In the mid 1800s in Germany, Elbe River sturgeon roe (caviar) was used as fish and pig food. That changed when two streetwise barrel makers (Dieckmann and Hansen) decided to commercialize herring and sturgeon meat production. At the time Hamburg was a vital European trading post especially for Russian products. Capitalizing on what they keenly understood to be a superior product to the Elbe River sturgeon roe, they became the first traders in Russian sturgeon roe using none other than their very own barrels. They became the first European company to specialize in Caviar imports from Russia.
Unlike many other fish, sturgeon (pictured left) take many years of nurturing before the eggs are ready for reproduction. Meaning there has to be a carefully controlled fishing program so as not to destroy the cycle and deplete the species. That’s what happened to the North American and German sturgeon population and why Russian Caviar was not only the most luxurious product, but really the only one available.
Tsar Nicholass II and Keizer Welheim
By the dawn of the 20th century, Russian Caviar was in the consumer’s mind associated with Russian imperial courts and the lifestyle of the very rich and famous. That all was expected to come to an end with the Tsar and his family’s brutal assassination on July 16, 1918. Russian Caviar was to be buried along side Russia’s disgraced monarchy.
Except it wasn’t.
“Amid the aftershock of the killing of the Tsar and his children, Caviar became the perceived mode of contact to the vanished dream world of the Imperial Russian palaces.” Source: Caviar, by Peter Rebeiz 2010
Tsar Nicholas II
With the end of the WWI, Caspian Sea Caviar became the surviving protected delicacy of the Tsars and their lifestyles. Russian Caviar became synonymous with the Imperial Monarchy’s establishment, their passions, education, sophistication and elegance. It became a small but significant view into this legendary era and a way of reliving some of it’s grand moments.