There are few scenes as quintessentially Mediterranean as the sun setting over a grove of olive trees. Picture the golden light catching the silvery undersides of the leaves as the trees’ shadows grow longer over the ground.
It is among the neat rows of olive trees that our journey begins. We’re in Tunisia, one of the largest olive oil producers in the world. More importantly for us, the vast majority of Tunisian olive oil is organic. Grown without pesticides, this oil is a perfect fit for our planet-friendly ethos.
When you hear the words “olive oil”, you may think first of countries like Italy and Spain. But Tunisia has a proud history of olive growing that stretches back nearly 3,000 years. Olive oil is much more than just a tasty cooking ingredient to the Tunisians – it is a vital part of their everyday life and culture.
Now, Tunisian olive oil is fast gaining attention from an international audience. Once simply exported in bulk to Spain and Italy, Tunisian olive oil has started to win awards and you’ll increasingly find it stocked in upmarket delis or used by chefs in fine restaurants.
This gorgeous oil isn’t just prized in the kitchen either. We use organic olive oil from Tunisia in some of our personal care products because of its wonderful silky texture and its numerous benefits for our skin.
From Tree to Skin
We began our journey in the olive groves of Tunisia, but it doesn’t end there. Those beautiful trees we saw in the light of the setting sun are just the starting point.
As you might have guessed, we’re not really here for the trees themselves, but for their fruit. Expert growers watch their crops carefully, waiting for the perfect time to harvest. Too soon, and the oil may be bitter. Too late, and the overripe olives might cause the oil to spoil.
Even within that window, there’s room for experimentation. The flavor of olive oil depends on the variety of olives but is also affected by the timing of the harvest. Of course, the soil quality, weather, and altitude can all play a part too.
Once ready, the fruit is harvested. In Tunisia, this remains a largely unmechanized process, with most olives still picked by hand. Almost 10% of Tunisia’s population is employed by the olive sector, making this a vital industry for the country’s economy.
The harvested olives are then processed to release the precious oil. First, the fruit is crushed to make a paste.
In Tunisia, this is usually still done in the traditional way, using oil mills. These mills use large millstones to crush the olives. However, the camels that once pulled the millstones have now been replaced by electric motors. Less picturesque, but perhaps better for animal welfare.
Once the olives have been reduced to a paste, they are slowly mixed with water in a process that helps to separate the oil from the rest of the olive pulp. Finally, the paste is pressed to extract the oil.
The first pressing is the highest quality and is known as extra virgin olive oil. Virgin olive oil comes from the second pressing.
Cold pressing the olive oil in this traditional manner retains as much of the nutrients and flavor as possible. While we’re less interested in the taste, since we’re using this oil to make personal care products, those nutrients also have benefits when we apply them to our skin.
Olive Oil and Skincare
The idea of using olive oil in personal care products is almost as old as the oil itself. Rumour has it that the legendary Egyptian Pharoah, Cleopatra, used olive oil in her beauty regime. The ancient Romans massaged the oil into their skin and then scraped it off to remove dirt. And the ancient Greeks used olive oil for everything from massaging sore muscles to treating skin conditions.
As more and more of us seek out ethical and natural ingredients in our personal care products, it is no wonder that olive oil is now once again prized as much in our bathrooms as in our kitchens.
Packed with antioxidants, as well as vitamins and healthy fats, olive oil helps to moisturize and nourish our skin from the outside in.
As an emollient, olive oil locks water into our skin, making it look and feel hydrated and moisturized. Meanwhile, all those antioxidants help to combat the signs of aging and protect against damage from UV light.
Olive oil may also speed up wound healing and keep our skin clear. It has antimicrobial properties, which is why it is often used in soap.
Some people even use olive oil as a deep conditioning treatment for dry hair.
Despite its many benefits for our hair and skin, it is worth saying that using olive oil on its own may not be the best idea for everyone. Undiluted, it can block pores and leave our skin more prone to acne.
However, olive oil can easily be combined with other components to create nourishing, vegan-friendly personal care products.
Just like in the kitchen, the key is in the raw ingredients. To make a great product, you need high-quality, organic olive oil.
We work closely with our suppliers in Tunisia to make sure the olive oil we use to make your personal care products is grown, harvested, and processed with the utmost care. We hope you can feel that same care when you use our products at home.