Emily Lycopolus hands over a rounded cobalt-blue tasting glass containing a couple of teaspoons of fresh olive oil from Chile.
The first sip of the Empeltre oil harvested in June delivers a smooth flavour similar to artichokes and finishes with a peppery taste.
Emily and husband Stephen Lycopolus are presiding over their new olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting bar, Olive the Senses on the east side of the Hudson building on Douglas Street. Its grand opening is Nov. 3.
Olive-oil tasting bars are growing in popularity.
There are plenty in the U.S. and Canada has five, Emily said this week.
"It is very much like wine tasting."
Olive the Senses features 19 kinds of fresh olive oils, from two pressings per year, and 16 balsamic vinegars, aged between 12 and 18 years, from Modena, Italy in their 1,900-squarefoot business in the former Bay building. Each is in a fusti, a container with a spigot that protects the products from light and air.
Costs are reasonable. A 200-millilitre bottle of oil or vinegar is $12. A 375-ml size is $18. "We tried to price it so it is an every day product, not a special-occasion product," Emily said.
The shop is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Drop-in tastings sessions are held on Thursdays at 1 p.m. while a 6 p.m. tasting session that day is by reservation. Both are free. Customers at any time can receive a tour and explanation of tasting. Tiny biodegradable spoons are on hand to try out oils and vinegars. A sign on each fusti lists the product name, when it was harvested, and information from a professional analysis evaluating freshness and quality.
Emily, 27, whose family is from Victoria, and Stephen, 28, from Northern Ontario, opened a cafÃ© for a non-profit organization in Germany. While in Europe they visited an olive grove in Italy owned by Stephen's aunt and developed a love for the fresh product.
They moved to Victoria in March, but found it difficult to locate fresh olive oil, prompting them to open their business.
Emily describes fresh oil as "creamy, grassy, it's fruity. It has that peppery finish." She loves oils with nutty flavours. A good olive oil is "soft, mellow, smooth and beautiful." All the oils in their shop are less than eight months old.
Olive oil is used in everything from salads to marinades and roasts. Stephen, who is lactose-intolerant, uses it in place of butter and said it works well in baking.
A flavoured Tuscan olive oil with six herbs makes meals simple, Emily said.
"Just toss that with pasta and you've got dinner."
She loves pairing oils and vinegars, saying possibilities are "endless."
They started selling their products this summer in the Bastion Square and Market Square markets. Veronica Foods, of California, supplies their high-quality products from around the world, Emily said.
Olive the Senses shelves include books, Italian beauty products made with olive oil, preserves from France and canned olives from Northern California.
Specialty bottles of balsamic vinegar are also for sale. A 100-ml bottle of 28-year-old vinegar is $299.
The couple is striving for a friendly, cosy atmosphere where visitors can curl up with a book or read information on health benefits associated with these oils and vinegars.
This is their first business for the couple.
They are among 391,700 small businesses in B.C., according to the annual Small Business Profile.
Small businesses make up 98 per cent of all businesses in this province. email@example.com
THE ART OF TASTING OLIVE OIL
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