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Carapelli: where olive oil meets Tuscan artistry

Carapelli: where olive oil meets Tuscan artistry

by Great Italian Chefs 05 September 2019

Cesira and Costantino Carapelli founded their family business with just 300 lire to their name in 1893. Today, Carapelli olive oil is some of the finest in the world, with over thirty awards won in the last two years alone. Discover more about their rise to the top and what makes Carapelli olive oil so special.

Olive oil has a history that stretches far into antiquity – its origins are a bit of a mystery, but we do know that olive oil was a key part of life for the Greeks and Romans over 2,000 years ago. The Greeks believed that Athena created the olive tree – indeed, she was so revered by Athens after she gave the city olive trees, the inhabitants named the city after her. The Romans, for their part, believed that Romulus and Remus (the mythological founders of Rome) were born under an olive tree. Whether it’s Hercules wielding a club made of olive wood, Greek poet Homer referring to olive oil as ‘liquid gold’ in The Iliad or a dove carrying an olive branch to Noah in the Old Testament, olive oil has always been sacred; a representation of strength, hope and healing.

The Roman appetite for olive oil was so great that they cultivated groves all over the empire to meet demand – olive oil was used as fuel, as a cosmetic, for cooking, even for cleaning. Hundreds of thousands of amphorae arrived in Rome, each one brimming with olive oil, but so far as the Romans were concerned, the best olive oil was grown in their backyard, in the olive groves of Tuscany. Tuscany has long been the agricultural heartland of Italy – something it continues to be today thanks to its ideal climate and soil conditions.

Fast-forward to the end of the nineteenth century and Tuscany was well and truly the centre of the olive oil world, with prized Tuscan olive oil being exported all over Europe. Meanwhile in Florence, the recently married Cesira and Costantino Carapelli – inspired by their passion for Tuscan olive oil and by the magnificence of the Italian renaissance – founded their family business with Cesira's marriage dowry of just 300 lire. The pair bought a warehouse in nearby Montevarchi and started trading in grain, oil and other Tuscan agricultural products. It wasn’t long before the couple were making their own olive oil, keen to combine Tuscany’s incredible olives with the region’s artistic values. And so, Carapelli olive oil was born.


Today, the Carapelli name is synonymous with quality – Cesira and Costantino’s passion lives on in the company, as do their incredibly high standards. The company still harvests and presses its olives just as it did 125 years ago, using the same traditional production methods. The olives are carefully hand-picked to avoid damage to the fruit, then cleaned and transported in sieves, before being carefully sorted. Only the best olives continue to the next stage, where they are pressed and churned to separate the liquid from the pulp. The liquid then goes into a vacuum centrifuge, which separates the water from the oil by spinning at high speed, before finally being decanted. Every step of the process is designed to preserve the high quality of the olive oil, from hand-picking all the way through to the final decanting.

Once the olive oil has been decanted, it arrives under the expert noses and palates of Carapelli’s master blenders, who take all the different varieties of olive oil and combine them. Carapelli’s mastri oleari treat these olive oils like paints, using them to construct a canvas of flavour. These oleari spend a long time seeking out only the very best olives to turn into oil, which the master blenders then combine to exacting standards in a bid to create some of the most flavourful olive oils in Italy.

Every step of the production process is vital, but they are just one part of what makes Carapelli olive oil truly special. Tuscany is home to many different varieties of olives – the Frantoio olive is the most common and prized for its fruity flavour and long aftertaste, but there are others too, all with different characters. Moraiolo and Coratina olives are pungent, bitter and peppery; Maurino and Leccino olives are mild and delicate; others are grassy or sweet. Tuscan olive oil tends to have a more pungent flavour and aroma than other olive oils; most Tuscan farmers pick their olives early to avoid the threat of winter frosts – as a result, the fruit has a relatively high polyphenol level, which results in that typical peppery flavour.


Each bottle of Carapelli extra virgin olive oil is a meticulously crafted blend of different oils – a balancing act that highlights and combines the best features of each, designed with a specific flavour in mind. For example, Carapelli’s Organic Extra Virgin combines two intensely fruity Tunisian olive varieties – Chemlali and Chetoui – with bitter and spicy Coratina olives to create a well-balanced oil that also boasts pleasant vegetal and green notes. Not only does this blending of oils result in amazing flavour, it’s also consistent; when you buy a bottle of Carapelli olive oil, you know exactly what you’re getting time and time again – the flavour doesn’t change depending on the quality of the harvest, the weather or anything else.

Carapelli’s mastri oleari prove that there’s a certain artistry when it comes to making great olive oil. But this isn’t art for the sake of art – Carapelli’s olive oils have won awards all over the world. In 2018, they scooped a whopping nineteen awards, including two prestigious quality awards at the London International Olive Oil Competitions. Even the bottle itself is tinted to block light from dulling the flavour of the oil, while the cap is hermetic to prevent oxidisation. Every possible aspect is carefully considered and designed to preserve the incredible quality of the liquid gold within. It’s fair to say Cesira and Costantino’s dream of combining Tuscan artistry and olive oil heritage is well and truly alive today; just buy a bottle of Carapelli olive oil and taste it for yourself.

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