Traveling on a Go Ahead Tour won’t just introduce you to the sights, sounds, languages, and traditions of a destination (although, those things are pretty awesome), it’ll give you a chance to meet talented locals and support their communities, too.
While on tour, enjoy a unique experience in Spain visiting a working olive oil farm in the country’s warm and sunny south. There you’ll meet local farmers, savor a variety of earthy flavors—and discover surprising-yet-yummy pairings during a guided olive oil tasting. Buckle up for a crash course in the olive oil production process.
Here you’ll get to know a little bit more about delicious aceite de oliva, as they say in Spain, and some of our favorite local farmers who make it.
Spanish olive oil by the numbers
For you (and your palate) to fully appreciate Spain’s decadent, drizzle-it-on-everything olive oil, it might help to know some quick and fascinating facts:
- Olive oil production in Spain dates back a staggering 3,000 years.
- Spain is the world’s largest olive oil producer: It makes about 1.4 million tons per year—about half of the world’s annual supply.
- About 60 percent of Spain’s olive oil is exported. It’s the country’s third-most exported food.
- Spain is home to a whopping 340 million olive trees. They yield more than 100 varieties of the tiny, fleshy fruit.
- The olive oil trees here cover 2.5 million hectares of land, making Spain the largest olive-growing area on earth.
About the farm
Located a short 25-minute drive from the center of historic Seville, in the countryside of Los Alcores, Hacienda Merrha is a 20-hectare, family-owned estate that’s home to 6,000 arbequina, picual, and manzanilla olive trees.
There, hard-working staffers tend to the trees practically 24/7. “We spend 364 days taking care of the olives,” said Isaac, a farmer whose in-laws have owned the property for three generations, who you’re likely to meet during your visit. “My father-in-law says the secret of making extra-virgin olive oil is talking to the trees every day. And it’s true—they need food, they need water, they need love, attention.”
When the time comes, Issac and other farm staffers get busy harvesting the olives, they use traditional techniques and modern technology to extract and package their lip-smacking luscious oil.
Hacienda Merrha is 100 percent organic, which means no chemicals are used to ward off bugs or other pests. “We need to attract insects, like bees, praying mantis, and ladybugs. They’re excellent friends of the olive trees,” said Isaac. “The ladybug—that pretty, tiny, shy insect—is one of the most important weed killers for any olive grove. They eat everything they see, so it’s very good protection for the olive trees.”
Visit the farm on tour
What they make
Olives grown on the Hacienda Merrha estate are used to make several kinds of extra-virgin olive oil—from a premium, limited-production, early-harvest line, to an organic EVOO, to artisanal varieties infused with unlikely flavors, such as vanilla and orange—that are sold under the brand Basilippo. (The name translates to “village of the moon forest.”)
What to expect when you visit
While at Hacienda Merrha, you can take a guided tour of its museum, stroll through its leafy olive orchards, and take a peek at its milling area (there, thousands of olives are crushed to a dense and pasty pulp), packaging facilities, and cellar, where oils are stored in towering steel tanks. Then, get ready for the perfect end to a fun and educational tour of the farm: a guided tasting with a sweet—and surprising—treat.
Before leaving, be sure to pop into Hacienda Merrha’s shop, where you can sample olive oils and pick up locally made deli items to enjoy on the farm or on the road. Of course, don't forget to snag a few bottles of EVOO for your suitcase. They're so pretty, you'll want to keep them when they're empty—a perfect memento of this special afternoon in sun-drenched southern Spain.
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