Spanish Olives 101 – Aceitunas españolas

Why are Spanish olives such a special category?

Aren’t they just olives?

Well, they are, but olives are a wide category – black, green, bitter, sweet, salty, with pepper or without, big, small, etc.; You get the point. And Spanish olives are so special because they cover almost all that super-wide range.

Spanish Olives Field
Spanish Olives Tree

It is said that Spanish olive oil is the world’s most quality oil alongside Italy. And I’ll say, that must be correct!

Before I came to Spain, I really didn’t enjoy olive oil. For me, the taste was weird and fishy. But, since I tried some olive oils in Spain, I now always have a bottle in my kitchen. What is Spain for the world in the olive culture, that is Andalusia for Spain?

Once in Barcelona, one elderly señor recommended a bottle of olive oil to me with the words “Take this one, it’s from Andalusia, it’s premium quality.”. And you’ll bet it was cheaper than those branded ones. So, Spanish olive oil can brag about its quality because Spain has such a developed industry of olive culture and olive oil-producing.

Spanish olive tree sunset
Spanish Olive tree at the sunset

Spain is the largest producer of olive oil in the world, with more than 200 varieties of olives grown. A wide range of Spanish olives is certainly a big boost to their olive oil industry!

Not only it’s the largest exporter of olive oil in the world, but among those 200 varieties of olives are some of the healthiest olives, rich in antioxidants.

If you don’t like olive oil or olives, I bet you would find your match in Spain, because Spanish olives have something for everybody. All the people I know that didn’t like olives, started to like them in Spain. So, that is why Spanish olives are a special category!

How much olive oil does Spain produce?

Spain is not just the largest producer of olive oil, but also the largest exporter of olive oil in the world. So, how much oil does the largest producer of olive oil in the world produce?

Largest producer of Olive Oil
Spain is the largest producer of Olive Oil

Spain annually produces:

  • Over 1 million tons of olive oil.
  • That is almost enough to fill around 400 Olympic pools.
  • It is almost half of the entire world’s olive oil production (around 45%).

Out of those 200 varieties of olives, there are about 25 that are regularly used in making olive oil.

The largest exporter of olive oil in the world is, however, not also the largest consumer of it. Greece is the biggest consumer of olive oil in the world, and in Spain, an average person annually consumes around 9 and a half liters of olive oil.

Can you imagine?

When do they harvest olives in Spain?

The olive harvest season in Spain starts in November and lasts until February.

It covers a bit of autumn and early spring, but we can say that olive harvest happens in winter.

Olives harvest season Spain
People harvesting Olives in Winter in Spain

Harvesting olives in Spain is a big deal. In the harvest season, you can see a ton of workers and olive harvesting machines doing their jobs.

Harvesting Olives in Spain
Special machine for harvesting olives in Spain

The different harvest time brings different results, for example, the early olives are used to make extra virgin top quality Spanish oil.  Once the olives are harvested, they are ground in an oil mill. Then the pulp of ground olives is pressed and passed through a decanter which extracts the final product – rich extra virgin Spanish olive oil.

What region in Spain is famous for olive oil?

The most important olive towns in Andalusia are situated in 5 large provinces:

  • Jaén (with around 38% of olive production)
  • Córdoba (23%)
  • Seville, and Granada (around 12,5 %)
  • Málaga (8 %)

So – where is olive oil produced in Spain?

The main sources of olive production in Spain come from Andalusia, Castilla La Mancha, Extremadura, and Valencia, but, without a doubt, the most important olive region in Spain is Andalusia.

Olive capital of the world – Jaen

The world’s capital of olive oil is Jaen.

Jaen is:

  • The largest producer of olive oil in the world.
  • Producing more olive oil than Italy.
  • The second most producing ”country” of olive oil after Spain.
Olive farms in Jaen area
Olive farms in Jaen area

Jaen olive oil is considered to be one of the finest oils there is, and the city hosts many olive-related events. The most important event is the International fair of olive oil and related industry, which is one of the biggest and most important events in the industry of olive products.

How much olive oil does Jaen produce?

  • Jaen produces around 40 % of all olive products in Spain.
  • 20 % of the whole world’s olive oil!
  • It has more than 500 thousand hectares of olive tree fields.
  • With around 60 million olive trees.

Annually the province of Jaen produces more than 600 thousand tons of olive oil. Jaen olives are premium quality, and there are around 8 million daily wages represented on olive harvest in a regular campaign.

This is why for Andalusia olive oil plays a big part in its economic strategy.

How many olive trees in Spain exist?

Spanish olive tree is considered to be one of the symbols of Spain.

Olive tree fields are not to be missed when traveling around Spain, especially between Jaen and Granada or Jaen and Cordoba. The fields of olive trees seem never-ending as an ocean seems from the shore.

Spanish Olive Trees
The tree line of olive trees

Just in the province of Jaen, there are 60.000.000 olive trees spread out throughout 550.000 hectares of fields.

Olive farms in the Jaen area take up to 80 % of total farming areas, making olive production an unbeatable number one priority.

In Spain, there are around 300 million olive trees over 2,5 million hectares of olive tree fields. To emphasize this amount, many say that the number of Spanish olive trees is almost as big as the total population of the United States.

How much does olive oil cost in Spain?

Olive oil prices in Spain range from cheap to very expensive. As the country produces a lot of olive oil, the price is somewhat cheaper than in the countries that import it from other countries.

Olive oil prices in Spain
Example of olive oil prices at a market in Spain

Extra virgin olive oil prices in Spain go from 3 euros a liter to a couple of hundreds of euros. The good thing is that in Spain you can find cheap, but quality oils, because the olive prices in Spain are lower due to national production.

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