MERRICKVILLE - Business owner Carrie Stewart is a certified olive oil sommelier who enjoys the flavours and health benefits of this meaty little fruit.

It's why she opened her shop three years ago and named it The Joy of Olives.

"I do take joy in awakening people's taste buds," says Carrie of why she decided to bring some of the best oils found around the world to Merrickville and this region.

"I like to introduce people to the many, many uses of olive oils and balsamic vinegars. They are for much more than just salads," she says.

"I have a lot of returning customers who love cooking with olive oil. It just makes things dance in the pan."

Her spacious shop allows you to browse through a selection of 48 varieties of the very best olive oil from around the world and balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy.

Olive oils from Portugal, Tunisia, Greece, Spain, Italy, Africa, Australia and Chile are imported on press cycles occurring every six months, rotating between the southern and northern hemispheres for premium quality and freshness.

"This is so we can bring the freshest oils to our customers," says Carrie.

In her shop you'll also find black truffle, toasted sesame and roasted walnut specialty oils and champagne vinegar. Carrie also features a variety of gourmet jarred olives from Spain. Tea made from the leaves of olive trees are from Australia. There are skin care products with all natural ingredients. Olive oil is good for the skin because it is rich in polyphenols, antioxidants and vitamins. It promotes skin flexibility with anti-aging and moisturizing qualities.

Carrie believes in the many health benefits olive oils provide. She is a breast cancer survivor who, after her diagnosis, changed her diet to include olive oil. This led her to wanting to spread the word.

"I completed the Olive Oil Sommelier course at the International Culinary Center in London, England, in 2019 to gain a deeper understanding of olive oil so I could better source olive oils from around the world, and make recommendations about which oils and balsamic should go with types of food based on my knowledge of oil and vinegar pairing," says Carrie. 

She started her business about 18 months before the COVID-19 lockdowns started. Up until then, her shop was also a tasting room. It's not possible to offer tastings at this time but the shop is still busy.

"Even though the tasting has been suspended, overall I'm overjoyed with the tremendous support from my loyal customers and the new people who are willing to explore and take a leap in to new flavours," says Carrie.