Joanne Lacina - Olive Oil Expert
After moving to Crete in her 20s and falling in love with the fresh and abundant local olive oil, Joanne Lacina furthered her expertise on the subject in the Fall of 2011 when she placed top of her class at the International Technical Course for Olive Oil Tasters, hosted by the National Organization of Olive Oil Tasters (ONAOO) in Liguria, Italy. There she honed her skills in identifying both positive and defective flavors in olive oil and learned the critical components to producing a superior quality olive oil, from harvesting to milling to bottling.
The following year in 2012 she founded Olive Oil Lovers - an online platform and store specializing in retailing olive oils from many of the world’s top producers. From its inception Lacina has been the sole curator; she buys the highest quality olive oils exclusively from producers she knows and trusts, importing them directly from the source to ship straight to the customer. Each year she often visits the farms and mills of her producers to see their work firsthand, particularly during the critical olive harvest season.
"I personally choose every single oil we have on our website, as well as oversee control of the product in our warehouse. We are the only people between the farmer and the consumer, which is crucial to guaranteeing the oil is at its freshest, is of excellent quality, and at a fair price."
Lacina's experience has helped make her the best olive oil taster in the world. That's not hyperbole: in the Summer of 2017 she was inducted as a Member of the Register of Olive Oil Savantes, and in the process become the first person in its history to achieve a perfect score of 30/30 in the Olive Oil Savantes Skills Test. The purpose of Savantes is to encourage a high level of tasting skill throughout the industry as the way to ensure that high quality olive oil products reach consumers. After accomplishing the feat, Simon Field, founder of Savantes, remarked:
"After many years of wondering whether the Test was too rigorous, my doubts have been set aside by a wonderfully accomplished professional in Joanne Lacina."
In a world where many producers and olive oil professionals began their careers in the olive groves or joined the family business, Lacina, a native Minnesotan and American "who didn't grow up under an olive tree," believes her specific path into the olive oil sector helped develop her palate. "The business that I'm in exposes me to olive oils from all over the world and requires me to be knowledgeable of the different varieties and regions, therefore I'm unbiased." Indeed Lacina has no outside influence other than quality stewardship for the producers she works with, the oils she purchases, and her consumers here in the United States.
Interestingly, being a Member of the Savantes Register is a title that can only be removed by violation of their code of ethics, which states that those in the Register "will regard the health, welfare, and safety of the community and the environment as their prime responsibility." With fraud still considered rampant in the business - and the United States in particular having no established laws to regulate extra virginity - Lacina has made it her mission to provide quality extra virgin olive oil to the American market. This makes Olive Oil Lovers a brand you can trust.
"I believe the only way to truly make a change in this industry is by educating people, one consumer at a time," explains Lacina. "Once you taste an amazing extra virgin olive oil, you just can't go back. You're hooked."