Meet Ana: our olive oil producer from Alentejo, Portugal

Meet Ana: our olive oil producer from Alentejo, Portugal

Meeting this producer actually changed the course of our business. She became the goal of what an “ideal” producer looked like and established a level of quality that’s truly a rare find in the olive oil industry.

As we turn down the roads to get to the farm, the path turns from pavement to dirt.

This was our very first “sourcing” trip, after only having worked with our close family friends in Greece. We didn’t really know what to expect or what we were getting into....

But nevertheless, we touched down in Portugal to pretty much try something about as far away from Greece in the Mediterranean as we could go—and here we now were: the Atlantic.

The driveway to this particular address felt like it was ending and suddenly we were very thankful that we remembered to get a 4-wheel vehicle.

We texted the farmer with a photo to make sure; yes, we’re on the right track.

She later explains that after years living city life: “In 2014, we found the plot in Monte do Camelo, fascinated by the olive grove, the immense silence, and the absence of neighbours. We were properly ‘off the grid’.”

And that’s where this story starts…

Discovering Alentejo.

From the Spanish border to the Atlantic ocean, this region in southern Portugal represents about a third of the country, but it’s one of the least populated.

It has been called both the Provence and the Tuscany of Portugal, but it’s also been known as one of the poorest regions in western Europe. 

It’s a stunningly wild landscape, rural at almost all points, but filled with agriculture estates.

Here they make the holy trinity since Roman times: wine, wheat, and olive oil. 

It was a place we didn’t know anything about, but really felt like we should.

So driving through the backroads filled with sleepy villages lined with cork and olive trees, the magic started to reveal itself.

Away from all the large industrial farming, someone caught our attention with their small-batch, holistic approach to working the land in harmony with nature.

Meet Ana & Paolo.

Ana’s is the kind of romantic story you’d watch in a film.

Once a corporate exec from Lisbon, she met her husband Paolo from Tuscany while working in Brazil.

They fell in love, returned to Portugal, and years later went looking for a quiet country weekend retreat.

Ana didn’t come from farming. Until a few years ago, “I had no knowledge of agriculture or farming at all. Just a big admiration for nature,” she tells us.

But the beautiful, rustic, stillness of the Alto Alentejo’s remote land spoke to her.

Fast forward a few years and Ana has now spent more than 400 hours in training courses to learn everything she could about olive agricultural and oil production.

And after skilling herself up, Ana and Paolo have harnessed the land to yield something full of flavour and nutrition, all while leaving the land better than they found it. They’ve now spent the past few years turning an old grove organic and incorporating regenerative practices, specifically around soil.

The most impressive bit? She farms *and* she mills. 

This is rare. It is not common to find a producer who sweeps awards doing all sides of the operation themselves (you’ll find her on a tractor, operating her milling equipment, bottling her oil, and even selling it directly to chefs herself).

But Ana is a force to reckon with.

And the care that’s going into the production of her EVOOs is something you can really feel when you try it.

How to use this olive oil

As always, the best way to understand an oil is to get to know it. Put it in a little cup, swirl it around, and have a smell and a sip. (See more on how you should properly taste EVOOs.)

Let the aromas you smell guide you as to what to make with this oil.

Our “Extra Rares” tend to sit more in the “finishing oil” space, with a vibrant intensity of flavours that can go across a range of hot and cold dishes.

What the oil tastes like

This oil has perfect intensity. It’s balanced, but the high level of polyphenols is bringing it vibrant notes of green grass and olive leaf that pop at the start.

As you go deeper, lemon peel follows, sharp but pleasant. This then opens to the fragrance of apples. 

On the palate, it’s a bouquet of herbs, with a medium bitterness. 

There's a slightly sweet note, almost almond-like with a persistently peppery finish, like chile.

The finish has a pepperiness like chile, with a clean finish.

From Ana: “I smell a bit of ripe olive, tomato, olive leaf and red apple with some notes of nuts. Paolo tasted also some artichoke.”

How to pair this EVOO...

This is our go-to oil with cheesy dishes. Think cacio e pepe, with the peppery notes from the oil only elevating the pepper in the creamy pasta.

It also sings on soups—tomato soup, to be specific. And if we can be so particular, we’d recommend Sopa de Tomate Alentejana, a local soup from Ana’s region that’s got tomatoes, eggs, and herbs in the mix.

As it’s Atlantic, you could also be inspired by seafood. It would be beautiful in seafood rice dishes.

And naturally, since her very first batch with us, we’ve loved this particular EVOO in a martini. Clean, green, and peppery notes just elevate and round the flavours of this classic cocktail. 

From Ana: “If you want to go out of the box, we had a friend that had mango with our EVOO and some crushed nuts as topping, unexpectedly good. Perhaps something to try?! :)”

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