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"It's the Best"

I stumbled on Antara Extra Virgin Olive Oil, DO by serendipity one cold and miserable January in the port city of Tarrogona, in Northern Spain, near the site of the ancient Roman ruins. I had an appointment with a wine producer the next morning and was strolling la rambla to kill time.

A deli was open and I ambled in. There, on a shelf, sat a bottle of Antara Extra Virgin Olive Oil, DO. I asked the proprietor "Is this any good?" He answered with the phrase I've heard perhaps thousands of times: "It's the best". In this case, it was actually true.


Why a Greek name for a Spanish oil?

It’s about the olive trees and how they are planted. Many American and European olive oil producers plant olive trees as far as the eye can see. In Catalonia, however, the Phoenicians left an efficient arrangement called an Antara. They exist to this day: a square acreage with olive trees on the perimeter and hazelnuts in the center. In the old days, goats and sheep used to come though to trim everything and eat the weeds. This arrangement is not efficient by modern standards, but it sure makes great oil!


100-year-old co-op

Coselva (Cooperativa Agrícola i Caixa Agraria de la Selva del Camp), the cooperative that produces Antara olive oil, is located in the small town of La Selva del Camp in Tarragona. Founded in 1900, it is a cooperative in the old fashioned sense.

It has about 1,000 members (basically, most of the town). These members cultivate almonds, hazelnuts, and olives. Coselva operates one of the few banks in town, has a company store that sells both farming supplies and essential groceries (read: jamón!), and markets the cooperative's products all over the world.


1,000-year-old farms

Many of the fields the members cultivate have been in their family a thousand years. The soil is austere and rocky, the area hilly and quite parched. Many of the plots are small or patchworked together in a way that defies modern agricultural efficiency. While the products are finished in a modern and efficient manner, the Coselva members still go out to work every day as hands-on-the-land farmers.


State-of-the-art equipment

In the 90’s, the new general manager of Coselva, Pere Ferré, dramatically changed the direction of the co-op's olive oil production by installing an onsite lab for testing the quality of the olives coming in, paying a high price for best-quality olives, and buying a state of the art Pieralisi mill. The result has been day-in-and-day-out fantastic oil. 


It's a win-win

The cooperative's philosophy is to pay the farmer a lot for the raw ingredients and charge less for the finished product. This provides the means for farmers to stay on their land and preserve their rural way of life, while generating sales demand for their products. When we support Coselva by buying the wonderful Antara olive oil, we are also supporting the farmers and their legacy.




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