Walk into Seasons Olive Oil and Vinegar Tap Room in Morristown, and you’ll have not only an extraordinary culinary experience, but an educational one as well. Customers will find over 80 varieties of oils and will be able to learn about each one and sample them before buying.
“There are 300 types of olives and the flavors differ, like using different grapes results in a variety of wines,” says Soraya Aguilar Balshi, who owns Seasons along with her husband, Tim Balshi.
“Each olive varietal makes a different extra virgin olive oil with a unique flavor profile. A Picual olive usually makes a peppery and grassy oil, while an Arbequina olive makes a sweet, nutty and fruity oil. Weather, location and harvesting techniques are also big components in the final flavor of an oil.”
Most of the oils they sell come from Soraya’s family’s olive grove and mill in southern Spain, and others are sourced from Italy. Spain, she says, is the largest producer of olive oil in the world. To ensure that the olives are harvested at their peak, her family employs a chemical engineer who specializes in extra virgin olive oil harvesting techniques.
“For the type of olive oil, we import to our stores, we use olives picked in October and November,” says Tim. “These are the highest quality with the highest antioxidant levels, the highest smoke point, and the lowest acidity. The aroma and flavor are also unmatched.”
Also, the better the quality of the olive, the more health benefits the oils have. “It’s anti-inflammatory, and fights everything from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease to depression,” says Tim. “We like to call it the original super food.”
Their oils have won multiple gold and silver medals. “We won four gold medals in the New York International Olive Oil Competition for our 2018 and 2019 harvest. We also won four gold medals in the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition for our 2018 and 2019 harvest.”
The couple opened the first Seasons store in Bethlehem, PA, over 10 years ago, and Tim says it was one of the first ones like it in the country. The Morristown store, which opened two years ago, is their newest. There are also stores in Lancaster, PA, and Annapolis, MD.
Inside, there are rows of stainless-steel tanks that are clearly marked. Customers can ask to taste what they think they’d like and are always surprised when doing so.
“It’s never greasy in your mouth,” says Tim. “It’s drinkable, which is a sign of quality, because it’s a juice. Greasy is not a positive thing in the olive oil world. It’s a defect, or old, or poorly made.
“I’d make the analogy to tasting a couple of fine wines at various degrees and styles such as red, white, and rosé for the first time and saying, ‘Wow, interesting.’ That sort of encapsulates the experience at Seasons.”
“Our priority is always quality, but also customer service and education,” says Soraya. “A lot of the customers who come in don’t know that there are so many types of extra virgin olive oils, or depending on the variety of the olive, it tastes one way or another. When they taste the different types, they’re amazed.”
Tim also has a wholesale division where he sells to stores that are similar to Seasons, and also supplies high-end restaurants in New York City and Philadelphia.
Seasons Olive Oil and Vinegar Tap Room also sells many varieties of vinegars that Tim sources from Italy. Vinegar is a tart, fermented liquid that can be made from a variety of things including rice, cider, malted barley, wine, and fruit. Balsamic vinegars, on the other hand, are created from wine grapes, which have a balanced sweet and tart taste, a deep color, and complex aromas.
All the balsamic vinegars at Seasons are made from high quality wine grapes, instead of water and cheap wine like you’d find with low quality, inexpensive vinegars. Seasons vinegars contain natural fruit sugars, but the sweetness also comes from the complexity of the fruit from which it came. As with the oils, customers can try them before buying. They can even be combined with different oils to make a dressing right there on the spot for tasting.
“Thanks to our traditional cooking process, the fine Italian wine grapes we use in our vinegars release the fruit’s natural sugars, resulting in products that are tangy, fresh, and complex—just like the grapes from which they’re made,” says Soraya.
“Our infused vinegars are all natural, non-GMO, and the natural flavor component represents less than one percent of total product. We never use artificial flavoring, thickeners, or non-natural substitutes in any vinegar we offer at Seasons.”
Cooking with these high-quality vinegars can be a flavorful component of a healthy lifestyle. They contain powerful antioxidants called polyphenols, says Soraya, and some small studies have shown that consuming balsamic vinegar can help regulate blood sugar and insulin levels. Vinegar is also a natural preservative and facilitates many types of chemical reactions that change the texture and flavor of food.
When added to marinades, it helps tenderize meat by breaking down fibers. When used in baking along with baking soda, it makes doughs and batters light and fluffy. The acidity in vinegar is a necessary component of marinades, dressings, sauces and dips, and when used as a condiment, it adds a tartness that perfectly balances out creamy, rich flavors found in cheese or creamy desserts such as gelato.
As a complement to these high-quality oils and vinegars, Seasons also carries many pantry items such as pastas, sea salts, table olives, and truffle products. To learn more, go to https://seasonstaproom.com/