Food for the Tsars: The Mystique of Caviar Through Ages


Like many other foods, caviar has had a transformative journey through the ages. While in some places, it was the poor man’s snack of choice — even cheaper than peanuts — caviar has also been paired with champagne and fine spirits and wines around the world. Are you curious about caviar’s journey through the years and how it became the choice for the rich and wealthy? Check out this article to learn how caviar went from bar snack to crystal serving plates.

Food For Royalty

One of the first mentions of caviar was in Russia, where this delicacy was reserved for royalty. In fact, the Russians prepared caviar for the grandson of conqueror Genghis Khan in the 13th century. This sweet and savory dish, which included blended caviar and apple preserves, has since been lost to time. The closest you can get to old-world Russian caviar today is likely Osetra or Baika Caviar.

Food For The Common Man

Unlike in Europe, caviar was the usual option served as a free lunch in saloons in America during the 1800s. Because caviar was cheaper and saltier than other saloon snacks, it was the prime choice of free food to encourage more drinking and enhance sales.

Caviar was so common in America because they had tons of sturgeon in the local waters. An enterprising German businessman realized there was an opportunity here. By 1873, he was providing caviar not only to much of America but also exporting it to Europe. By the end of the century, America was one of the largest caviar exporters in the entire world, with various companies selling their products for around one dollar per pound.

The Caviar Golden Age


Caviar, as you view it today, got its start in the sparkling lights and chic cafes of 1920s Paris. This is considered caviar’s golden age and an essential part of its rich culinary tradition. Even today, you can find caviar in Paris served in the same way as it was over 100 years ago.

If you’re interested in trying caviar like a Parisian, you don’t have to step foot out of your home. You can order Ostera caviar online! Once it arrives, simply place a heaping spoonful on top of a blini and enjoy each bite with a little champagne. You can also try it with vodka to cleanse your palate between bites with something a little stronger.

If you’re wondering why Ostera caviar is such a popular choice, it’s because it has a fruitier, sweeter flavor that most people enjoy — especially first-timers. 

Modern-Day Caviar

While caviar may have been highly valued in Europe, it took about 100 years for the same appreciation to develop in America. Over the course of the caviar boom, American caviar was imported to Russia, relabeled as fancier Russian caviar, and shipped right back to the US, where it was sold at a major markup because people thought it was fished out of the more premium waters of the Arctic. In 1900, it was estimated that around 90% of the caviar imported to the United States from Russia originated in America.

Due to this popularity, caviar was overfished almost to extinction, leading to a massive jump in price — making it seem like it was even more of a luxury. Eventually, companies looking for other sources of caviar turned away from sturgeon as their source, introducing salmon roe, lumpfish, and golden whitefish. This shortage is why so many varieties of caviar are available today.

While no longer at the height of its prestige, caviar is still considered a luxury. Chefs spotlight it as an appetizer served in crystal dishes with seashell teaspoons or as a garnish to add a bit of a salty accent. Some restaurants and caviar bars offer customers accessible and modern ways to enjoy the delicacy, opening up the doors to a new generation of foodies through caviar kettle chip bites or even caviar bumps.

Today’s Caviar Variety

There are several sources for caviar today, and each has a different, unique flavor. Most caviar has a hint of the ocean that some people compare to oysters and seaweed. Take a look at some of the most popular caviar options available to discover the right one for you.


Osetra is one of the most famous types of caviar. It has nutty undertones that add a mild layer to the stronger oceanic flavor and the umami sensation many people like. There are several grades of caviar, and depending on the grade, it may come in a range of colors and sizes.


A hybrid caviar that’s bred to be ethical and sustainable, Kaluga offers a delicate flavor with a subtle texture. It may range from greenish gold to dark brown with a touch of jade. It’s similar to Beluga, but you can find it in the US.


As the darkest type of caviar, Baika colors range from ebony to smoke gray. Originally from Siberia, it was inaccessible to many until caviar farming became more popular. Today, you can find Baika in many lakes worldwide. The small beads have a fresher taste with a bright, sweet finish.


Alverta caviar comes from Northern California and has a nutty flavor with a buttery finish. It also blends warm, briny flavors with a subtle note of sweetness. You may find Alverta in a range of green hues.


Roe vs. Caviar

You’re probably wondering why salmon and trout roe aren’t on this list, as they’re also incredibly popular. Technically, they’re not actually caviar. While both roe and caviar are unfertilized fish eggs, caviar only comes from fish that belong to the sturgeon family.

Salmon, in particular, is a popular alternative to more traditional caviar because of its bright color and mild flavor. Salmon roe is also special because it has a distinctive pop when eaten. You’ll find salmon roe in everything from sushi and sashimi to salads and pastas.

Final Thoughts

It’s clear that caviar has a rich tradition, which has expanded with the introduction of roe from other types of fish. If you’ve never tried caviar, it might be time to order your first can for a big event or special date night.

Tess DiNapoli

Tess DiNapoli is an artist, freelance writer, and content strategist. She has a passion for yoga and often writes about health and wellness, but also enjoys covering the fashion industry and world of fitness. ...(Read More)

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