A lot of our clients have asked us how we produce our lavender oil. Is it cold pressed like olive oil, or is it removed by solvent extraction like jasmine oil?
Actually, the method we use to extract the lavender essential oil from the flowers is steam distillation, it is the method that has been used for the last 2 millenium. It was used by the Greeks and then by the Romans, as lavender oil was an important part of their daily bathing routines.
Described below is the distillation process we carry out each January:-)
1) NZLavender has 110,000 "True Lavender" plants covering 30 acres (12 hectares) of the Canterbury Plains, beneath New Zealand's majastic Southern Alps.. Each December they come into bloom producing a sea of purple flowers. Plant health and flower production is maintained during the dry spring and summer months by underground drip irrigation.
2) NZLavender uses about 2 million honey bees housed in 70 hives, to pollinate the lavender. This helps produce a more synchronised and larger harvest of lavender oil. The bees also produce an average of 2 tons of lavender honey per year, which is sold world-wide.
3) During the harvest period in early January, Philip & Owen check the lavender flowers each morning to assess how mature they are. It is very important to harvest the lavender when it is at its prime to obtain the highest quality oil with optimum aroma.
4) Lavender flowers are harvested in the field by Owen; approximately 750 kg of flower heads are cut and collected into a large cartridge in under 15 minutes.
5) The filled cartridge is then taken back to the distillery and loaded on to the still-base for steaming.
Step 1: In the distillery steam is passed through the cartridge for 20 minutes.
Step 3: The lavender oil and water then pass into the separator where the oil floats to the top.
Step 4: The oil is collected, filtered and the last remaining water droplets removed before being placed into bulk cold storage.
6) The spent cartridge is then emptied and cleaned, ready for the next batch of lavender flowers. The steamed flowers make wonderful compost for the farm, as the material is completely sterile following the distillation process. On average we distill 180 cartidges of lavender each harvest, which makes quite a large heap of compost!
7) The oil is then stored in a cold-store at 4°C, under an inert gas (argon), which helps maintain its quality and minimise any oxidisation of the oil. The oil is then allowed to mature over the following 12 months.
Annual lavender oil production: approximately 1000 litres of award winning, low allergen/low astringent, high ester pharmaceutiocal grade lavender oil.
Annual lavender water (hydrosol) production: between 15,000 - 25,000 litres