Quality table olives are a wonderful addition to any festive table, cheese or meat platters and meals. Here we explain what makes a good table olive by using the T.A.S.T.E acronym so that you can make an informed decision.


T. A.S.T.E


Taste is usually quite subjective and it relies on what one has become used to. For example, when wine is consumed, the new drinker may start with a sweeter wine and then progress to drier wines. In the case of table olives, consumers without an educated palate tend to prefer blander products, even though table olives have a unique complexity of flavour to offer, varying from bitter to sweet. Once hooked on these little delicacies, the consumer then seeks out products with more flavour and, in particular, the natural olive flavour.

A fully fermented table olive should display a balance between the natural flavour of the fruit, the natural lactic acid and the added salt and vinegar. The acid produced by the fermentation is usually perceived as fully integrated with the fruit flavours, and therefore far more appealing than acid that has been added to the final product.


Table olives should not only taste good, but they should look really good too, especially when used as a highlight feature in a dish. It is vital to know that these two attributes are not mutually exclusive. A good quality olive should be smooth and shiny, as appearance is the first characteristic that consumers notice and which will make them decide whether to try the product or not.


The aroma of a well-prepared olive should be clean; this will give the consumer an indication that the processing of the olive was managed correctly. Most of the volatile components are a result of the fermentation process. In the absence of any fermentation, the scent is usually that of the added ingredients, like garlic, herbs and various other flavourings. Any off-fermentation will be noticeable on the nose, and any off-odour is totally unacceptable in quality table olives.


An olive should have a degree of firmness in the flesh, without being tough or woody. The skin of the fruit should appear smooth and shiny, and the flesh should detach from the pit quite readily.

The texture of an olive is determined by factors such the ripeness of the fruit when it was harvested and the cultivar. The methods used in the processing of the olives play an important role as they can either preserve the texture of the fruit or compromise it.


In conclusion, the most important aspect is to realise that table olives vary to a vast extent with respect to the attributes mentioned above. It is for the consumer to experience as many different styles and flavours as possible and in so doing, build up a profile of the olives of choice. Awareness of the factors that constitute a quality product can only benefit consumers in their choices.



The South African Department of Agriculture (DALRRD) has issued Regulations on the grading, packing and marking of Table Olives.

The International Olive Council (IOC) has published a set of standards pertaining to the physical attributes of table olives, but no standard is available for determining what a good olive should taste like.

In countries where eating olives is relatively new, it is important to have a benchmark for gauging the quality of a table olive. Consumers should be aware of what to look for in a good quality, tasty table olive. Highlighting these attributes will create awareness about the excellent local products that are available and protect consumers from being served second rate products, which is unfortunately something to which they have become accustomed for far too long.

The organoleptic characteristics which describe the flavour of a food product encompass three sensory perceptions: that of smell (olfactory), taste (gustatory) and mouthfeel (tactile). Added to these sensory perceptions is the overall experience that each of us associates with consuming a particular food.



Other than eaten whole and straight from their cured state, olives are so incredibly versatile they can be used in a variety of ways like being tossed in salads, baked in breads, blended into dips and spreads, stirred into pasta and so much more. Any kind of creativity with olives can do wonders to your dish. We have some delicious recipes you can try.