Citrusy, viscous, and even a touch spicy, Brightland olive oil tastes — and looks — like liquid gold. It’s a deep yellow color, more egg yolk than sunflower, with a richness and a creaminess that my tried and true bottom-shelf everyday cooking oil routinely lacks. Of course, you can cook with Brightland, but it’s better for moments of decadence; like drizzling on fresh bread, dousing summer greens, or tossing with cheese, fruit or herbs. And though this California-made olive oil may be expensive ($37 for about 13 ounces), after dipping some hunks of crusty sourdough into a golden pool laden with a generous pinch of flaky salt, all worries about the price will melt away.
Brightland is certainly the best olive oil I’ve ever tasted, and it turns out the company has some scientific proof to help explain why their product is so delicious and nourishing. Founded by Aishwarya Iyer, an Indian woman who immigrated to the US at three months old, Iyer remembered being torn between her own heritage and trying to fit in with American culture while growing up, but food grounded her childhood memories and stuck out during the chaos. “Food is a conduit to show love and affection and celebrate tradition,” she told Shakti Collective, and even as she moved into college, studying at NYU and working in PR, beauty, and tech, cooking took on a big role in her life.
Getting more seriously into cooking was actually what led to the creation of Brightland — well, cooking, and the stomach aches that kept ensuing after meals. No matter what Iyer made, or what foods she cut out, the pain persisted. Eventually, she realized it was the olive oil she was using to cook with, and some further research revealed this jarring revelation: “According to a study by the UC Davis Olive Center, nearly 70% of imported olive oil samples failed to meet minimum sensory standards for extra-virgin olive oil, and had defects ranging from rancidity to adulteration with cheaper refined oils.” Now, there have been some caveats to those findings since the initial report, but the fact remained that the olive oil business was full of snake oil.
After a few years of sitting with this disappointing info, Iyer decided to do something about it. She took a course at the UC Davis Olive Center, and in 2017, moved to California to be closer to potential farm partners for Brightland. Over the last three years, Iyer has built out her brand not only as delicious and high-quality, but as a brand with a significant aesthetic presence. The cheery, cream-colored bottles with soft wooden stoppers and bright, abstract labels are instantly recognizable, and fit in effortlessly with the millennial-chic, Instagram-first moment we’re all living in. Far from feeling forced or like trend-hopping, in some ways it seems like Brightland’s crisp, artsy bottles helped usher the era in, setting the tone for its finest moments. The company even had a capsule collection devoted to specific artists, including unique labels for those blends.
That capsule collection includes three different blends, moving on from the signature Awake and Alive blends into Lucid (a lemon-y take), Ardor (chili and pepper-infused), and Arise (basil oil? Brilliant). The company also recently ventured into the vinegar space, debuting a champagne and a balsamic vinegar duo at $44 for the pair. Each of those last three special oil blends clock in at $40 even (or $115 for all three), which makes them about the same price as our favorite Kacey Musgraves candle. I’ll let you decide which of these fit into your budget this month, but if you’re looking for something with a good cause attached, then consider their latest collaboration.
Announced this week, Brightland has partnered with Slow Factory Foundation, a non-profit committed to providing education about climate change, and how community inequalities play into the impact of environmental upheaval. The Brightland x Slow Factory offering is a limited edition pairing of Alive and Ardor together as a duo for $80. Every single dime of the profits from this product go directly to supporting Slow Factory, so treating yourself to this fancy oil basically doubles as a charitable donation.
With custom labels and a mission statement every inhabitant of this planet can get behind, why think twice about stocking up on liquid gold and helping others learn that climate change is real? It’s the kind of win-win that sets a company like Brightland even farther away from its competition in the food space, and proves that no matter what product you might sell, there’s always room to incorporate an ethical stance. Meanwhile, I’m going to grab a loaf of Superba bread and help save the planet, one olive oil dip at a time.
Shop the Brightland x Slow Factory collaboration here.