30 August 2023

OliBaeza EVOO. Visiting the El Alcázar Cooperative

The first stop in our summer holidays in August was Jaén and more specifically Baeza, where we made a Turistour to visit the El Alcázar Cooperative, in order to know the facilities and the process of obtaining its famous Olibaeza oil. There we enjoyed a pleasant guided tour throughout the cooperative where we were able to see and learn about the whole process of obtaining their EVOO while we were instructed each and every part of their facilities as well as machinery and even sales process.

The cooperative is made up of around 1,000 members who bring their entire production of Picual olives (in Jaén the Picual variety is the most common) to the cooperative (the number of olives is around 600,000). Production is around 30 million kg of olives and in some years has even reached 40 million. With the drought, last year they only had about 10 million and this year's crop is expected to be similar to last year's or even smaller if there is no rain before the end of September. The average production of kg of oil is around 800,000kg, of which around 60,000kg are bottled for sale to members and the general public under the Olibaeza brand and the rest is sold in bulk to large bottling companies, such as La Masía, and exported to other countries such as Italy.

Regarding the facilities, as you can see in the photos, we could see the process from the moment the olives enter one of the 12 unloading lines until they are bottled and/or stored in the tanks. The process that the olive goes through is as follows:

  1. The olives are unloaded, associate is identified, indicating the partner data along with the field where the olives come from and the production is labelled with this information for traceability. 
  2. The olives are cleaned in passing by turbines with air and rainwater and then stored in the hoppers (each unloading line has 4 hoppers).
  3. The olives pass through the mill, which generates the paste (in total they have about 20 mills).
  4. The paste passes through the beater, where the EVOO begins to be extracted thanks to centrifugal force and the application of different temperatures depending on the quality of the oil to be obtained.
  5. Drinking water is added to the extracted oil in order to clean it and again the water is extracted by difference of densities, even so it is stored in decanter tanks to eliminate any remaining water from the process.
  6. Once the decanting process is finished, the oil is stored in the tanks.
  7. The bottled oil is filtered to remove any solid residues (pieces of bone or remains of paste) and if it is sold in bulk, it leaves the cooperative directly from the customers' tanks.

One of the things they also highlighted during the visit was the oil they obtain from the early harvest (October). This oil is obtained from very selected olives, harvested at a specific time, preferably in the morning, and the EVOO extraction process is carried out cold, i.e. at room temperature and produced in the same day of the harvesting. This is how they obtain the gourmet EVOO that they sell under their brand Olibaeza.

Finally, the olive pits are used to generate energy (a large part is sold for biofuel) and rainwater is collected (in 200,000 litre tanks) and stored for use in cleaning the machines and in the phytosanitary treatments that the members carry out in the fields throughout the year.

Versión en español.

22 August 2023

Lavander harversing days

Last week we went to Carrascosa del Campo (Cuenca) to see how our friends from the Alcamancha Cooperative were harvesting “lavender”. It was our first contact with this crop and the truth is that we were surprised. This reaction came as soon as we got out of the car, because the village smelled like lavender and that meant that there was a very pleasant aroma. We are used to our village, for example in summer the smell of garlic is more than perceptible or during the grape harvest, in other villages we have visited, the smell of grape juice is also more than obvious, so on this occasion the smell of lavender was especially pleasant.

Once in the field, we were able to see the harvesting work as can also be seen in our video and photos. The Claas Jaguar forage harvester with the three-furrow cutterhead and the New Holland tractor with the single-furrow side cutterhead gave very good yields and the harvest was very comfortable. We were told they were harvesting around 10 he/day... the total harvest for this year is about 300 hectares. Once harvested, the lavender is taken to the cooperative's facilities where it is distilled to extract the oil that is then used by cosmetic companies.

As for the field you see in the video and photos, it was 3 years old, which is when it went into production. In the first year there is no production and in the second year there is a minimum yield. The life of the plant will be about 12 years of production. At that time, it will be necessary to replant. In terms of yield, the most common is around 4,000 kg/ha of lavender which, once distilled, produces around 60 kg of oil. The price has fallen considerably in recent years and has even put the viability of the crop at risk. We told you about it because we asked about the possibility of planting it ourselves and it was not clear to us because we need a nearby distillery and a harvesting company that harvests the lavender in its optimum days.

We will tell you what we do and also we are going to talk about the distillation process in future posts.... stay tuned!

Versión en español.