Are you interested in delivering the extraordinary and flavorful world of caviar directly to your taste buds? Perhaps you intend to elevate party hors d'oeuvres and impress your guests with its tangy flavor and magic mouthfeel. Or, maybe you have seen caviar served in elegant films or heard that eating caviar can be an interesting experience and are curious to try this centuries-old delicacy.
Whatever your reason, caviar is a gift from the sea that should be tried and treasured by everyone, not just royalty! The first thing to learn when developing a palate for caviar is to always obtain true sturgeon caviar. Only species of fish in the sturgeon family produce true caviar. Below, learn everything you should know about caviar, including how it came to be so popular as a delicacy, the various kinds of sturgeon caviar you can find and much more.
WHAT IS STURGEON?
Sturgeon is the common name for the 27 species of fish belonging to the family Acipenseridae. All of the species of this fish are native to the temperate waters of the Northern Hemisphere.
Though sturgeon are most often found in the Caspian Sea, they might also be spotted in the South Atlantic regions of North America, the Black Sea, large European rivers and lakes and parts of the Pacific Northwest. Sturgeon are saltwater fish, but they lay eggs in freshwater, which is a part of modern sustainable farming efforts.
WHAT IS CAVIAR?
Caviar identifies the matured eggs of sturgeon — only sturgeon eggs can qualify as caviar, which any caviar lover knows! Another term you may come across when researching products is "roe." Roe is the more general word for fish eggs, but it is not interchangeable with caviar.
Roe refers to any fish eggs, whether salmon, trout, flying fish or other varieties of fish. Sturgeon fish eggs are uniquely identified as caviar. Further, "red caviar" is not caviar — it is salmon egg and should more correctly be called salmon roe.
HOW DID CAVIAR BECOME A DELICACY?
You might be surprised to learn that sturgeon caviar has not always been a luxury food, though it can be traced back to the tables of Greek aristocrats in the 10th century. In the United States during the 1800s, saloons would serve caviar for free at lunchtime because it was salty and encouraged patrons to order more drinks. The caviar market changed several decades later when Americans began exporting caviar to Europe at steep prices — the country's waters were abundant with sturgeon, making exporting the caviar easy and cost-effective.
Interestingly, it was found later that much of the caviar being exported from America to Europe was being sent right back under the guise of it being Russian caviar, which was the most coveted type of caviar at the time. This boom in caviar production caused its price to skyrocket, as sturgeon became scarcer and caviar became rarer.
Today, caviar comes from sturgeon fish farms in more than 50 countries worldwide, including the U.S. Though Russia still exports caviar to some parts of the world, the U.S. banned importing caviar from the country in 2005 to help protect sturgeon populations. Beyond the harm caused to sturgeon as a species, the overfishing of sturgeon leads to an increase in the number of "caviar" alternatives, so there is an even greater need to distinguish between the high-quality treat that is true caviar and fake caviar.
We at Imperia Caviar are committed to producing true sturgeon caviar as an accessible luxury for everyone to enjoy without causing harm to the environment. Our caviar is produced through sustainable, eco-friendly, nearly wild farm environments.
GRADES OF CAVIAR
Caviar is usually divided into two grades after being carefully reviewed by professionals trained in grading quality to alert consumers of certain aspects of the caviar. To the untrained palate, different kinds of caviar might taste the same. However, that is not the case, and caviar grading reveals this. Once you become more familiar with caviar, you will likely come to easily note the disparities between caviar options, and you might even prefer one over the other.
Here are the characteristics of the two grades:
- Grade 1: This grade of caviar is reserved for eggs that meet the highest standards of each evaluating factor. Usually, Grade 1 caviar includes the largest, firmest, most intact eggs with fine flavor and color. These eggs offer a delicate richness you will not find in Grade 2 eggs.
- Grade 2: Grade 2 caviar, while also tasty and decadent, consists of less delicate and less uniform eggs. These eggs are still a delicacy, though they might be less pleasing to the eye or palate.
The grade of caviar is determined through various factors, including but not limited to egg color, size, lucidity, uniformity, aroma and firmness:
- Color: The color of caviar depends on the age of the fish. Sturgeon caviar eggs vary in color, ranging from gray to black and featuring slight hints of gold and jade. As an example, Ossetra caviar appears golden-jade during peak maturity.
- Size: Caviar differs in size, depending on the kind of sturgeon. The size influences the egg's density and texture. Sturgeon roe that is appropriately sized will be rated as Grade 1. A less-than-ideal roe size would likely be categorized as Grade 2.
- Lucidity: A Grade 1 egg should have a shiny outer appearance. In comparison, a more off, muddled or dull reflection would make Sturgeon roe fall into the Grade 2 category.
- Uniformity: Grade 1 caviar must be uniform across the board. In other words, it should have the same physical qualities from egg to egg to provide a consistent tasting experience. If a selection of caviar differs in one category or another, it will likely be considered Grade 2.
- Aroma: Those who have never tried caviar might think it comes with a fishy smell. In reality, high-quality caviar should only somewhat smell like the sea, not like a distinct fish scent. Caviar with a particularly noticeable smell would be ranked as Grade 2.
- Firmness: While caviar is certainly not hard, it does have a firmness to it. Therefore, top-grade caviar will be slightly firm on the outside and soft on the inside. Many people love caviar for the “pop” they experience when biting down on the fish eggs. Caviar that has a hard, chewy texture would be Grade 2.
Imperia Caviar believes in providing the most beautifully cured caviar and sells only the best, A+ Grade 1 caviar. As a result, you can rest assured any caviar you order from us will meet all of the above criteria. This way, you receive firm, delicious and beautiful caviar that pleases your palate every time.
TYPES OF STURGEON CAVIAR
Each type of sturgeon caviar variety has its own interesting variances in color, texture and taste. Some of the different types include Paddlefish caviar, Hackleback caviar from the Shovelnose sturgeon, Siberian caviar, White sturgeon caviar and bony fish Bowfin caviars.
That said, not all caviars are made equal. There are only a few types of the sturgeon caviar that are legally sold in the U.S. today, including Ossetra caviar, Sevruga caviar and Kaluga Caviar. They vary in, among other things, size, color and flavor. Caviar connoisseurs know some of the highest-quality caviar comes from the U.S. Hackleback caviar, for example, is indigenous to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, with a beautiful black color, and sturgeon are found in the lakes of Wisconsin, as well.
Many types of caviar are found worldwide in the Black Sea or the Caspian Sea, bordered by countries like Iran and Russia. For example, Almas Beluga caviar arises from a rare form of Iranian Beluga. This Persian albino sturgeon is usually between 60-100 years old and is the most expensive and exclusive type of caviar. In fact, Almas holds the Guinness World Record for the most expensive caviar at a cost of $34,500 per kilogram!
These differences, as well as cost and availability, play a large role in determining value and prestige when it comes to caviar.
Originating from the Caspian Sea, Beluga is often considered to be the most luxurious caviar in the world and is generally the most expensive of all accessible caviar varieties. Reaching lengths of up to 24 feet and weighing up to 3,000 pounds, Beluga are massive.
While Beluga sturgeon may live to be over 100 years old and produce several hundreds of pounds of eggs, they are also critically endangered. It is illegal to import Beluga caviar to the U.S. This rarity in availability, combined with being one of the most reputationally desirable caviars in the world, contributes to the exorbitant cost range of $5,000 to $10,000 per kilogram.
With large, pearlescent eggs of light glistening gray, Beluga has a smooth, butter-like texture and rich, subtle flavor that melts in your mouth.
Ossetra Sturgeon caviar, also called Osciètre, is a flavorful worthy competitor to Beluga. The Royal Ossetra is equally considered one of the highest-quality caviars in the world. Ossetra eggs come in fine, medium-sized grains that are consistent in size. They are smaller than Beluga caviar.
Ossetra caviar has a nutty, rich flavor and ranges in color from golden to brown. The lighter the eggs, the older the sturgeon, meaning a lighter, fine grain will have a richer flavor.
Also known as "starry sturgeon," Sevruga sturgeon are native to the Caspian and Black Seas. They can also be found in the Aegean and Azov Seas. Due to quicker reproduction rates compared to Beluga and Ossetra, Sevruga has higher availability.
Sevruga's small and delicate gray-to-black eggs have a crunchy texture that pops with intense flavor. They are also the smallest egg-producing sturgeon, and their flavor profile begins with a distinct marine flavor, complemented by notes of nut and cream.
Known colloquially as the "river beluga," Kaluga is a farm-raised type of sturgeon caviar. This approach allows for greater sustainability of the species and stricter controls for uniformity and quality. The taste of Kaluga is similar to Beluga, offering a creamy, smooth, and nearly buttery texture
HOW CAN YOU FIND STURGEON CAVIAR?
Some people shy away from trying caviar because of the cost. Perhaps you want to try black caviar, but your local supermarket does not sell it or offer a good, fresh selection. Alternatively, you may be put off by caviar's fancy reputation or could think the price tag is well outside any affordable range.
Imperia Caviar is at the forefront of the culinary movement to make delicious delicacies affordable. Our mission is to make delicious, sustainable and ethical caviar accessible to many at a fraction of the usual retail cost. We also offer uncompromising service, so you always receive the most delectable, sustainably farmed caviar possible.
HOW DOES IMPERIA CAVIAR DO IT?
We've got good caviar news — we grow our own ethically produced supply of caviar and sell direct-to-consumer through this website. That gives you access to the freshest, top-quality caviars straight from the source. Imperia Caviar offers two gorgeous sturgeon caviar — Royal Ossetra and Kaluga Hybrid Reserve.
The Royal Ossetra, with its rich, bold sea flavors, goes well with heavy creams, sauces and meat dishes, amongst a variety of other dishes.
SHOP ROYAL OSSETRA CAVIAR
The Kaluga Hybrid is also quite beautiful, with a deep and shimmery dark amber color with flecks of jade. The Kaluga Hybrid Reserve, which is a union between the Kaluga and Amur sturgeons, provides an exceptional initial flavor rush full of floral and fruity notes. These are followed by bold bursts of flavor from each grain.
SHOP KALUGA HYBRID RESERVE CAVIAR
Both the Ossetra and the Kaluga Hybrid are available for order in multiple sizing options, including 100 grams, 250 grams and 1680 grams, or smaller packages of five tins with 30 grams each, or three tins with 50 grams each. These sizing options make ordering the perfect amount of caviar easy, no matter if you are simply looking to try it or want to incorporate it into a memorable dinner with loved ones.
They also come in gift sets so that you can share this exciting experience of culinary excellence with friends and family. These come complete with a gift bag containing either a tin of Royal Ossetra or Kaluga Hybrid Reserve, a tin opener and a mother of pearl spoon. Gift sets come in 50-gram and 30-gram options ranging in quantity from three to 15 sets.
THE BEST STURGEON CAVIAR IS WITHIN REACH AT IMPERIA CAVIAR
Now that you are thoroughly educated about the history of sturgeon caviar and the options available to you, it is time to get out your mother of pearl spoon and start tasting! Shop our high-quality selection of caviar in our online shop for your next special occasion dinner or just because you want a treat. If you are in Los Angeles, stop by our caviar kiosk at Westfield Mall to explore our offerings in person. We look forward to helping you enjoy the unforgettable taste of caviar!
Last updated November 23, 2022.