Why does caviar come in different colors?

Why does caviar come in different colors?

A curious question but one that needs answering!

I am sure when we have seen or searched for caviar we see a wide range of caviar in a full range of colors; from orange, black, yellow, green, red you name it. So no wonder it is disorienting to understand what color caviar is and we ‘must’ make sense of it.

It is important to first of all define what is caviar and take it from there.

The main point of confusion is that when we see caviar that are red, yellow, orange etc. and generally transparent, that is not caviar! Those are what we call ‘roe’ and tend to come from Salmon, Trout and Lumpfish. For branding reasons they have been all categorized under caviar, but really when we talk about caviar. We define caviar as coming from the sturgeon fish, now that is the real top dollar stuff!

Now with that out of the way, when we are looking at sturgeon ‘caviar’ (Oscietra, Beluga etc.) their color ranges from black, steely gray to olive green. This is based on the various species of sturgeon caviar (listed below in case anyone is curious) and how the caviar is sorted, as the different colors are separated and hand selected so that there is a more uniform color when packed. It is also important to bear in mind that sturgeon caviar is opaque while roes tend to be transparent.

Does the color of the caviar matter?

Not at all, what is important is the taste profile. Is it fresh, pasteurized or salted using the Russian or Iranian method? The larger the size of the caviar the more creamer the taste tends to be. Also the environment in which the sturgeon fish are raised is an important factor. These are what affect the quality of caviar, not the color. So when looking for top quality caviar, research these aspects as color does not have an impact on the taste of the caviar.

What color is the most expensive caviar?

Purebred Beluga (Huso Huso) caviar (More information below in the species list) is the most expensive caviar, and its color tends to be a steely gray.

Hopefully this brief insight into caviar colors has offered some clarity with regards to this conundrum.

Caviar Species List

Beluga (Huso Huso) — Originating from the Caspian region; the species normally matures between 15 and 20 years, and can live up to 100 years and reach more than 1000 kg. It is marked as the largest freshwater fish in the world.

Oscietra (Acipenser Gueldenstaedtii) — These species originated from the Caspian Sea and the Danube River. The species normally matures in the tenth and eleventh year, and can live up to 50 years and can reach a weight of more than 20 kg.

Siberian (Acipenser Baerii — These species originated from the regions of Russia and Siberia, and are currently farmed in France, Germany, China and other Caviar producing countries. They normally mature in the seventh and tenth month, and can live up to 20 years and reach more than 15 kg.

Kaluga (Huso Dauricus) — Found in the Amur River; similar to the Beluga the species normally matures between 15 and 20 years, and can live up to 100 years and reach more than 1000 kg. In terms of size it is second to the Beluga, and shares many similar properties; so much so that it is sometimes known as the ‘River Beluga’.

Gold/Almus/Imperial/Amur (Acipenser Schrenckii X Huso Dauricus) — A Hybrid, descended from Kaluga (♀) and Shrenckii (♂); the wild hybrid can be found in the Amur River between China and Russia. The species normally mature in the eighth to the tenth year, and can live up to 60 years and reach more than 50 kg; It is a unique variety from China.

Sevruga (Acipenser Schrenckii) — Found in the Amur River between China and Russia. The species normally matures between the seventh to tenth year, and can live up to 30 years and reach more than 20 kg. This is the smallest of the sturgeon species, and due to its quick reproduction is quite commonly found.

Bester (Huso Huso X Acipenser Ruthenus) — A Hybrid descendant of the Beluga (♀) and Sterlet (♂), the wild hybrid can be found in the Danube River. The species normally matures in the eighth to the tenth year, and can live up to 60 years and reach more than 50 kg. It is a unique variety from China.

Sterlet (Acipenser Ruthenus) — This is a relatively small species that originates from central Europe and Asia. The species normally matures between the seventh year, and can live up to 30 years and reach more than 18 kg.

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