Extra virgin olive oil from souri olives, Lebanon’s most popular variety. Beino (in Arabic this means “between”), the village where they are grown, is nestled between two hills in the north of Lebanon. Olive trees grow here at 550 meters above sea level, and stretch from the Mediterranean to the borders with Syria.
Between October and November each year, a team of experienced olive pickers start harvesting early in the morning. Youssef Fares, owner producer of Zejd, installed a modern press in the village in 2004. A more up to date mechanism means the work is carried out more efficiently and according to international standards. The resulting oil is classified as extra virgin olive oil, since the temperature can be controlled to below 28 degrees and it has an acidity level of less than 1%.
The olives are hand picked to avoid bruising which might damage the quality of the oil. They are sorted, twigs and leaves removed before being crushed. The paste is put into a centrifuge system so that the water separates from the oil. The result is the “virgin” olive oil, which is then collected separately. It is left for a month before being filtered to allow for a better preservation of the oil. Youssef knows when the olive oil is good by the smell alone.
Each tree gives roughly 20 kilos of olives which produces about 4 litres of oil. Most Lebanese households will buy from someone they know who produces olive oil, and fill up a tank in their house. It’s not unheard of for a family of 4 to use more than 100 litres a year. It is without doubt the most essential part of the Lebanese diet.
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