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A Love Affair with Olive Oil

Umut Kaplan and his brother, Cosku, are introducing the U.S. to imports from their Turkish homeland.

By Susan Maas

At the center of the Mediterranean diet—lauded as much for its heart-friendly, anti-inflammatory properties as it is for deliciousness—is extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Integral to the cuisine of North African, west Asian, and Southern European cultures for centuries, EVOO’s health benefits and culinary charms have caught on in the United States.
Umut Kaplan, right, with his brother Cosku Kaplan at their shop Coccinella in Edina


“You come to Turkey, and you see olive trees that date back a couple of thousand years. That tells you something about how special this is to our culture.” In fact, Turkey is the world’s fourth-largest producer of olive oil: ahead of Portugal, Egypt, and Greece. And while the quality of extra virgin olive oil can vary—even within a given producer country or region—the Kaplans grew up consuming world-class oil.
Introducing ‘the good stuff’

“When people here see the words ‘extra virgin’ or ‘cold press’ and see that it’s a product of Spain or Italy, they automatically assume that must be the good stuff.” Yet that’s not necessarily the case.

“There’s a lot about the process that the consumer doesn’t know yet,” Umut says. Extra virgin, or unrefined, olive oil is produced without heat or chemical solvents, and it’s nutritionally superior to other olive oil. It’s also more flavorful, but achieving the oil. It’s also more flavorful, but achieving the best possible flavor can be a balancing act. Some producers do this more consistently than others, he explains.

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