The Centro de Interpretacion ‘Olivar y Aceite’ is situated in an old olive mill in the historic city of Úbeda
Although olive oil is produced in all the provinces in Andalucia, it is the oil from Jaén province that eclipses all others. Known as the ‘cradle of olive oil in Spain’, Jaén province supplies something like 50% of the olive oil consumed in Spain and over 20% of the total production of olive oil in the world. Over 550 square kilometres are planted with olive trees and they produce 600,000 tonnes of oil every year. That equates to over 67 million litres of ‘liquid gold’ per year. The province of Jaén is known to produce the best olive oil in the world. It made sense for us to go to the centre of Jaén province, specifically Úbeda, to learn more about olive oil.
The Centro de Interpretacion ‘Olivar y Aceite’ is situated in an old olive mill in the historic city of Úbeda which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003. At first glance the visitor appears to have entered a shop. Only with further exploration does he realize that he has entered a temple to olive oil.
Since it opened in 2015, the centre has been at the hub of Jaén’s olive oil sector offering tasting workshops, cooking classes and demos, and professional training.
The centre promotes the olive oil industry in Jaén province through a set of rooms, each with its own audio/visual display. The history of the olive oil industry is followed by the manufacturing process from tree to the finished, bottled, product. Displays then go on to illustrate the medicinal properties of olive oil and its culinary uses. A small courtyard with its own olive trees contains olive oil related artefacts.
The highlight of the visit is the tasting session. Of course, it is designed to entice you to purchase one of the dozens of local olive oils on offer, from Picual to Hojiblanca to Arbequina, presented in bottles with pink foil, scenes of birds or abstract designs as well as more traditional style bottles. There are olive oil cosmetics and lotions, chocolate bars made with olive oil and cookbooks featuring the region’s main lifeblood: olive oil. It is the rare visitor that leaves with no sample of ‘liquid gold’ tucked underarm.