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It probably comes as no surprise that not all olive oils are created equal, but it did surprise me that over 69% of the olive oil sold in US grocery stores are mislabeled as extra virgin. “Jessica, why do we care about the virginity of our olive oils?” I am so glad you asked- the reason that olive oil has purported health benefits is that the olives they are made with have polyphenols, which are a form of antioxidants. According to WebMD, research has shown that polyphenols can help manage blood pressure and reduce chronic inflammation, lower your risk of diabetes, and help raise your immunity (among other benefits). Thankfully, Kosterina is in the picture to help deliver tasty olive oil straight to your door. While you only need 55 mg/kg for your olive oil to be classified as extra virgin, the olive oil made by Kosterina always has at least 400 mg/kg at the time of harvest. Kosterina also uses early harvest grapes, which have a more potent concentration of polyphenols but produce fewer quantities of oil.
So, how did I taste test these oils in order to give you the most thorough review possible?
I sipped them plain. I dipped bread into them (sourdough, French, and brioche- for science), both individually and pairing an oil with the balsamic. I drizzled to finish a dish like hummus or pasta. At one point, I had a plate in front of me with the balsamic from Kosterina on it and my favorite non-Kosterina balsamic vinegar I keep on hand. I kept tasting them with my finger to pick out the different flavor notes each vinegar had to offer, trying to determine which was my favorite. I did not make a salad dressing with these, but I am sure they would be fantastic for that use too (why put it on salad when I could put it on bread?).
This box was sent to us at no cost for review. (Check out the review process post to learn more about how we review boxes.)
Subscription Box: Kosterina
Price: Varies, depending on what you're purchasing, but ranges between $19.95- $24.95. Most of the products are only available as a standalone purchase, however, if you love to cook with olive oil you can save if you choose to sign up for a multi-bottle recurring subscription instead of a one-off purchase of their Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil (the one specifically for cooking and baking). For example, a one-time purchase costs $19,95, but if you choose to get three bottles delivered one every two months, you'll pay $57.50 ($19.17 per bottle).
Delivery Options: Once, monthly, every two months, or every three months
Shipping: Free on orders over $75, $8.99 for orders less that $75. All orders are shipped through UPS.
Kosterina Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar Review
First, let's talk packaging. The oils and vinegar come in heavy glass bottles with pouring spouts on them already installed (when I buy olive oil from the fancy olive oil store I have to pay $5 for a spout). The opaque bottles (never translucent- light is the enemy of a good olive oil according to Kosterina) are so sturdy, they are even Goose-proof. I didn’t set out to drop my bottle of Greek herb and Lemon from my counter, but my kitten had other ideas when he wanted to climb up and see what I was doing. Thankfully, even after a tough fall to a tile floor, my bottle was still intact! I also appreciate that on the seal of the bottles you can see a harvest date and best by date- my oils were harvested in December of 2020 and will have maximum flavor, freshness, and health benefits until December 2022.
Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 500 mL - Retail Value $19.95
Kosterina actually makes two types of plain EVOO - the Original and the Everyday. Both are made with 100% Koroneiki early harvest olives, but the Everyday has slightly less polyphenol content (a little over 300 mg/kg as measured at the time of harvest) than the Original (470 mg/kg). That’s because the Everyday olive oil is designed more for cooking than drizzling and dipping (though you can certainly still use it for that), and it has a slightly more mild flavor at a more accessible price point (for comparison, the Original is $23.95 for a 375 mL bottle). This is definitely a mild olive oil in that it doesn’t have a flavor that competes when I use it to cook with, but on its own, it still has a smooth mouthfeel and nutty flavor. This has a smoke point of 410º, so I actually feel a lot more comfortable using it to sauté and have been reaching for it more in recipes where I probably would have played it safe and used canola oil. The $19.95 price is definitely on the steeper end, but there are still olive oils on my Albertson’s shelf that sell for more than that so it isn’t completely outrageous. I have been on a big hummus kick lately, and I noticed a difference when I used this in my recipe compared to the grocery store olive oil I used previously. Fun fact- did you know it took twelve pounds of unripe green olives to make this single bottle of extra virgin olive oil?
Greek Herb and Lemon Olive Oil, 375 mL - Retail Value $24.95
Because of that hummus kick I mentioned, I was really excited to try this out. I love flavored olive oils for dipping bread into or drizzling on top of a finished deal as the final touch, and I thought a splash of this Greek Herb and Lemon Olive Oil would be lovely on top of a fresh batch of hummus. I wasn’t wrong - it definitely helped to enhance the Mediterranean flavors in a way that plain EVOO doesn’t. I also loved how when I was in a pinch for time but still wanted to satisfy my hummus craving, adding a splash of this to the single-serve Sabra hummus cups really made my snack much more flavorful and enjoyable. At first sip of this, you can taste the nuttiness that comes from that high-quality EVOO base, and then you’re able to pick up the lemon and oregano notes. Ingredients-wise this is made with a base of that same extra virgin olive oil made with 100% Koroneiki early harvest olives, but it’s also paired with lemon oil, oregano oil, onion oil, and black pepper oil.
Original Balsamic Vinegar, 375 mL - Retail Value $19.95
I love a good quality balsamic vinegar. For years, I have been partial to an 18-year aged traditional balsamic made in Modena predominantly with Trebbiano grapes, so I was a bit skeptical that this one from Kosterina would be able to beat it. This balsamic by Kosterina is made in Modena with Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes, and it is aged for six years in thirty-year-old oak barrels. This has a deep brown color that is purely from the fermented grapes- no added colorants here. When I sipped this on its own, I was surprised to find that it had a slightly less acidic kick at the end compared to the balsamic I have been buying for years. This had a thick texture that wasn’t quite syrupy, but definitely wasn’t thin like the balsamic vinegar I used to buy in the grocery store. My boyfriend was actually dreading trying this because he doesn’t like the acidic tang a vinegar brings to the table, but once I mixed this with the olive oils and had him dip a piece of bread into it, he was surprised at how much he liked it (I was not surprised, but he had to taste to believe). Another fun fact for you - did you know that like champagne, balsamic vinegar is a protected product and must be made in Modena, Italy to be deemed an authentic balsamic vinegar?
I'm not even going to try and lie- this was definitely my dinner one night when I was too tired and stressed to do anything more taxing than pour oil into a random container (I don't have pretty white plates like our photographer does) and dip bread into it. It was delicious and I have no regrets (and if you've never added Italian seasoning to your oil and vinegar for dipping, definitely give it a shot).
How do Kosterina’s prices stack up compared to local specialty stores?
Kosterina is competitive with the local olive oil store I go to went I visit Baton Rouge. That store has a set price for all of the oils and vinegar based on size (unless it’s their truffle-infused oil), and their 375 mL bottles retail for $20. That is the same as the Everyday Olive Oil and Original Balsamic Vinegar offered by Kosterina. Kosterina does charge a few more dollars than my store for flavor-infused oils and vinegar, and they don’t have the same amount of flavor options my local store does. That being said, Kosterina does come with pour spout tops already on the bottles, when my local store sells them separately at $5 a pop. That means that the Everyday Olive Oil and Original Balsamic Vinegar are actually a little more affordable than my favorite store, and flavored oils cost the same.
Are these the only flavors they offer?
No, they offer a few other flavors! I was actually able to try out their garlic olive oil and fig balsamic vinegar in addition to the products photographed, and I thought both were delightful. The garlic olive oil may be my favorite product out of all of them - I love garlic, and this has the smooth garlic taste that coats the mouth and makes you want to do a happy dance, without any of the bitterness or burning raw garlic can give you. The fig balsamic vinegar definitely has a sweeter, fruity element to it compared to the traditional balsamic. If I had to blind taste I don’t think I would know that sweetness came from fig, but I love how this had that great vinegar tang without being so acidic it was sharp.
Are Kosterina products organic?
The products are produced using organic farming methods with no herbicides, pesticides, or synthetic fertilizers used in the process. Kosterina isn’t certified organic yet, but they have applied for certification and expect to receive it in 2022.
Now that I live an hour away from a specialty olive oil store, I was excited to try out high-quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar delivered directly to my door. I thought the quality and flavors were fantastic, and it really was comparable to the oil and vinegar I was used to getting - without having to drive an hour each way to get it. I loved that the prices were competitive to the specialty store; you will definitely be able to find cheaper at your local grocery store, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be of the same quality and have the same health benefits. This would also make a good gift to someone for the holidays if they are food connoisseurs. Personally, I am thinking of sending a box to my aunt and uncle for Christmas because we love eating Italian food when we are together, and often times the restaurants we go to offer oil and vinegar to dip our warm bread into while we wait for our meal. If you’re curious about trying tasty, antioxidant-packed olive oils, Kosterina is worth checking out.
Have you tried Kosterina? What type of olive oil do you prefer?
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Along with the oils and vinegar mentioned above, Kosterina also makes a chocolate balsamic vinegar, EVOO chocolate, and an extra virgin olive oil cake. Let us know if you would be interested in reviews of those!
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