A great deal of passion and a pinch of technology
The Heart of the Calvi Company
The Mill as you see it today was built in 2013. Before this our company had always relied on external mills for pressing the Taggiasca olives. We made the decision to start our own oil mill with great enthusiasm and we must say, without ever having imagined that it would occupy so much of our time or that it would give us so much satisfaction.
The Calvi oil mill is of modern design, indeed very modern: it does not have a millstone, which is not suitable for Taggiasca olives; instead, it has a water-cooled knife crusher which transfers all the wonderful aromas of the Taggiasca olives to the resulting oil. Nor does it have a press, but a latest generation decanter, a two-phase process which preserves the polyphenols contained in the olive.
Passion counts for a lot. At first, we thought of hiring a manager to run the oil mill. We very quickly changed our minds: we realised that we wanted to stay in the Mill (that is, Luca and Gianni)! We’ve hired people to help us out, but it is us who run and work the Mill.
Every year we change a few machines: in 2017 we installed an automatic defoliator which is truly a beast, but which allows olive growers to bring their olives to the mill still with the leaves: saving them the time of defoliating the olives in their warehouses and allowing them an extra hour in their olive groves.
In 2019 we installed the system for automatic temperature control on the kneaders: now there is no longer any need to continuously control the temperature of the olive paste: the system self-regulates itself so that the temperature of the paste is kept at around 25 degrees.
2022 was a year of heavy spending! Luca wanted to change the crusher in order to tease out even more aromas from the olives. Gianni wanted to change the decanter so as not to have to spend the whole night in the oil mill. In the end we changed them both! We now have two very advanced machines, both water-cooled, which allow us to take another step forward in terms of quality.
In May 2023, our Riviera Ligure DOP “Lucinasco” was judged the best Riviera Ligure DOP in a shortlist of 24 (Concorso Eccellenze Olearie di Liguria). Shortly afterwards the same oil was also recognized as the best Riviera Ligure DOP of the year by the Montecarlo Master of Olive Oil. This certainly proof that so much effort makes sense.
However, the greatest honour is given to us by the many, many, Imperia families who come to us to press the olives from their groves, to stock up on oil in their homes.
We also mill olives for third parties
There are more and more agricultural businesses and private individuals who ask to be able to entrust us with the pressing of their olives and this is a source of great satisfaction!
Come and visit our mill
Those who wish to come and visit the oil mill are most welcome, however, preferably by notifying us in advance:
AMONG THE TECHNICAL SOLUTIONS OF THE CALVI MILL
The Calvi quality
The quality of the oil depends above all on the olives: variety, cultivation area, agronomic techniques, harvesting methods and the presence of maggots in the olives really make a huge difference.
However, the mill counts for a lot: in fact, very different oils can be obtained from the same olives.
On the one hand – it goes without saying – the mill can ruin the best olives (for example because the machines are not clean, or because the olives remain stored for many hours before being pressed or for a thousand other reasons…).
But above all, the type of processing chosen by the mill owner affects the characteristics of the extra virgin olive oil, which – with the same quality olives – can be more or less fruity, more or less spicy, sweeter or more bitter….
From this point of view, the key stages are the grinding of the olives (that is, the process by which the olives are reduced to a homogeneous paste), kneading and the method of extracting the oil from the olive paste.
The Taggiasca olive harvest is exclusively manual
The morphological characteristics of the land (which is terraced) makes it impossible to use large machines.
Very often, however, small battery-operated or compressed-air beaters are used instead of the old traditional wooden “trappa” (long stick).
Nets are stretched under the trees so that the olives can then be recovered once they have been knocked or beaten down.
Alternatively, the nets can be suspended under the tree and left, allowing the olives to fall there naturally.
But there is a notable difference between “beaten olives” and “net olives”.
net olives and beaten olives
In Liguria we say that the olives are “beaten” if they are dropped from the tree by the olive grower (with a “trappa” or a beater): in this case the nets are spread on the ground at the time of harvesting and the olives are collected immediately and taken to the mill the same evening or at the very latest, the day after.
Beaten olives are normally very healthy: they are in fact olives that would not have fallen by themselves. When you go to “beat” the olives, the rotten or diseased olives have already ended up on the ground on their own.
The olives are said to be “net” if at the beginning of the season nets are spread under the plants (in this case suspended and not on the ground) and the olives are left to fall by themselves (due to the wind or progressive ripening).
In this second case the olives are then recovered from the nets usually once a week. The resulting oil from net olives is of inferior quality both because the olives remain several days in the nets and because the olives that fall because they are rotten or diseased are obviously also used.
Quality oil is, however, made only with "beaten" olives
This for two reasons: the first is that if the olive remains on the net for a few days instead of being pressed immediately, it undergoes significant deterioration, with a consequent increase in the acidity of the oil. The second is that a healthy olive hardly ever falls by itself unless it is really very ripe: therefore, on the nets you will mostly find olives with maggots or with other problems.
For our extra virgin olive oils we use only "beaten" olives
In our oil mill we do not use “net” olives for the production of our extra virgin olive oils! Only beaten olives.
Even the oils obtained from Cultivars other than Taggiasca are obtained from fresh olives, pressed as soon as they are harvested: their consistent very low acidity testifies to this.
the freshly picked olives are placed in perforated plastic crates
The crates are without doubt preferable to the old jute bags because they guarantee better ventilation of the olives: on the one hand, in fact, they contain a maximum of only two “quarte” (25 kg) of olives, against the 5 “quarte” (62.5 kg) that can go into a sack.
On the other, they are perforated on all sides and at the bottom. And furthermore, if stacked, they rest on the special rims of the lower box, without pressing on the olives contained in it.
Many leaves also end up in the box, which fall on the net during beating: it is important not to remove the leaves from the olives until they arrive at the mill because they help keep the olives fresh and aired.
what happens to the leaves?
Until a few years ago, at the end of the day, before being taken to the mill, the leaves were removed from the olives either manually or by using an electric defoliator (which separates the olives from the leaves using a jet of air). All the olive growers had a defoliator, however handmade.
Today in our mill we have a large professional defoliator and we ask the olive growers to leave the leaves in the olives until they arrive at the mill: the olive growers earn in time and we in quality.
The leaves are then scattered in the olive grove and as they decompose, they replenish the soil with the minerals removed by the olive trees.
The unit of measure "quarte"
We have talked about “Quarte”: it is singular that Taggiasca olive oil is now international and reaches the most remote corners of the world, but that Taggiasca olives are measured exclusively in “quarte”, a traditional unit of measurement of western Liguria, is virtually unknown.
So how much is a “quarta”? In the Oneglia Valley it equals 12.5 kg. Two valleys further on it equals 12 kg. But two valleys further on is already another world…
The milling process
When the olives arrive at the mill, they are transferred to larger crates which are then weighed. Then the actual processing begins: the olives are poured into a hopper from where they gradually leave and enter the washing machine. The olive washing occurs outside the mill: the washed olives enter the mill via the elevator belt that can be seen to the left of the washing machine.
The olives undergo a double washing: in the first phase they pass through a tank full of water which is made to bubble energetically by introducing jets of air. To avoid waste, this water is continuously filtered and reused and replaced only every few hours. In the second phase (shown here) the olives are rinsed with a jet of continuously fresh water. A conveyor belt seen transfers the olives to the crusher.
Few people know that the crushing or grinding of the olives is the phase that most of all characterizes the resulting extra virgin olive oil and that the most delicate choice that every miller faces is that relating to the crusher with which to equip his mill. The concept is very simple: the “gentler” the grinding is, the sweeter the oil will be but lower in polyphenols, the more violent it is, the richer the oil will be in polyphenols, but also spicy and bitter. The crushing system with millstones is the gentlest of all, while hammer crushers operating at high speed are the most violent. There are obviously many intermediate solutions available.
Since the Taggiasca olive produces an extremely sweet oil by itself, grinding with a millstone risks producing a product that is too low in fragrances. For this reason, for our crusher we have chosen an advanced type of knife crusher, equipped with an inverter which controls and varies the number of revolutions, a cold-water cooling system of the crushing chamber and an automatic internal washing system. It is a rather sophisticated solution that allows us to extract all the aromas and flavours available in the olive: resulting in an oil richer in polyphenols, with more body and aroma, without, however, reaching the point of sacrificing its marked sweetness.
The olives are first broken into coarse pieces by rotating steel blades in the central part of the crusher: the olives and stones, once broken, come out through a perforated grid and the paste falls into a small, hermetically sealed collection tank situated under the crusher. From there the paste is transferred to the malaxation machines or kneaders via a pump. Furthermore, the grid is interchangeable: the greater the size of the holes, the shorter the time the olives remain in the crusher. We select this grid according to the type of olives and their degree of ripeness, or according to the type of product we want to obtain (more or less sweet, more or less aromatic).
The malaxing process completes the process of developing the flavours and the organoleptic properties of olive oil started in the crushing phase. It is a very delicate process, during which the paste is slowly stirred in a tepid drum. The purpose of this phase is to cause the oil to coalesce into increasingly larger droplets thanks to the tepid conditions so that it can then be extracted from the paste.
The malaxation temperature is very important: it must not exceed 27°C beyond which the extraction can no longer be defined as cold (and beyond which there is a risk above all of compromising the perfume and fragrance), but neither can it be too low which can result in a large loss of production. The malaxing time is also critical: excessive kneading risks producing a washed-out oil. In reality, the correct temperatures and times vary a lot according to the characteristics of the olives: choosing them is not easy, what counts in the end is more the eye of the operator than the theory.
Unfortunately, a modern mill lacks the poetry and romance of the mills of old: the antique presses have been replaced by a centrifugal extractor (the so-called decanter) that does not allow us to see any of the internal process. However, all that is taking place inside is of no less importance.
In Liguria, 99% of the decanters are of the so-called three-phase type: in order to be able to separate the oil from the rest of the paste, they require that a large quantity of water be poured into the decanter together with the paste itself (generally speaking, a lot of paste – a lot of water). They produce oil, water and almost dry pomace (the pomace is made up of the broken olive stones, the skins and the olive pulp without oil and water). They have the advantage of allowing easier management of their “waste” which is water and dry pomace: it doesn’t seem much, but logistically it counts for a lot! The disadvantage is that all the water introduced tends to further deprive the oil of the precious polyphenols, which are water-soluble.
Our decanter, on the other hand, belongs to the so-called two-phase generation: it requires almost no water to be added and produces oil and wet pomace (in other words, the pomace contains all the water from the flesh of the olives). The disadvantage is the difficulty in managing the wet pomace (we’ll explain how we do that later). The advantage is that the oil is richer in polyphenols, in other words, tastier with an intenser flavour: on closer inspection it is a double-edged sword because it is true that if the oil is good its goodness is enhanced, but it is also true that if it is bad the defects are more perceptible.
And here’s the result of so much effort…