A few months back, I meet Elizabeth Liew, the founder of Poggiagliolmi olive oil at Supernature Organics supermarket at Forum B1 Shopping Mall. What a coincidence that she shares the same last name as my mother in law and was born in Malaysia! Elizabeth Liew was born in Kota Kinabalu and has worked in Germany, and in the UK before marrying her husband in London. She and her husband thought that living in London was not a place to bring up her children and decided to opt for a farm life instead. In 1999, they moved to Italy and only started thinking of selling their oil in 2010. The brand Poggiagliolmi is the family name of her husband. It is made up of the words Poggi-agliolmi meaning “the hills where the elms are” (the double G’s are pronounced soft, as in J’s).
I also got a chance to taste first hand how her olive oil fares when dipped with bread and grilled vegetables. I got one home where I have cooked it with almost everything and my guests and family never fails to mention they are able to taste something really special about it. One thing that stood out for me is the lightly aromatic aftertaste of olives that does not taste artificial. It is like appreciating fine green tea (sencha) if I could give a more visual impression.
The Farming to Harvesting process:
1) Pick olives, bring it to the press.
2) Leaves are removed, and olives are washed with cold water
3) Olives are then pressed/crushed into a paste
4) Through centrifugal action, liquid is separated from the paste
5) This liquid, which consist of oil with the suspension of the pulp (flesh) and water is cloudy and is known as “Olio Nuovo”
The oil is left in tall stainless steel containers and left alone in a cool dark place for up to three months, where the lighter oil will float to the top whilst the sediments will gently sink to the bottom and is removed.
This oil can then be bottled and sold as Premium Extra Virgin, First Press, Cold Press. The oleic acidity must not be higher than 0.8%.
6) The remaining paste, from which the above oil has been removed, (immediately after step (5) can now be put into another centrifugal cycle, temperature can be applied. The resulting oil can then be sold as Virgin Olive Oil.
7) The remaining paste left behind from this second cycle can go through other cycles, temperature may be added, and other thinner oils and sometimes, even chemical solvents may be added to increase the production of oil. This is now sold as Olive Oil.
In America, it is mandatory to label any olive oil produced after the first press as “Olive Promace Oil”
One thing I enjoy most of the session was hearing how real being a farmer is like. You have to take care of each plant with so much love and care despite nature’s way of messing it sometimes. There are years where the harvest might be little but Elizabeth is steadfast about bringing the best but only the best to her clients and suppliers. She also shared that you can check out her facebook page where she post latest updates of her olive oil growth process and her harvest too. I especially like the personal touch to her packaging as the illustrations are hand drawn by her own children. Another thing I was wondering was what it means to be certified organic and Elizabeth gamely shares the process and boy am I impressed!
Being certified organic is not a case of paperwork and rubber stamping. Each year the company has to earn the “Certified Organic stamp as strenuous inspections are carried out by USDA to ensure that when you purchase an organic item you are paying premium for the assurance that you can trust the farm and the products they produce. In Elizabeth’s farm case, every July the soil in their farm is tested to ensure that no pesticides have been used. They are not allowed to use herbicides for weeds in their lawn near the olive grove as well. If they spot ants, they are not allowed to kill them too. As anything used will go into the ecosystem once the rains come. They are also not allowed to be near any farms that uses pesticides and every inspects takes place three months before the harvest to ensure that the consumers are able to taste the difference and use it with ease.
Poggiagliolmi olive oil can only be found exclusively at Supernature Organic Supermarket. It cost about $40+ for the biggest bottle and they do come in smaller can version at $21 as well. I say it is an investment for your body if we all start looking at food labels and to support companies that care and love what they are doing. Special thanks to Alicia and her team at Supernature for this invitation and for sharing Poggiagliolmi olive oil with us.