Shared experiences may be one of the most important things that employees have the chance to experience at the workplace. Why? Anytime a group of workers is pulled together to learn something new, it’s also a chance to foster interesting communication, create better teamwork, and build better ties of connection.
While there are millions of ways to create shared experiences among teams or full companies, we want to recommend a specific one. We’re talking about olive oil tasting. Read on to learn more about what it is, how it ties into shared experiences, and how to implement it as a fun experience in your workplace.
Olive oil is having a culinary moment and teams can learn from it. Olive oil has been the backbone of Mediterranean meals for thousands of years. In the U.S., sales of olive oil have tripled since the 1980s when a series of medical reports lauded olive oil for its health benefits, such as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Now olive oil is a common staple in many consumer’s pantries.
Yet with over 600 olive tree species and numerous regional and production techniques influencing the taste of olive oil, it can be difficult to communicate the wide varieties of olive oil tastes available. Unlike wine, color is generally not an indicator of taste. Use cases for olive oil varieties vary greatly from dipping bread, to salad dressing, to cooking. Further, despite the rapidly increasing popularity of olive oil, according to a 2013 UC Davis Olive Center research report, unbeknownst to consumers, much of the product sold in grocery stores is actually rancid (past its prime). As Brett Greenberg, a certified olive oil sommelier said, “I think consumers have grown accustomed to the sensory profile of what is not great olive oil. Once you become used to something, it’s hard to correct that.”
With so many choices and no common language to express different palatal experiences, even the bad ones, olive oil enthusiasts are left to chance when on their own. Coming together to share an olive oil tasting experience in real-time and building a common vocabulary to describe the experience is a reliable way for teams to bond.
As Harvard Business Review captured in The Secrets of Great Teamwork, “The solution to [incomplete information] is developing a shared mindset among team members—something team leaders can do by fostering a common identity and common understanding.”
Virtual olive oil tastings offer teams a way to celebrate together while providing a lasting impact. Teams “swirl, sniff, slurp and swallow” carefully curated olive oils and discuss words to describe the tastes. While tasting the olive oils, teams learn what it means to classify as an extra virgin olive oil (“EVOO”), cold-pressed fresh from the earliest harvest, versus olive oil that does not meet the standards of EVOO but may have enhanced health benefits and be more suitable for cooking. Armed with this vocabulary, teams will enjoy learning about olive oil together and forming enduring memories of a fun hour with colleagues trying something new.
Read more about the Sciabica Family California Olive Oil.
The Importance of Shared Experiences
Shared experiences are a huge boon for employees when learning something new. Communicating with the people around them lets new concepts reach the brain. It can also be an excellent method of learning from other people on a team. When learning is considered an ongoing experience, it can connect real work tasks with new processes and ideas.
Olive oil tasting is one example of the fun that can be woven into team experiences while also improving motivation among the group. Why choose an olive oil tasting? There’s nothing better than introducing an innovative activity that can also be adapted to the unique needs of the company.
Joining an olive oil tasting lets companies work on their values while also experiencing the colors, textures, flavors, and aromas of a high-quality culinary product. This is not to mention the many health benefits of olive oil, such as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Plus, almost everyone has a basic knowledge of olive oil. Most of us have some tucked away in a pantry or cabinet.
How to Taste Olive Oil
With a variety of choices and little common language to express the taste of olive oil, whether fantastic or awful, those who love olive oil are often left to experience it on their own. Bringing a virtual team together for olive oil tasting can be an exciting experience. Team members can build a vocabulary together while bonding over the taste of several types of olive oil.
Once a team is brought together for a tasting, there are several steps involved in the tasting process. Each of them is listed below to make the experience simple and fun.
- Pour the Oil – Pour one to two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil into a wineglass with a stem. Some recommend the use of blue glasses as these disguise the coloration of the oil. While the hue of the olive oil may not affect the taste, it could cause some people to be biased when judging. However, any wineglass is fine to use for olive oil tasting.
- Swirl the Glass – Once the oil is in the glass, the next step involves cupping the glass in your hands. Gently swirl it around so the aroma is allowed to release into the surrounding area.
1. Breathe in the Aroma – The next step in olive oil tasting involves the nose. Put it down into the glass so you can get a good impression of the scent. Inhale deeply and think about the scents that waft into your nostrils.
2. Slurp the Oil – While inhaling, slurp up a mouthful of the olive oil. This is pretty much the same tactic that you may have been taught not to use to eat soup as a small child. Pulling in air while tasting the olive oil will bring out more factors of its distinct flavor. While the oil is in your mouth, breathe out using your nose.
3. Swallow the Oil – While you think about the flavor of the oil and what makes it unique, you can follow this step. Consider the different aspects of the flavor as you swallow the olive oil.
4. Reflect on the Oil – Take some time to think about your opinions in terms of various categories. A few to consider include pungency, fruitiness, and bitterness. As you get down the basics, continue to expand on what you learn. Write down what you come up with and then share and compare with others on your team.
5. Cleanse the Palate – Give yourself a few moments to cleanse your palate between each olive oil tasting. Try refreshing your mouth with a cube of plain bread or a small section of a Granny Smith apple.
6. Start at the Beginning Again – The last step is simple. Go back to step one and start with new olive oil until you’ve tried each of the ones available.
What to Eat with Your Olive Oil Tasting
In addition to the oil, any olive oil tasting should also include food. After tasting the oils, it can be exciting to try them on delicious foods. Consider a DIY bar with goat cheese and ricotta, spreads and tapenades, dried fruits, and roasted vegetables. Charcuterie and cheese and a simple salad may be all you need.
If you prefer to be more extensive with the foods served, consider soup, bruschetta, pasta, meats, and potatoes. You could even take things up a notch with sweet foods like ice cream, pudding, or other desserts. The whole group can see how olive oil can transform the taste of a dish and make it truly shine. Once the tasting is done, the team might even have a new bond to bring into the workplace.