When Skyler Mapes ’10 took an internship with an architectural firm in Barcelona in 2014 after graduating from Arizona State University with a degree in architecture she could not have foreseen the direction her life would take as a result.
While in Europe she met husband, Giuseppe Morisani, and the couple recently launched an olive oil company – EXAU Olive Oil. EXAU stands for Ex Albis Ulivis – ancient Roman for olive oil for the gods.
When Giuseppe – a native of Calabria, Italy – first suggested the couple start an olive oil company, Skyler thought he was nuts.
“His father and grandfather planted olive trees on their estate in Calabria and the family had been making olive oil for more than 70 years, so the idea to start an olive oil company was much less daunting to Giuseppe,” Mapes said. “I, on the other hand, thought the whole idea was intimidating and scary.”
In 2017, the couple moved to Calabria for seven months to start EXAU Olive Oil. “We picked, pressed, decanted, tested, sampled, bottled and labeled our product, and we met with olive oil sommeliers to ‘categorize’ and ‘score’ our oils,” Mapes said. That first year the harvest yielded 1,700 liters of olive oil, and the couple imported 1,000 liters – or 2,000 500 ml bottles.
The couple imported the olive oils to Oakland, where they live, and currently sell their product privately, at local events (they were recently at the Eat Real Festival in Jack London Square and will be at the Walnut Creek Oktoberfest on Saturday, October 20, from 11-6 p.m.) and online. And, EXAU just launched an olive oil membership/subscription, offering semimonthly (platinum), monthly (gold), bimonthly (silver), and trimonthly (bronze) shipments of olive oil. “We are only opening this up to the first 50 people or so and will continue individual sales,” Mapes said.
“Our mission is to make the best Italian extra virgin olive oil in the world and share Calabria’s beautiful gifts with our family, friends and customers,” Mapes said. Their target consumers are individuals and high end restaurants.
Morisani will head to Calabria at the beginning of November for harvest, and Mapes will follow the next month to oversee production of this year’s olive oil. She has to balance her business venture with her job as a Building Information Model specialist for an architectural firm in San Francisco.
Currently, the couple produces three different extra virgin olive oils: Turi and Lina (named for Morisani’s parents) and a Reserve. Each has particular flavors (on the nose, in the mouth and finish), and pairs with particular foods. The olive oils range in price from $23-27 a bottle.
Mapes is most proud of the fact that their olive oils have very low acidity and peroxide levels. This is achieved by picking olives from the tree – not using any that have fallen on the ground – and pressing them immediately.
The International Olive Oil Council stipulates that extra virgin olive oil must have acidity of less than .8 percent and a peroxide of less than 20. Turi acidity is 0.2 percent; Lina acidity is 0.27 percent; and Reserve acidity is 0.3 percent with peroxides of less than 2. “The testers re-tested the Reserve because they thought they had made a mistake because the peroxides were so low,” Mapes said.
Mapes is excited about educating people about olive oil and plans to participate in more local festivals and events, offering tastings of the couples’ products. She notes that extra virgin olive oil is one of the world’s healthiest foods. “Olive oil has almost as much antioxidants as blueberries,” she said.
Get more information about EXAU at https://exauoliveoil.com/