Welcome to Montecito Caviar!

Checking Our Caviars for Quality

Caviar is a general term used for a variety of fish roes which range from being common and inexpensive to one of the rarest and most expensive delicacies in the world. Market prices are driven by factors such as type of sturgeon, age, rarity, origin, size, texture and color. Taste is subjective, therefore individuals will have different experiences and preferences. A question many looking to buy caviar ask is "how can a high quality caviar be distinguished from the lesser quality varieties?". How do restaurants, critics, chefs and long time buyers select the quality of their caviar? It can be confusing, some pearls can be larger and lighter in color and still cost less than the darker types? Are firm or soft textures better?

Long time connoisseurs use their experience after having tasted the best and the worst through years of being in the industry. The average individual buyer does not have this background to rely on. Chefs and restaurateurs rely on their background, knowing what their clientele prefer to have and the reputation of the supplier, not to mention being able to test small samples prior to purchase. Critics insist that caviar should not be purchased without being taste tested first. This poses issues such as samples are generally not sent for small individual purchases. Another issue may be that the sample you received and tested may not be from the same batch, roe or sturgeon, while flavor consistency can vary.

At the very basics are the size and color, however, not necessarily true unless its being compared to the same type of sturgeon. Lighter eggs are often found in older harder to find sturgeons. Pearls should be shiny and clear as opposed to dull and murky. Eggs should separate freely and pop individually between the tongue and the roof of the mouth bursting with flavors that are typical of that species. When buying beluga caviar, an experienced knowledgeable consumer expects mild flavors compared to the saltier robust tasting sevruga. The caviar should taste like the sturgeon and the ocean of its origin, not fishy indicating longer time period since its harvest.

Historically, consistency in size and color of the eggs meant quality showing they were not mixed with other roes. Today, with farming's developed controlled environment, consistency is easily achieved by lesser valued farmed sturgeon harvests. Are labels with Malossol an indication of quality? Salt is used not only for its added flavor to raw caviar, but as an essential preservative. Historically, the longer the caviar had to travel in reaching its destination, the longer the shelf life needed to be and more salt was added. This meant that lightly salted caviars with a shorter shelf life had to be fresh. After better international commerce deliveries and resources, Malossol was commonly used to signify fresh quality premium caviars. Today, with lower shipping costs for speedy deliveries, all caviars can be labeled Malossol with lesser than five percent salt content.

Grades of caviar can be found on the jar's label. Larger size eggs can have a 000 grade, meaning better and larger than 00 which are larger than 0 grades. Classic, royal and Imperial are grades that specify quality and/or size of eggs. Classic caviars are the smallest, royal grades are medium and imperial will have the largest eggs. By considering the container's label, a buyer is relying on the reputation of the supplier and fish farm.

There is no substitute for having a reputable supply chain, from farmers to retailer whether a restaurant or store. The label showing its origins or brand is as important as its appearance seen through the glass jars. Sturgeon harvesters farm for many years before being able to produce and sell caviar. Delivering caviars that disappoint in quality that was expected by chefs, connoisseurs, critics, restaurateurs and retail consumers risk losing credibility and value of their entire investment.