLING IN THE EXPERTS
Much of the olive fruit I saw on the trees just did not look healthy and what news I was hearing on the ‘olive grapevine’ was not at all good or promising.
I must confess that for the first time in 19 years I entertained the unthinkable thought that I might not be able to get any oil at all.
The Olive Tree Expert
I contacted the foremost olive tree expert in Greece to learn more. He explained that the problem was throughout Greece and beyond. That there were only a handful of areas that were not affected and that even in badly hit areas there were pockets that were unaffected.
Though the ever-present olive fruit fly was especially “fruitful” this year it was the untimely and excessive rains that created ideal conditions for certain types of fungi to form and take hold in early spring.
In short, the fungi were present during the blossoming and fruit formation phases which meant that the fault in the fruit where it was present was operating from the inside and was not visible until it was too late.
Severe droughts and periods of humidity compounded the problems.
When the damage reached a critical phase the olives simply fell from the tree.
He explained that there was no risk to human health, only to the ultimate quality of the olive oil produced which would be seen in the high acidity values of the pressed oils.
If the acidity was really high, the fruit deterioration and damage was bad. If below the 0.8% limit for extra virgin, it would be an enormous achievement this year. There were some careful growers who even in these adverse conditions were producing oils below 0.5% acidity, but there was not a lot of it.
In short, there were good oils to be found, but I was going to have to get lucky and work very hard to find it. And when I did, I had to act fast.
A long & winding stone-paved path ... a friend's worry beads, tobacco & caffeine
The Olive Press Owner
I then consulted with the owner of what I consider to be one of the best-operated presses in the Peloponisos region. He had yet to see a single batch of extra-virgin olive oil pressed in his area.
Though it was early he was not at all optimistic for what the season had in store. He had longstanding customers whom he could not supply due to the absence of good oil.
As a service to his customer, he had spent a week calling other olive press owners all over Greece in case they could fill the shortfall. So far, no luck. Everywhere it was the same story.
This is the press where I take my own family’s olives to be pressed and my first choice supplier for our 42Trees oil. We are both fanatics for quality and understand each other’s standards.
“I know what you like, what you want. It’s what I like. I’ll keep an eye out for it. If I see it, you’ll hear from me. But I can’t promise anything. Not this year.”
bitter laurel leaves colours of winter
WHY SUCH A BAD HARVEST?
In short, climate change and abnormal variability.
Greece and other areas of the Mediterranean are seeing atypical weather patterns and extreme weather fluctuations.
Severe droughts of months punctuated by torrential downpours where a month's rain falls in a single hour.
Temperature swings from extreme heat to cold, and vice versa, are causing havoc with growing patterns.
There was too much rain at the wrong times, too hot when it did harm, no rain when it was needed, an infestation of the olive fruit fly, and continuing humid and damp conditions which allowed fungi to take hold at the blossom and fruit formation stage and the fruit fly to proliferate.
In the worst hit regions, the olive fruit was under attack from without from the fruit fly and within from the fungi.
As dire as this sounds, it was worse in Italy where in addition to the above challenges 10,000 ancient olive trees in the Puglia region were uprooted for the billion-dollar Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, and where some estimates suggest 25 million olive trees have been stricken and destroyed by the bacterial disease, Xylella Fastidiosa.
While southern Puglia, Italy is “Ground Zero” for the Xylella disease there are signs that it has spread to other areas of the Mediterranean despite considerable efforts being made to contain the disease.
Growers all around the Middle Earth Sea are very nervous. If it does spread, we consumer hobbits of olive oil will be seriously affected too.
Let’s lighten things up for a bit, shall we?
VILLAGE HOME BASE
After leaving Athens, I set up in my family’s ancestral mountain village home in southern Peloponisos.
From there I kept in communication with various growers, olive press owners and other contacts, both by phone and personal visits.
Café view, not at all on the way, but… eventually, the view from home
Olive oil infused with different wild herbs - a personal experiment.
Rosemary flowers ... cyclamen flowers dotted the hillsides
An ancient river. ...s/he loves me, s/he loves me not
A neighbour’s noble-looking dog visited regularly, well, looking noble and rather nonchalant about whether it was fed or not. It worked.
The view, due north.
ANCIENT MESSINI INTERLUDE
On a warm sunny day I decided on a roadtrip to the impressive and little-known archaelogical site of Ancient Messini, situated a 30 minute drive northwest of Kalamata. This idyllic setting is well-worth visiting as is the tiny museum associated with the site.
Apart from the ever-expanding size of the site due to continuing excavations, what most strikes me every time ('what a shocker!") are the olive trees growing throughout the site.
This site rests in the middle of one of the most productive olive producing areas of Messinia province (capital: Kalamata).
There were lots of olives on the trees and they were in extremely good condition. It was a hopeful sign.
INITIAL TASTING NOTES: A YEAR FOR MILD OILS
As I drove throughout the Peloponisos I would stop at olive presses to taste whatever oils were being and had recently been pressed.
All the oils, no matter of what olive variety, were noticeably milder in flavour than in any other year. Though very vibrant as "just-pressed" oils tend to be, the fruity, grassy and bitter flavour elements were more muted and had rounded, smoother edges and peaks that suggested a mellowing to come earlier than usual.
Over the years, I had noticed this phenomenon when it was an especially wet year or if the particular grove was irrigated.
In short, the olives absorb more water and when pressed, the constituents giving strong, grassy, herbal, bitter and fruity flavours have a greater affinity for water than oil and thus migrate to the fruit water, leaving relatively lesser levels of these compounds in the resulting oil.
Some olive varieties, no matter how green when pressed, always produce a mild tasting oil. But, speaking generally, the ripening phase is a critical determinant in the resulting flavour of the oil.
No matter of what variety, as olives mature, ripen and change in colour from green, yellow, pink, red, purple and finally to black, their oil becomes milder and milder in flavour. (I'll say nothing of the rare 'white olive' here, but know there is an exception).
OF NATURAL ACIDITY, AND NOT-SO, ...
This was going to be a year of milder oils, IF we were lucky enough to find any oils with low enough acidity to naturally qualify for extra-virgin status.
Why is "naturally" italicized?
The acidity of olive oils can be artificially reduced by passing the oil through a charcoal or similar filter and, voila!, a poor quality oil can meet the extra virgin standard and no one's the wiser as it is legal and there are no requirements to disclose this fact on the label.
Growers advised me that agents for major exporters were buying up all the high acidity oil at rock-bottom prices. Most sold their oil so they could at least recover some costs.
Agents were also buying whatever of last year's oil they could find for blending since last year's acidity values were extremely low and thus useful for blending to reduce resulting acidity.
This is an understandable and sensible strategy, especially when last year's oils were of exceptional quality. There is no legal requirement to disclose such a practice and thus it is seldom disclosed.
However, we buy only fresh, all-natural oils. All I could do was wait ... and cross my fingers...and toes.
THE FIRST GOOD NEWS
The first grower with tangible good news was the Ionian grower, whose groves are due west over the mountains from Ancient Messini, all the way to the coast.
The family had decided to start harvesting earlier than in other years. The first olive grove they harvested produced the best oil, under 0.5 acidity, a result which was a striking rarity this year.
It was only a fraction of what we had hoped to buy from them but we immediately agreed that I would buy as much of this oil as they were willing to part with.
We all hoped for similar outcomes for the rest of the harvest.
AND SOME DISAPPOINTING NEWS
The Koroni grower (due South of Ancient Messini) was the worst hit. Ater making several rounds of his trees he realized he would not have any fresh extra-virgin oil this year. Most of the fruit had fallen to the ground and what was left was so severely damaged that the acidity would be off the charts.
The Kalamata grower (across Kalamata Bay, and a little south) had had a series of borderline pressings which were not up to our standards and, as it turned out, the rest of the harvest was the same or worse.
It was the same towards Ancient Olympia, in the central plains and in the northwest of Peloponisos.
The only grower who was consistently but guardedly optimistic was the Argolid grower in the distant northeast corner of the region, about an hour and a half drive south of Corinth.
THE ARGOLID GROVE, ALONE ON A HILLTOP
It was time to visit the Argolid grower. We have known each other since the first time I bought oil from him more than a decade ago.
This year, I did something different. Instead of driving from Athens around the Saronic Gulf and across the Corinth Canal, I decided to go by sea for the first time.
I was picked up at the ferry dock and we went directly to the field he had set aside for me. He was tight-lipped throughout the drive and quietly said “I saved this field for you. First, you will see. Then you will say.”
He took me to a grove that sits on a hilltop with a view to the sea. I have selected the oil from this grove on several occasions. What makes this grove distinctive is its altitude, extremely rocky soil and the fact that it is not bordered by any lands on which anything is grown or cultivated. Forest scrub and non-bearing trees border it on all sides.
Its location literally sets it apart.
From the vehicle I could see and hear the harvest crew hard at work. The ground was covered in green net tarps, stretching from tree to tree to catch the fruit and minimize fruit loss. They had just started harvesting this grove that morning.
As I walked around the grove I was amazed. And relieved. The trees and olives were untouched. All green fruit, firm and in clusters. By far the best fruit condition I had seen. This was a miracle grove.
Yes, there was luck involved. But this amazing grower had taken extra preventative measures, monitored the conditions in his groves regularly, and kept in regular close contact with his consulting agronomist specializing in organic cultivation.
A few hours later we drove to the olive press in his van packed with olive sacks. He had an appointment. He backed the van to the building and stood watching as the workers immediately started unloading and opening the burlap sacks into the hopper to start the pressing process.
We then walked over to a table and sat down to wait.
The olive press owner went over to have a look at the fruit. I could see he was taken aback by what he was seeing. He took off his glasses and bent down to have a closer look.
He walked over to the table where we were sitting. "That crop is unbelievable. No damage at all." He smiled and nodded in his admiration and compliments. Our grower sat humbly taking it all in with a serious countenance.
A slight smirk formed as he responded, "Did you expect anything less? Who do you think you're dealing with, amateurs?". We all chuckled, knowing there was huge relief underlying his humour.
We were all anxious to taste the fresh oil. When it finally came pouring out, the taste of the oil was thrilling!
Yes, it was milder than other years but it was cloudy, luscious, buttery and smooth, with no off-flavours whatsoever.
More good news came every day that week as each pressing added to the oil available to me. I committed to buying as much of this oil as he could spare.
LATE-BREAKING GOOD NEWS
After leaving the Peloponisos, all I could do was wait for the rest of the harvest to come in.
First, there was silence. Then some bad news.
Ultimately, the rest of the Ionian grower's harvest did not add to the small initial quantity of very good oil. That was going to be it.
The Argolid grower called me one morning. When I heard his voice, it was somber. I held my breath. After the usual genuine questions about our respective health, he began.
" About the amount of oil you've asked me for. I can't sell you that much..."
"I have long-standing customers and other obligations. But I think I can spare ... "
"..." was less than I had asked for but more than I had hoped to get. It would get me nearer to the quantity of organic oil we had last year. In the circumstances, I was overcome with mildly disappointed elation. And relief. We would be ok for organic oil.
Then, just when I thought we would not have any non-organic oil for our 42Trees label, I heard from the olive press owner. “I have found good oil for you. Very good oil. You’ll not find anything like it. The lab analysis is excellent. It's from a single grower I know personally very well. Do you want it?”
I responded affirmatively in every language in which I knew the word “YES!”, and scrambled on Google Translate to add to my repertoire of emphatic affirmative responses.
When I tasted the oil I realized immediately it would be our strongest-tasting oil for 2019. It had olive fruitiness, grassy tones and fruity bitterness. I would place its flavour profile at the Medium intensity point in the spectrum.
BACK AGAIN: "The Best Table Olive in Greece"
We are pleased to announce that we have a new batch of our fabulous Gigantic Olives.
Since these olives take at least 6 months to cure and attain peak flavour after one or even two years (they easily keep for several years) we are talking about olives from last year's harvest. In any event, the Fall 2018 table olive harvest in this area was largely unaffected by the difficulties afflicting the oil olives. So this will not be a factor for our next year's supply either.
Last year’s shipment sold out almost immediately. So, if you didn't get a chance to try them last year don't fall asleep at the Pre-order stage.
These olives come direct from a young couple who with great care and passion grow, harvest, select and cure their gigantic olives using a "classic" recipe that was designated by award as "The Best Table Olive in Greece".
This couple is involved in every step of the process from planting of trees, to harvesting, selecting, curing and packaging the olives. Their "hands-on", traditional approach is all about quality.
This year’s olives are again delicious, firm and crisp in texture and full of the flavours from a proprietary family recipe that uses all-natural methods, processes and ingredients including sea salt, Florina red peppers, cumin, oregano, orange zest and celery leaves, all in extra-virgin olive oil.
We again have the 250g vacuum packs. This year we also have a limited number of 500g packs.
THE FLAVOUR PROFILES OF THE 3 FRESH OILS
In order of increasing flavour, strength and intensity, the available oils are:
- ORGANIC FRESH ARGOLID (MILD): mild intensity, smooth and buttery with soft luscious mouth feel, with mild peppery finish
- ORGANIC FRESH IONIAN (MILD): mild intensity, smooth and buttery with subtle fruit notes at the finish, together with mild pepperiness
- CONVENTIONAL CULTIVATION (NON-ORGANIC) 42TREES (MEDIUM) medium fruitiness, noticeable grassy, leafy tones and bitter fruit notes, green aromas
PRE-ORDER DEADLINE: Sunday, April 14, 2019 at 11:59:59 pm
You have until Sunday, April 14, 2019 just this side of midnight to place your pre-orders.
To get the pre-order discount you must meet that cut-off date by visiting our website and completing your Pre-Order.
There is some form of Pre-Order discount for all of our products except Wild Oregano.
PLEASE PRE-ORDER ONLINE
As we explained near the beginning of this Newsletter, we ask all of you to place your Pre-Orders from our Website Products/Store page, where you can pay using PayPal or by major Credit Card (VISA, MASTERCARD, AMEX).
If you're having trouble, we are here to help you.
SOME EXPLANATORY EXAMPLES
Where an item appears more than once in our Products/Store page, look to see the one(s) with the word "SALE" in the Top Right Hand corner of the product image.
- Example 1: Gigantic Olives 250g appear twice. You can click on the "SALE" version only if you are buying 4+ packs. If buying 1-3 packs then use the version at regular price ($8). Same goes for Gigantic Olives 500 gr.
Where there are two "SALE" versions of a product click on the one with a title description corresponding to the TOTAL quantity of the item or class of items you will be buying:
- Example 2: if buying a total of 1-3 Tins 42Trees Oil, , select the on "SALE" version showing "1-3 Tins" and a price of $95 each, OR if buying 4+ Tins of 42Trees select the on "SALE" version showing "4+ Tins" at a price of $85 each and insert the number quantity, and then ADD TO CART
- Example 3: if buying a total of 1-3 Tins Organic Oil, whether of all one type or a combination of ARGOLID or IONIAN, select the on "SALE" version(s) showing "1-3 Tins" and a price of $130 each, and insert the number quantity of each kind of tin, and then ADD TO CART
- Example 4: if buying a total of 4+ Tins Organic Oil, whether of all of one type or a combination of the two select the on "SALE" version(s) showing "4+ Tins" and a price of $120 each
STEP-BY-STEP ONLINE PRE-ORDERING
- Go to the Products/Store page of www.ralooliveoil.com
- Select an item you wish to Pre-Order, and the quantity.
- Click "ADD TO CART".
- Click the Back Button or Arrow of your Brower or look for a "CONTINUE SHOPPING" button to return to the All Products Page.
- Repeat Steps 1-4 to add all further items.
- When you have selected all of your items for purchase, Click 'VIEW CART'
- Complete Address Information & click CONTINUE
- Select one of the Free Early Pickup Options OR "Shipping & Handling" to have your items shipped to you.
- select EARLY PICKUPS at 356 Cambria Place, Waterloo N2L 2N9:
- April 12, Friday: from 5pm-7pm OR April 13, Saturday: from 10am-noon OR
- April 17, Wednesday: from 5pm-7pm
- MARKET PICKUPS BY PRIOR ARRANGEMENT (Starting Saturday, May 4th): Tell us by email in advance when you plan to come to the St. Jacobs Market to pick up your order (if for pick up),
- select SHIPPING. Amount shown beside words "Shipping & Handling" will be added to your order. Email us for any special shipping requests, arrangements or instructions.
9. click CONTINUE
10. Select Payment Method and complete information requested.
11. Enter Discount Code 6+=15%Off, if you buy 6+ bottles oil and/or vinegar and click on APPLY
12. Click on COMPLETE PURCHASE
If you're having some difficulties in figuring it all out, send us an email and we'll walk you through it.
We will be able to fix mistakes or otherwise to make things right so don't fret or get anxious.
If we can't get you through the online process we will create a payment procedure "just for you".
But first, please give it a try.
Thank you again for your patience, indulgence and continued support
We look forward to seeing you at the Market.
Robert and Deborah
In a central Athens ancient park, the view looking north towards the Parthenon yielded something totally unexpected
Thissio Metro Station Bare jubilation in the square
A healthy traditonal vegetarian meal at 'To Koudounaki' ("The Little Bell"), Psirri neighbourhood, Central Athens, near Monastiraki and Thissio Metro stations.
A STORY OF LOVE PROJECTED ONTO STREET ART
Some hearts seem locked and inaccessible
and flowery letters ...
are possible keys.
Sometimes it works
And sometimes it doesn't
Leading to wider existential questions...