Having lived in Spain for a year, David and I saw a lot of olive groves. However, we were not expecting to see any olive trees in the desert of Arizona but that is exactly what we discovered. We took a short day trip from Eloy to Queen Creek which is south of Phoenix. In this booming town, we visited the Queen Creek Olive Mill, the only working olive mill in Arizona.
Brenda and Perry Rea started this family owned farm in 1998. Their story is a fascinating one. Originally from Detroit, they came to Arizona on vacation one winter to escape the cold weather. When they arrived in Phoenix, they saw that there were olive trees growing in this area. According to them, Brenda said “Let’s make extra virgin olive oil in Arizona.” Her husband thought, “Sure…why not take advantage of this fruitful environment and produce olive oil ourselves?” They bought some land in Queen Creek and moved their four children to Arizona. They planted 1,000 olive trees on their 100 acre farm. They acquired most of the trees from California and Yuma, AZ but also secured a few from Italy and Spain. Now, their organic farm boasts over 7,000 olive trees. They offer wide variety of olives and provide award winning Extra Virgin Olive Oil to the community.
Interestingly, Queen Creek Olive Mill offers an educational tour called Olive Oil 101 (fee, $7). Led by well-informed employees, the tour provides you with information about olives in general, the farm, and olive oil processing. We got to go inside the Mill’s processing center to see how the olive oil is extracted and stored. We learned a lot about olives and olive oil. For example, we learned that on this farm the oil is extracted using a centrifuge and not crushed like they do in Spain and Italy. When processed, different varieties of olives produce different amounts of olive oil. Normally, they harvest the olives in November and December. The flavor of the olive oil varies depending not only on the variety of olives but also when the olives are processed. The olive oil extracted earlier in the season is more pungent than that processed later in the harvesting season. We got to taste some of the olive oil on the tour and in the tasting area at the Olive Mill.
In addition to producing olives and olive oil, they have combined their agricultural business with tourism. They have an Italian café with a wonderful selection of delectable eats there. Also, they have a coffee roaster on site. You can enjoy a cup of freshly brewed Superstition coffee. If you want pizza, there is a large oven there with a variety of pizza options. If you have a sweet tooth, there is gelato and all kinds of confections. You can purchase delicious breads from the local artisan bakery, Mediterra Bakehouse. They also have a limited selection of Arizona wines and beers available. Finally, there is a section with spa products made with olive oil. As you can see, there are a lot of options to satisfy your desires and your palate.
Queen Creek Olive Mill is a wonderful place to spend a few hours relaxing. Out in front of the mill, there are a number of tables set out under the large olive trees. We enjoyed eating our lunch and spending some time soaking up the nice sunny weather. We would highly recommend spending some time at Queen Creek Olive Mill.