Although it is common to associate caviar with Russia and the Russian Tsars, the history of caviar is rich and extensive. It starts in Persia, Greece and the Roman Empire; then extends to Russia from where it expands to the European monarchies and the rest of the world. Presently, caviar is a coveted delicacy symbolic of luxury and elite status.
Early History of Caviar
Caviar has been part of human history for centuries. In fact, the delicacy is mentioned in Ancient Greek literature by various Greek writers, including Aristotle. These writings describe roes of sturgeon as being part of banquets and parties. Their appearance usually signified the end of the event. However, caviar originated in Persia where skilled fishermen discovered the art of cultivating and preserving roes of Sturgeon from the Caspian Sea. The term caviar originates from the Persian words Chav-Jar or Cake of power and it was consumed for its medicinal properties. Later on, the Romans started serving it in their extravagant parties and, even though it was abundant, became an exclusive treat reserved for the elite.
During many centuries, caviar retained its exclusive status and was a product reserved for Royalty. Given Russia’s location, the Czars were its most notorious and consistent consumers. Czar Nicholas II even collected tax from fishermen in the form of caviar.
Caviar in the New World
At the beginning of the 19th century, Sturgeons were discovered in the Hudson, Delaware and Columbus rivers. The abundance of Sturgeons was such that the United States and Canada quickly became the main supplier of caviar for Europe. Contrary to Europe, in the United States caviar was not strictly reserved for the elite. In fact, was commonly served in saloons, allegedly to encourage consumption of beer due to its saltiness.
But a century later, so much Sturgeon had been harvested that a banned was put in place. Unfortunately, not even the restrictions helped to restore populations and by 1960 the supply was so depleted that prices skyrocketed. Once again, caviar had become an exclusivity.
Today, the Caspian Sea is suffering from extremely depleted populations of sturgeon. In an effort to conserve this prehistoric specie, in 1998, sturgeon endemic to the area became protected under international law. By 2005 the United States took further precautions and banned all sturgeon coming from the Caspian Sea. These limitations have caused the price of caviar to rise once again.
Sasanian caviar only provides caviar from sustainable sources.