Trader Joe's is generally a well-respected chain grocery store in the United States, with good fresh products and often healthy packaged and frozen foods. Their prices are very appealing to budget-conscious consumers. Their olive oil offerings are no different: affordable and somewhat diverse. You can get Italian, Spanish, Greek and California oils there. (I reviewed one of their California oils a while back.)

At a store recently, I noticed how most of their olive oil selections -- which has more than doubled in the few years I've regularly shopped there -- are below $10. That said, they offer a good selection of entry-level oils for the consumer who's not yet ready to make the (price) jump to true gourmet olive oils.

I tasted the Trader Joe's Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Spain on Sunday, Jan. 11, as part of a group online tasting I organized over at ILoveOliveOil.ning.com for the Olive Oil Tasters network. As I promised those folks, my review will incorporate not only my impressions, but theirs as well. And at the end of the post, if you're curious, you can read the transcript of our olive oil tasting. (Gotta love the Web!)

So, hit the jump for the rest of the show!

Some quick facts: The Trader Joe's organic extra virgin olive oil claims on the bottle that it is a product of Spain. It gave a "best before" date of 2010. It did not list any varietals that might have been pressed into making the oil. In short, TJ's did a decent job with disclosing some info about the oil, but not others. All of us tasters agreed that we want to start seeing the date when the oil is pressed, produced and/or bottled.

It's important to note that during the tasting, myself and Olive Oil Taster member Susan O'R. both were having similar negative experiences, while Jeff and Cathy's tasting was more pleasurable. We figured out that Susan and I had a bottle that was probably at least a year older than Jeff and Cathy's -- so their newer bottle was fresher and that's probably why it tasted better to them.

Per my own methodology I use during these tastings, I judged the oil on Aroma, Taste and overall Harmony.

For Aroma, I smelled a tinny, metallic and/or chemical undertone. There was little hint of "freshness." It was neither floral, grassy or herbaceous -- just a flat, monotone aroma. I called it average in the Aroma category. Score: 3 out of 5.

Some other taster's noted:

* Susan: "I find this oil to have a chemical odor."
* Jeff & CathY: "like a mild herb."


For Taste, the oil was thick and viscous. It was also nearly immediately peppery and induced a cough if I breathed in some air with my sip. But it wasn't a pleasing taste, and it was dull. Not vibrant or fresh-tasting. Score: 4 out of 8.

Some other tasters' notes:

* Susan: "i find the oil to be greasy with a peppery finish."
* Jeff & Cathy: "it has an thick texture, but I like how it cleans up towards the back of the tongue pretty quickly"

For overall Harmony, I have to say that I believe this oil was past its prime by the time I decided to pluck it off the store shelf at the Trader Joe's. So, next time, if I do buy more oil from there, I will take a much closer look at the bottle labels and make sure I buy an oil whose "best before" date is as far out into the future as possible. I think the aroma and taste elements of the oil had fallen apart: I was smelling metal but tasting pepper and then, flatness. Score: 6 out of 12.

Total Score: 13 out of 25.
Rating: Average

I suspect when the oil was fresher, it might have been pretty good overall. But as I tasted it, it was mediocre. I would not use it as a finishing oil on soups and salads or even toasted breads. I would use it for light sauteeing and maybe some baking. 'Tis a shame, because some of the other olive oils I bought from Trader Joe's in the past were quite good, including a Greek and a Californian.

Interested in our group tasting experience? Take a peek at the transcript below. If you're interested in online tasting events and discounts on olive oil, you should join the Olive Oil Tasters network at ILoveOliveOil.ning.com!!!




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