Christine Cushing is worried about turning into one of “those” crazy Greek women, the cheeky kind that would bring olive oil to a restaurant.
She kind of is.
“I have these little 100 ml samples I used for the tenth anniversary and I actually did it yesterday, it’s really bad but I don’t care,” says the Greek-Canadian celebrity chef, referring to her line of extra virgin olive oil. “I said to my mum ‘there’s no way I’m eating this salad dressing.”
Sure, it can be misconstrued as pretentiousness, but after a decade of producing her own, she’s an olive oil insider, intimate with last year’s poor harvest. 2014 was a black year for olive oil, a 15-year low in global production that saw key producers like Spain, Italy and Morocco’s output falling 40 to 50 per cent below average.
An abnormally hot spring threw the weather-sensitive growing process out of whack, coupled with olive fly infestations and diseases affecting the fruit trees prompted a bad year for producers. The result, according to the International Olive Council, is prices 121 per cent higher than last year.
Higher production costs and lower profit margins, means fraudulent olive oils – bottles wearing extra virgin tags that are actually mixtures of extra virgin olive oil and other, cheaper oils like grapeseed or nuts. But it doesn’t take a black year for opportunists to dupe consumers – producers have been doing it for years, says Cushing.
“There’s billions of dollars to be made and anywhere that happens – like saffron or truffles – you have a high probability of fraud,” says Cushing.Really good olive oil smells like grass or fruit as it’s a fruit tree,