The return of an olive oil tradition

Different stages of the production process for extra virgin olive oil, which the growers will take home with them .
Different stages of the production process for extra virgin olive oil, which the growers will take home with them . / Salvador Salas
  • The Molisur company began pressing its customers' olives last month in a process which only takes a couple of hours. Using extra virgin olive oil produced from the fruit of your own trees is a privilege growing in popularity

If you fancy producing your own olive oil, you don't have to own a mill. You can just take your annual olive harvest, or part of it, to a factory for processing and then return home with your very own oil a few hours later. Actually, this is nothing new, but it is a tradition which appears to be coming back into fashion.

The process is called 'maquila' in Spanish, and it consists of pressing the olives to produce the oil. In exchange for doing this, the factory will charge a sum which depends on how many kilos of olives it has pressed.

Not all mills offer this service, but one of those in Malaga province has turned it into an important part of its business: Aceites Molisur, in Alhaurín el Grande. For 15 years they have been making oil for anyone who requests it. The only condition this family firm imposes is that there must be at least 550 kilos of olives.

“That's not just because we say so; it's because that's the minimum that the machinery we use can process,” says the company's commercial director Adrián Tirado.

This tradition received a major boost when the boom in construction came to an end, because for financial reasons many families decided to start harvesting their olives again, something they had given up. In fact, more and more people are now expressing a desire to produce oil from their own olives, but for their own consumption, not to sell.

“Some years when the olive harvest has been particularly good we have had 50 people on a waiting list and there have been queues waiting to get into the factory. At the moment, they are having to wait about a week and a half for an appointment. We try to adapt to what our clients want,” says Adrián.

Ready in two hours

The firm, which is investing 2.5 million euros on new facilities, says customers also have the option of picking their olives and having them turned into oil in stages, rather than all at once.

“That is a service we also offer, but what is important is that in two hours they can take their oil home with them, and they have been able to watch the whole production process,” explains Adrián.

Molisur currently has 5,000 clients from 50 different towns and villages in Malaga province and elsewhere in Andalucía, and it presses about three million kilos of olives a year.

“We start in September, which is possibly earlier than any of the other mills, and we finish in January. People just love to use oil at home which has been made from their own olives,” he says.

The equipment can process the olives of eight different customers every 15 minutes. A factory of this type would normally have about five members of staff, but Molisur employs 25 people. The firm says this enables it to offer a more personal service.

Because of the drought, people have been collecting their olives earlier than usual this year. “The first ones we are processing are the manzanilla variety, because they are not usually used for eating. People who grow them bring them here to make oil from them,” explains Adrián.

“Some people prefer to press the olives while they are still green, to obtain oils with more polyphenols. That produces an oil which is quite spicy and bitter, which is seen as something positive for a good extra virgin olive oil,” says Adrián.

Most of the mills in Malaga province have not yet begun pressing olives. Finca La Torre, which is the first to start, celebrated its first day of harvest on Wednesday this week. This mill, whose oil has won four consecutive 'Alimentos de España' (Foods of Spain) awards, welcomed authorities such as the head of the provincial government, Elías Bendodo, and the mayors of Antequera and Coín, Manuel Barón and Fernando Fernández, to mark the start of the new season.

Molisur is currently carrying out a major modernisation project, which includes new premises, 30,000 square metres in size, of which 6,000 will be taken up by the new mill. With this project, the company aims to increase its production to half a million litres a year, thanks to a third production line, which will be used when needed.

During the olive oil season the firm operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When the customers' oil has all been produced, it works on producing its own.

The expansion project includes training classes for olive oil tastings and sampling, an information centre about olives and a 'world garden' with more than 200 varieties of olive trees from different countries and some 100-year-old trees. This will be unique in the province, and is the result of the company's commitment to olive oil tourism as a new line of business.

Molisur was designated the best green fruity virgin extra olive oil of the 2016-2017 harvest by the Malaga provincial government. The Italian firm Pieralisi, a world leader in manufacturing olive oil equipment, also awarded the company a prize at the Expoliva exhibition which took place earlier this year.