A quick weekend getaway was in order – some place warm and cozy, and filled with joyful memories. Ojai, CA fit the bill. It was the location of our destination wedding five years ago. Laden with orange groves, olive and avocado trees, and lavender fields, Ojai (pronounced Oh-Hi) combines the small town feeling of local farmers with the artist community of hippies. On a weekend with no plans, we found ourselves pretty busy.
After a morning visit to a street fair, we pulled out the map and navigated our way to the Ojai Olive Oil company. Tucked away in the northeast end of town, we pulled up the dirt driveway to find a silver-haired man sitting under an olive tree, tossing a ball with two eager dogs. His baseball cap read, “Ojai Olive Oil”, and as it turned out, he was Ron Asquith, the owner.
Ron invited us to see the inner workings of the facility, and personally took us on a tour of the processing room. He showed us each stage of processing and explained how olive oil is made as it moves through the shiny Italian equipment in the room.
This is a wall of pictures in the room that summarizes the whole process. Ron is the man in the upper right hand picture.
The levers are marked with hand-typed Italian instructions: Elevatore (elevator), Lavaggio (wash), Olive, and Defogliatore (de-leafer)
I took a ton of photos, but you can see a good shot of the room at the Ojai Olive Oil website. Basically the olives are dumped into the first machine to clean and defoliated. Then they are passed through a crusher, then on to a centrifuge machine which separates the water from the oil and olive pulp. The oil is drained out the bottom through a filter, and then passed through another filter.
From there they bottle the oil in imported Italian blue glass bottles for distribution.
Pretty blue glass bottles also hold their flavored balsamic vinegars.
The shop/tasting room is through a doorway, steps away from the equipment.
Organic and regular olive oils are complemented by a row of flavored balsamic vinegars and handmade soaps (not shown).
After we maxed out the credit card buying oil and vinegar (okay not really, but they were really happy to see us, I’m sure) we wandered into the olive orchard to see how the fruit grows. We found a nursery with new trees waiting to be planted, and thanks to my curious husband, we stumbled upon a section of cold frames with cuttings for new trees:
The entire farm was watered with drip irrigation and all sorts of micro sprayers, bubblers, and drip tubing. Some of the trees looked like they had been there hundreds of years. On this page of their website, you can see one of the 130-year old trees. For more information about the history of olive oil, and the Ojai Olive Oil company, visit their website or even better – take a drive and visit the trees yourselves!