Courtesy of Franci
By Shivani Vora
July 8, 2015

There’s everyday extra virgin olive oil. Then, there are the high-end varieties that can cost $50 or more for one bottle. Like wine, chocolate, and sea salt, this kitchen staple has joined the rarefied ranks of luxury food items.

“Unlike before where all extra virgin olive oil was regarded as one category, there’s now a sub-sect of premium ones which are taking a life of their own,” says Curtis Cord, publisher of the online web site Olive Oil Times and founder of the annual New York International Olive Oil Competition.

These oils are of another echelon according to Cord because of the superior way in which they are produced: the olives for them, called cultivars, are picked just before they are ripe making for a less acidic and more fruity and pungent end result. And, instead of lying around in sacks before being pressed, they are crushed and bottled immediately, minimizing exposure to air, light, and heat, which keeps them from going rancid and musty.

Interest in these pristine versions seems to be at an uptick. According to statistics from the Madrid-based International Olive Council, olive oil consumption in the U.S. has gone from around 90,000 tons in 1990 to 300,000 tons this year. High-quality extra virgin olive oils are taking up are a larger share of that market as consumers become more educated about their health benefits and taste.

These varieties aren’t meant just for mixing with balsamic and dumping on salads. Cord recommends drinking them from a spoon to fully appreciate their flavor and using them to elevate dishes, similar to a shaving of white truffles or a dollop of caviar.

Below are five oils from different regions around the world that are worth the investment.

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