The People

Meet the Olive Producer:
Telegraph Hill

Introduced By

Well someone had to do it! A lot of olives were tasted. Many bits of bread dipped into bowls of 'sunshine', aka extra virgin olive oil, were consumed. The only thing missing was a glass of chilled Savvie B (Sauvignon Blanc to the uninitiated), the local wine variety preferred by Geoff Crawford of award-winning Telegraph Hill.

Olive grove in Havelock North, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand

If you haven’t yet visited New Zealand, you might be surprised to learn that olives grow here – rather successfully, as it happens!

Considering there are many countries that have grown olives for centuries, does super-tasty Kiwi olive oil matter? For those living in the Southern Hemisphere or closer to that part of the world (I’d still classify North America within that category), it matters a lot. Unlike wine, olive oil does not improve with age. In fact, the fresher it is, the better the product tastes. (Unopened, it will keep for up to two years; once opened, guzzle within six months or run the risk of rancid oil that tastes awful).

In recent years, there has been a lot of media coverage about ‘fake’ olive oil. I’m not sure about you, but I’m not a fan of imposter oils. One way to avoid the bad stuff is to only buy extra-virgin olive oil. And don’t be fooled by oils described as ‘pure’, ‘natural’ or ‘light’ – these are all unregulated terms. Another way to get killer taste is to buy from a small producer.

brining olives at telegraph hillSpreading the Word of Olive Producer: Telegraph Hill

One of my favourite producers in New Zealand is Telegraph Hill. I visited the olivery on a warm spring day and tasted many of their products. Their Extra Virgin Olive Oil Medium Intensity is my go-to bottle at the moment – I’m already freaking out at the day when it runs out! Owner Geoff Crawford, pictured here brining olives, is a huge fan of them (I love his description of the oil as ‘sunshine in a bottle’). As you’ll see, he likes to keep things simple and let the products speak for themselves.

What makes olives grown in New Zealand so special?

Geoff Crawford: As a country, we’re relatively new to olive production, particularly when compared to old-world countries, so we can borrow best practice from more mature markets. Typically, the industry here is made up of small producers who pay attention to detail, which shows in the quality of the olives. Our mild Pacific climate also helps to grow great tasting olives.

How do your oils compare to those from the traditional olive producing countries such as Europe and the Middle East?

GC: This is where being located on the opposite side of the world helps, as we can supply fresh olive products in the northern hemisphere’s off-season. Olive oil does not age well – once opened, you should consume within six months.

You’ve won awards for the past two years in Japan – how did a New Zealand olive oil find its way there?

GC: Walking the talk! People are always interested in knowing more about New Zealand-produced extra virgin olive oil and olives. However, while intrigue gets you in the door, the product has to meet expectations before it’s considered a success. Japan’s extra virgin olive oil market is growing and our olive products, in particular, our flavoured oils are popular as they enrich and enhance traditional Japanese cooking.

What’s the favourite of all your products? How do you recommend using it at home? 

GC: The medium intensity extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) – that’s the one that my family and I go to every time. It enriches and enhances your food. I drizzle it over everything – starting at breakfast.

What dishes do you love cooking that uses Telegraph Hill products?

GC: Dukkah-crusted pan-fried fish – cooked in EVOO of course! This is a family favourite on a busy weeknight. Seasonally, I love the simplicity of asparagus tossed in EVOO and grilled on the BBQ. For dessert, it’s fresh berries with our Cabernet Drizzle every time!

You live in Hastings, one of the wine capitals of New Zealand. What wine pairings bring out the best of your products?

GC: Our burnt orange and fennel olives work really well with a Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc. I also love pairing a pre-dinner light Merlot with traditional olives – they bring out the best in each other. They’re kind of deliciously squelchy in the best sense of the word!

A Kiwi BBQ is not complete without?

GC: Eating olives and drinking wine while cooking. I’d also recommend you try resting your meat with a drizzle of EVOO on it. [I can personally vouch for this. Having spent time in Italy and gorged myself on bistecca alla Fiorentina (a fancy way of saying steak), this is what Italians do – and it’s delish!]

At a Glance

  • Where: Surrounded by gnarly olive trees in Hastings, Hawke’s Bay, which is on the east coast of the North Island.
  • Introduced By loves: Extra Virgin Olive Oil Medium Intensity; Olive Salt; Burnt Orange & Fennel Olives
  • A brilliant touch: Adopt an olive tree – yes, you can adopt an olive tree for a year and receive all the produce from it. They’ll even hang your name on the tree! A great gift idea for your foodie friends and family.

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