A Tasty Night at Queen Creek Olive Mill


Cactus IFT members enjoyed an informative and tasty night at the Queen Creek Olive Mill.

The science behind producing quality olive oil is more than you may think. Everything from the type of olive tree to the time the olives are harvested can influence the taste and quality of oil that is produced.

Cactus IFT teamed up with Master Taster, Sommelier, and owner of the Queen Creek Olive Mill, Perry Rea, for an event to learn about the olive oil production process. For more than a decade, Perry and his team has been experimenting with different varieties of olive trees in order to find which ones grow best in Arizona. Currently, the Queen Creek grove is home to 16 different olive trees.

Olive trees grow buds in March and blossom in mid-April. If just four percent of the tiny flowers become olives, it’s a big crop. By May, olives have formed on the trees and they are harvested in the Fall.

The exact time that the olives are harvested significantly effects their taste profile. If they are picked when they are in their green, ripe stage, they will have a grassy, bitter, and peppery taste. Olives that are picked when they are purple in color have a buttery, fruity to flat taste that does not keep well. According to Perry, deciding when to harvest is a key factor in deciding the style of oil they want to produce.

Once the olives are harvested, they are pressed within 24 hours using mechanical machines to extract the oil without the use of heat or solvents, hence the term “cold pressed”. For some of the flavored oils, additional ingredients (such as oranges or lemons) are included in the mixing process to infuse the oil. After the olives have been pressed into a paste and the oil extracted, the oil enters a scientifically designed centrifugal decanter that spins at a high rate which removes any remaining water or debris. Finally, the oil is transferred to oxygen-free, stainless steel tanks where it is kept fresh and bottled as needed.

After the educational presentation by Perry at the Olive Mill, he guided us through an olive oil taste test. Our taste buds confirmed that Queen Creek Olive Mill truly produces some of the best oils in the world. From bacon to blood orange, every olive oil is sure to make your mouth water.

— Gillean Barkyoumb MS, RD