Olive oil is running through Eduard’s veins. He’s the fourth generation of Pons men to run the family business – creating high-quality olive oil the old fashioned way, the same as his grandfather taught him.
Some things his granddad didn’t teach him… in 2016, Eduard perfected a fresh solution to an old problem. Much like fruit, olive oil is best enjoyed when it’s fresh (but of course, oil’s shelf life is much longer than say, bananas or oranges).
Still, subtleties of flavour can morph a little over time. For those with highly acute taste buds, like top chefs, a summer pressing is helpful because they can serve oil that’s right at its peak taste, all year round.
Eduard came up with an innovative process that takes some of the first olives off the tree in November, then freezes them at minus 60° to protect their distinctive flavour – effectively creating a ‘second harvest’ in May. The press goes the same as ever. Mill stones only – no mechanical hammers overheating the oil and damaging the flavour.
Milling olives is a demanding, artisan process. It takes far more labour than modern machinery but crucially, crushing with huge impressive stones creates far less heat, which means protecting the delicate flavours and intrinsic health properties of olive oil.
May Crushed Early Harvest gives you 100% of the great taste as the ‘true’ harvest. That same grassy freshness, zinging with notes of almonds and bananas.
Eduard crushes Early Harvest from a singular olive, the Arbequina, which grows in the hills next to the Pons Mill. Picking is early in the season, when the drupes are green, rather than black as they are destined to become. At this remedial stage of ripeness, the yield is lower than from fully-blackened olives, but the resultant complex flavour is worth it.
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Driving through Catalonia en route to visit the Pons mill, you see olive groves on the hills, the silvery trees standing out against the deep orange soil. The mill building comes into view, it’s formidable thick stone walls stood at odds with the hospitable aromas of lunch in progress, wafting down from the upper floor.
The Pons Mill started in 1940, when Eduard’s great-grandfather Miquel Escalé was an early pioneer of olive oil production in the Catalonian district of Lleida. Starting up just after the Spanish Civil War, the initial focus was on bringing local farmers into a coalition, to supply the Italian market in bulk. This proved a great success and later, many trips to Tuscany and Umbria were key factor in Eduard’s own development.
It was on these trips to Italy with his own grandfather, Claudio, that Eduard honed his taste-buds and soaked up the values that would make him the man he is today. As a Spaniard with one foot in Italy, young Eduard was in the perfect position to become an olive oil grandmaster.
As a result of his extraordinary apprenticeship, Eduard has a wonderfully discerning palate, sensitive to the intricacies of texture, aroma and flavour that many others would miss. He’s been tasting olive oil his entire life and it shows.
In the production season, he tastes seventy oils a day. He can pick not only the olive varietal, but also how long the oil has been in the bottle down to the day – all while wearing a blindfold.
As well as technical aspects, Eduard judges them for organoleptic properties at the same time. The upshot of this uncanny skill means that Eduard can blend together different oils to achieve one that has a consistent flavour profile that lasts.
In 2012, Eduard’s Early Harvest Extra Virgin olive oil won a coveted Great Taste Award. In 2016, the May-crushed version did too.
Belazu takes great pride in long term collaborations with artisan producers, and Eduard is one of the longest. We’ve been partners with Eduard since 1996. When George and Eduard first met they found a shared obsession with quality; both absolutely believed that “ingredient is king.”
George immediately recognised Eduard’s extraordinary knowledge and passion for creating the finest olive oil; in kind, Eduard under that George’s commitment to sourcing the best was deeply held and genuine.
As a result, the two men have become great friends, talking several times a week to this day.