It is said that the first people tasting caviar on the shores of the Caspian were the Azeri and Persians living at the Kura River on the area of the former Persian Empire. They called it khaviar from the Persian dialect (khya meaning egg). The Persians believed that caviar was a medicine, which can cure many diseases, and also a source of energy. Aristotle, the Greek scholar in the 4th century B.C., described caviar as a delicacy made from the roe (eggs) of the sturgeon fish.
In the times of the Roman Empire, caviar was regarded as such a cuisine that it was presented among garlands of flowers, and trumpets heralded as it was presented to the royals. The main consumer of caviar in old days other than the nobles around the world was the shah and his revered friends around the world during the Persian Empire. Every year the Shah would receive tones of the best caviar as an annual tax from the fishermen and lavish the royals and their friends with the best the Caspian Sea has to offer. The Shah’s caviar would be the prime selected Golden Ossetra, a favorite of the Imperial dynasty; Hence the name Imperial Ossetra.
Various specialists insist that even though beluga varieties are the most expensive, they do not always taste the best. Beluga sturgeons are up to 20 feet long and can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds. Their eggs are larger than those of any other sturgeons, and the rarest as the Beluga is a diminishing creature in its habitat of the Caspian Sea.
In Europe, the food standard laws state that only the processed roe of sturgeon can be called caviar and the other fishes simply called fish roe. In the US; however, various kinds of fish roe can be sold as caviar as long as the fish type is indicated. The major sturgeon species used to produce true caviar today are Beluga, Ossetra and Sevruga. Sturgeon is nearly extinct due to over poaching and a diminishing environmental habitat within the Caspian Sea. The source of the prized “Golden Imperial caviar of the Shah” which got its name from its golden color is still a favorite amongst caviar lovers.
Caviar is graded by its color and size, taste, firmness of the pearls, amount of juice and salt, and host country. The lightest, largest and rarest today is considered the best and therefore the most expansive is Beluga as it meets these standards. The sturgeon eggs are graded for color, with 000 indicating the lightest colored and 0 the darkest. The US and other countries also produce caviar from the roe of salmon, paddlefish, whitefish and lumpfish and mush more non-sturgeon fishes. Each type has different standards and the price is much lower than true caviar from the Caspian Sea.
Main Producers of caviar today:
As more than 95% of the worlds actual caviar comes from the Caspian sea there have been two main producers; Iran and Russia with its former satellite states. After the collapse of the USSR, Russia is no longer in control of its former states such as Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and these countries are also producers of caviar as they are countries located in the Caspian basin. Due to Iran’s strict control of its caviar production, its consistency and high standards, and lack of pollution on the coast Iran’s shores on the Caspian Sea, the quality and consistence of Iranian caviar is paramount. The consistency of salting is uniform and done in a professional manner that follows the methods of the ancient Persian tradition unlike the other Caspian basin countries which do not follow a set procedure and have many different processing methods which lack in performance and consistency. The result of this is a great difference in quality and pricing. As one can see today, that the price of Iranian caviar is double than the caviars of all other Caspian countries.
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