Perry Rea of Queen Creek Olive Mill on How to Make Arizona's Only Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Evie Carpenter Perry Rea, owner of Queen Creek Olive Mill.
Owner, Master Mixer
Queen Creek Olive Mill
25062 S. Meridian Road, Queen Creek
This week in Chef and Tell we headed out to Queen Creek to find out how to make extra virgin olive oil. Since 1998, Queek Creek Olive Mill has been making EVOO right here in Arizona, and that's in no small part thanks to Perry Rea, the mill's owner and master mixer -- which means he's the guy responsible for making sure the oil tastes the same from batch to batch and harvest to harvest. Be sure to come back for part two of the interview Wednesday when he tells us how to shop for true EVOO.
See Also: Inside the Queen Creek Olive Mill (Slideshow)
Evie Carpenter An olive blossom at Queen Creek Olive Mill.
"The bloom is starting already, which is really early," says Perry Rea as he examines a tiny white bud on one of his olive trees.
It's true, you can see the white flowers starting to appear on the trees -- which actually look more like bushes since they stand only a few feet off the ground. This grove, as Rea explains, is an experimental one planted recently to test a new method of harvesting. In the area immediately surrounding the mill and retail store, there are just under 100 acres of olive groves with 35 dedicated strictly to the production of extra virgin olive oil.
Rea started the Queen Creek Olive Mill as a hobby in 1998, but in the years since, it's grown into a pretty big operation. It's the state's only producer of EVOO but also makes a variety of olive and culinary products, including tapenades, vinegars, and soon, a line of barbecue sauces. About 75 percent of the olives used in the Queen Creek oil are grown somewhere in the state of Arizona, with the remainder coming from farms in California. Rea says he hopes to be able to use only Arizona olives by next year.
Evie Carpenter A young olive tree
Because of this year's particularly warm winter, many of the olive trees will be in full bloom in about three weeks. And the fruit will be ready to harvest in about mid-October. The olives will be ripe until mid-December. It will be up to Rea to decide how long he wants to leave the fruit on the trees.
"Time of harvest is the most important factor in determining an oil's flavor," Rea says. "And every harvest is going to product a slightly different flavor."