Olive oil in Mallorca is made using olive trees grown centuries ago, with records of oil being produced as early as the 13th century. Its heyday was in the 19th century when olive oil accounted for 80% of Mallorca's exports, after which it endured a slump as locals switched to tourism to make their money.
However, the industry has now revived itself and there are now dozens of working olive presses producing over 100,000 litres of oil annually. The age of the trees in combination with the Mallorcan landscape and climate produces two types of extra virgin olive oil. A harvest of young green olives produces a fruity olive oil which has a strong, bitter & spicy flavour and is yellow-green in colour. Ripe olives produce oils that are almost sweet, with no bitter or spicy after-taste and are a pale yellow colour.
Three varieties of olive are used - Mallorcan (mild and sweet), Arbequina (a more raw flavour) and Picual (spicy & bitter). The Mallorcan variety has a high oleic acid content and a high unsaturated fatty acid content which can help strengthen bones by limiting the loss of calcium. Vitamin E is also present in olive oil and this can absorb free radicals that are notorious for their damaging effects on the human body.
You can pick up locally produced olive oils from many of the shops on Mallorca but look out for those smaller specialist producers at the markets for a true taste of something special. True local olive oil should be labelled 'Oli de Mallorca', an organism that controls its quality.