In Search of Excellence Under a Tree

Source: Caroline J. Beck
By Caroline J. Beck
May 15, 2009

While the U.S. olive oil industry awaits final publication of the new USDA olive oil standards, industry groups like the California Olive Oil Council have adopted quality profiles such as those measurements originally created by the International Olive Oil Council. There is widespread support for these established standards and an even bigger backing for policing them. But Professor Claudio Peri of the University of Milan and Academy of Georgofili in Italy suggests that there could be another way to view the definition of excellence in extra virgin olive oil.

Peri, who founded the non-profit association TRE-E in 2004, believes that the search for true excellence in olive oil should go well beyond focusing on what isn’t there - the absence of defects and limits of acidity levels in a lab analysis – and focus on what should be. Peri believes that excellence in olive oil should be determined at every step in the entire process from the field to the table.

Peri and TRE-E (Italian for three “E”s and pronounced tray-aye) are hosting a gathering following the Beyond Extra Virgin conference being held June 21-23 at University of California, Davis. The group is hoping to introduce California producers to their program and find new charter associate members who will help formulate TRE-E’s role in California olive oil production.

“The concept behind’s TRE-E’s program is to engage producers that are willing to commit to excellence and real-time traceability in every step of the process,” said Alexandra Devarenne, TRE-E’s coordinator in California. “The benefit is that being awarded TRE-E’s guarantee will go well beyond any year-to-year standard certification and position TRE-E producers at the highest level of their industry,” she added.

“While the program is a work-in-progress, we have already established participation in Italy, Spain and Greece. The goal will be to provide consumers with an assurance that the extra virgin olive oil that meets TRE-E’s requirements will be the best available,” Devarenne said.

From lab analysis standards that exceed current international guidelines to monitoring growing standards, milling, and transport, TRE-E’s participants will be held to accountability in every step of the production and marketing process.

TRE-E has even initiated a restaurant tasting program titled “Olive to live” that will seek to teach consumers about the incredible diversity of olive oil flavors and quality with a tightly-controlled storage and serving system on-site.

If you are interested in learning more about TRE-E, or joining them at the Beyond Extra Virgin conference, you can contact TRE-E’s representative, Alexandra Devarenne at adevarenne@yahoo.com.