It was on a bright June day that I set out to visit what I thought would be your typical olive press, i.e. a frantic, grubby place with noise and slime galore. The only hint that it may not have been the case was the intriguing and sophisticated name, Adon&Myrrh.
Turned out quite the opposite of what I had expected; the setting, atop a mountain about 20 minutes from Beirut, was just lovely; at first glance, a perfectly manicured lawn spread out ahead, crowned by a 350-year old olive tree artfully cloud-pruned; beyond, the view of greater Beirut coastline 500 meters below; and instead of an unkempt concrete tilt-up, I saw a pristine property with clear wood-framed window panes and a red-tiled roof. This was definitely something special.
The lawn was filling up; the crowd was here for a foodie-style event focused on organic local producers, cooking shows led by known chefs, and a tour of the facility. I was most interested in the tour, and joined the others lining-up. At first glance, we saw a nine foot tall brand logo, a very stylized and elegant design, replicated on dark iron (?) sheeting. Next came a wood panel (pic below) describing the story behind the name “Adon” and “Myrrh”, involving mythical Phoenician Gods, and the history of the town, Bdadoun.
Not only was the town, Bdadoun, (where the plant is located), connected to these tales but the name Adon as well; Bdadoun is rooted in Phoenician language and means House of Adon, which is associated with agriculture.
We were led into the plant through an elevator, guided by experts who were there to explain the functionalities of all the cutting-edge machinery we encountered. The place was immaculate. I never once saw the drop of olive oil on the floor, or dripping from the machines; our guides proceeded to explain with factual details how the extraction and the ensuing processing takes place. Everyone was riveted. Here is what I learned:
One important fact to know is that only green olives are picked. Black olives which have matured on the tree do not have the same health characteristics as green olives. In addition, the olives are collected with the use of a machine which protects the tree and its branches, unlike the traditional method of beating them with a stick till the olives fall on the ground. The old-fashioned method actually bruises the tree and the olives. When the olives get bruised, they ferment and smell of dirt as they are very sensitive to air, temperature and aroma. As soon as they are picked, the olives are transferred to the plant in white plastic crates, so as not to develop an unsavory scent (unlike the bags used by farmers in the past)
The extraction of EVOO starts less than 24 hours later to avoid oxidation. The cutting-edge machinery (from Italy) allows for the processing of 3 to 4 tons of olive oil per hour. The olives are first washed with water only. The pit is removed from the olives by machine and the pulp goes through a malaxer for about 40 minutes, without any contact with oxygen in order to avoid a bad reaction. The temperature in the malaxer is no more than 28C, which conforms to the international standards for First Cold Extraction. This initial extraction produces less quantity but finer quality. Heat is not desirable here as it will dilute the phenol so it is critical that no heat is in contact with the oil.
While the olive paste is refined further, the olive pits are turned into small pellets sold as eco-friendly fuel (for energy purposes). (Many factories use these for fuel with England being the largest importer). The other by-product of olive oil extraction is called black water and is highly toxic to the environment. At Adon&Myrrh, it is purified in an evaporator and reused for irrigation.
(As a side note, I was reflecting on the olive oil we took to the local press last Fall; not only did we take black olives instead of green olives, but the press did not recycle its black water)
At that point, EVOO is routed directly to stainless tanks where the temperature is a constant 16/17C. EVOO is highly sensitive to light, temperature and air, and these factors are controlled at Adon&Myrrh to comply with the highest international standards. EVOO has a shelf life of two years (when maintained under the best conditions).
What are these standards? First, cold extraction and acidity level. It should have a low acidity level and at Adon&Myrrh, the two olive oils are at levels lower than 0.8% and 0.4%. The olive oil should have a vegetable/fruity scent, not one of wine or dirt or taste pungent (due to its high polyphenol level). ( Note: Polyphenols are antioxidants only present in EVOO and linked to better health).
What about storage? The best containers for storage of olive oil are made of stainless steel and these are the ones used at the plant. Storage of olive oil is critical and olive oil should not be stored in clear glass containers, which is why the Adon&Myrrh oil is sold in black glass bottles (small quantity) or stainless steel buckets (large quantities).
Photo above shows the olive pellets produced in-house and recycled and sold as eco-friendly fuel.
Adon&Myrrh’s testament to their international appreciation by world olive oil experts. Here the Bronze Medal Award in Los Angeles in 2016, and the Grand Mention at the 10th China International Olive Oil Competition.
I left the tour in awe at what this small Lebanese olive oil company had accomplished, and proud of their achievements. I also decided to forego my local village press in the Chouf. From this point forward, I will know what to look for, and will not settle for a press which will damage the environment. Adon&Myrrh is raising the bar for all olive oil presses in Lebanon.
Adon&Myrrh is located in Bdadoun, about 30 minutes from Beirut.
Adon&Myrrh ships online.
+961 (71) 033 451
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