The bitterness and the spiciness in the extra virgin olive oil have their origin to polyphenols, substances that have to be in it. The more polyphenols, the more bitter and spicy is the olive oil. Polyphenols is what makes extra virgin olive oil indispensable for a healthy diet. They are potent antioxidants and contribute to prevent various degenerative pathologies.
This is why we look for polyphenols in the extra virgin olive oil and thus, we consider the bitter and spicy flavor as positive components. Of course, in certain limits, in a way that they merge together composing the complex sensory bouquet of the olive oil.
Indeed, in a professional evaluation the experts evaluate the so-called “balance” of the olive oil, that is the desired balance between the positive flavors (fruity, bitter and spicy) in such a way that none of them exceeds the others. This balance is what distinguishes good and excellent extra virgin olive oils and determines in fact which one will be awarded with a prize.
One may think that the bitterness and the spiciness are two flavors that our palate naturally dislikes. This is not always true. Studies have proven that humans do sensory evaluations often based on previous experiences or expectations. If for example we think and we are convinced that a food or a drink benefits our health, we are disposed to “perceive” it as pleasant even if it is bitter. This is what happens with the bitter chocolate; last years that the benefits of cocoa are known, we do enjoy eating chocolates of 90% cocoa even if we clearly perceive it as not only bitter, but also astringent.
So, it is very probable that slowly we will get used to perceive the bitterness and the spiciness not any more as negative, but we will exactly look for them in the extra virgin olive oil that we consume.
It is therefore a matter of training our palate. If our objective is to eat healthy and naturally, it will not be difficult to get used and appreciate the high quality extra virgin olive oil, even if it is a bit bitter and spicy.