Updated: Aug 27
Together with Spain and Greece, Italy is a major producer of extra virgin olive oil. Oil Mill Timperio is located in the picturesque village of Colletorto in the Molise region, which is about half way down the east coast of Italy.
Local small farmers grow and harvest olives the old fashioned way, very much in tune with nature and sustainable organic practices. Preserving habitats and conserving the environment are important priorities. Techniques have been handed down through generations. No pesticides or chemical fertilisers are used because the farmers and their families consume the olive oil themselves. Therefore it is the purest quality, exactly as nature intended.
Michele and Anna Timperio founded the business in 1943, producing extra virgin olive oil that is exported across the globe. Their son Orlando is now the CEO and is the author’s father.
How would you describe the 2019 olive season in Italy and in Molise?
"Italy’s production for the year 2019 has been generally good in terms of volume. Prior to the harvesting season, experts predicted 80% higher production volume compared to 2018.
Against the national trend, Molise’s production was reduced slightly, being 30% lower than 2018. Spring is when olive trees flower and it was particularly wet here. Too much rain means reduced fruiting. Quality, however, has been exceptional despite the lower volumes. This exceptional quality of EVOO in Molise is mainly due to the following factors:
Fruits were in excellent condition throughout the harvesting season. They were healthy and intact, and we could identify no attacks from olive fruit flies (parasites). Olive fruit flies are the biggest enemies of EVOO and attacks raise the oil’s free fatty acid (FFA) level considerably. If the damage is extensive enough, it may even cause premature fruit drop. More information about olive fly here.
In summer we enjoyed favourable weather conditions, hot and dry. In these conditions, olive fruit flies find it difficult to develop".
How has the high quality of Molise’s 2019 olive harvest been proven?
"The 2019 harvesting season has delivered exceptional product quality. Lab tests have shown that analytics indexes such as acidity and peroxide value are extremely good:
Acidity: 0.2% (Editor's Note: Low is good and EVOO generally must have acidity less than 0.8%)
Peroxide value: 2.7 (Editor's Note: Low numbers are good. The average peroxide level in EVOO is 20 and high quality is defined as below 12. Reference values can be found here)
From the organoleptic standpoint, our 2019 EVOO is very balanced. Experts assessed our 2019 production and define it as having a mild fruity flavour with a medium intensity of fruit and notes of fresh grass. Taste-wise it has the typical bitter and spicy hint, our signature “stinging” sensation, due to the high content of beneficial compounds such as oleocanthal and oleuropein aglycon. 2019 production is a full body EVOO, rich in flavour yet balanced, and is ideally suited for food dressing and cooking. It elevates food flavours without overpowering them as it’s a very balanced product".
What is the Molise region like for olive growing?
"Oil Mill Timperio serves the small olive farmers of the Molise region on Italy’s east coast.
Inland from the coastal areas it’s a hilly region with green forests. Olive groves cling to the sides of the hills. Olives are grown and harvested the old fashioned way, very much in tune with nature and sustainable practices. That shines through in the supreme quality of the extra virgin olive oil from the main variety grown here – Gentile Nera".
What is the range of elevation of the olive farms?
"About 450 mt (1500 feet) above sea level. It’s hilly territory, which perfectly suits olive farming. Each farmer usually owns a small plot of land and typically produces enough olives for his family’s yearly personal consumption".
Does Timperio grow its own olives?
"Yes, we do, but not all the olives we mill are ours. We own and operate an advanced and modern olive oil mill that uses centrifuge technology to separate the olive oil from the fruit. Nothing is added or taken away – it is 100% pure natural olive oil. We serve local small farmers who bring us their olive harvest to press for consumption by themselves and their families. We buy their excess olives and press those to produce Timperio extra virgin olive oil products".
How do you ensure the highest quality extra virgin olive oil?
"It’s very simple really. Because the local small farmers who supply us with their olive consume the olive oil themselves, they don’t use any pesticides or chemical fertilisers. Everything is organic and grown using sustainable methods that have been handed down for generations. All our oil is certified by the Molise region quality assurance program".
What sustainable practices do local farmers use?
"Sustainable and organic olive farming practices are very important to us. Around here, sustainable farming methods are held in high esteem and used to maintain harmony with nature. Our farmers do not use pesticides or chemical fertilisers. That means all our olive oil is produced from trees that have been carefully cultivated in healthy and clean soil using organic farming practices".
How big are the farms?
"Small farmers form the backbone of the Molise olive oil industry. Each farmer usually owns a small plot of land and typically produces enough olives for his family’s yearly consumption. We provide the milling service, meaning they bring us olives which we mill for them and give them back their own oil. Because they consume their own produce, they will not use chemicals or pesticides on their olive trees. That assures organic quality of Timperio EVOO".
Has the xylella fastidiosa bacterium appeared in Molise?
"Not at all. We have been very fortunate to have escaped the so-called ‘olive tree leprosy’ that causes olive trees to wither and die".
What do local farmers think about olive farming – are any of them quitting?
"Yes. It’s a very physically demanding job. The older generation is still the backbone of the olive production industry. The younger generation prefers office jobs that do not expose them to unpleasant weather conditions. As a key player in our region, we are trying to invigorate the entire production ecosystem. Our objective is to redistribute the value generated through the sales of our products to the pool of suppliers so as to keep newer generations interested and incentivised".
Why expand in Southeast Asia?
"Our rationale for exploring Southeast Asia as a market is based on these factors:
Statistics are impressive. The Southeast Asian market is growing faster than many other economies around the world: GDP +5% annually, population over 540 million across ASEAN, terrific expansion of the middle class with a growing attention to health. ‘Made in Italy’ is perceived very positively.
Simplicity for kicking off new businesses.
Southeast Asia is extremely stable from all perspectives: economic, political, financial, and safety too.
The digital economy is far more advanced here than in many other parts of the world. New opportunities in the digital space where we operate play a strong role in growing a business.
Nevertheless, the market is very competitive and consumers have many brands to choose from. However, we still believe we can succeed given the proven and consistently high quality of our products. Asian people are well aware of the differences between products and they can appreciate high quality. This is why we are confident".
Does Timperio EVOO suit the cuisine of the region?
"Yes, our olive oil suits Asian cuisine extremely well. More and more cooks in Asian kitchens are switching to extra virgin olive oil as it’s not only healthier but also has a better flavour.
Our EVOO has a high smoke point, essential for Asian cooking techniques such as stir fry. This is because of the low content of free fatty acids (FFA). It also retains most of its renowned health benefits during cooking. It gives superior results compared to other cooking oils and is a healthier choice too".