Celine Tan believes that caviar is for everyone and should be an accessible luxury that the masses can viably indulge in.
That is the ethos that she and her partner Benjamin Goh built Caviar Colony on when they started it last year. The duo are on a mission to change the perception of caviar by creating price points that are within reach and to remain competitive in terms of value and quality.
Aside from Caviar Colony, Celine also runs The Ate Group, a brand strategy, content and communications agency in Singapore that specialises in luxury lifestyle. “Working in this industry, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to experience and taste many cuisines and ingredients. Caviar was always something I viewed as a luxurious product,” she says. “But Benjamin is very knowledgeable about the world of caviar and when he shared its complexity with me, my interest grew as I learnt more about it. We saw the potential to grow a Singapore-founded brand together.”
Fruits of Labour
Not only is Caviar Colony the sole single-source Singaporean caviar producer, it also boasts a unique sturgeon species. The Russian Hybrid took over 10 years to develop and is exclusive to the brand. Celine describes it as a “great tasting caviar that has a unique sweetness reminiscent of Japanese Kyoho grapes with a nutty and creamy finish”. In addition to the Russian Hybrid, Caviar Colony also offers four other sturgeon species in its caviar collection: Kaluga, Kaluga Hybrid, Amur and Russian. All of its caviar products are labelled with a certification from Cites (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals.
Due to overfishing and illegal poaching of wild sturgeon, there are fewer than 10 variants of sturgeon in the world today, compared to more than 32 in the beginning. “We are committed to seeing this number grow,” asserts the co-founder and COO. “Hence, we have invested in artificial insemination resources to breed and even create new hybrid species of sturgeons.”
Although Caviar Colony is still new as a brand, its 800ha farms in Yunnan, China have been in operation for more than 20 years and supplying caviar to some of the world’s most renowned caviar houses since 2013. At the farm, sturgeons are raised according to Caviar Colony’s own responsible practices and standard operating procedures. These include using a proprietary blend of feed that is free from antibiotics and chemicals – about $5 million is spent on feed annually – and harvesting the roe within 15 minutes. Anything collected beyond that time frame is rejected, because then the fish releases a chemical into the body that contaminates the taste of the eggs.
Additionally, Celine explains that the roe is only harvested when the sturgeons are at least 10 years old, which is the optimal age for yielding caviar of the best quality. After harvesting, the roe is carefully treated and rinsed before undergoing an ageing process for two months. During this time, the caviar is salted sparingly – 3.2 per cent to 3.5 per cent compared to the industry standard of 5 per cent to 8 per cent – in order to let the true flavour of the grains shine through.
Finally, the roe is packed in tins that are hermetically sealed to ensure all air is extracted, preventing any accidental oxidation that would lead to deterioration and loss in flavour. This ensures that the integrity of the caviar is retained right up to the point of consumption. “We want to demystify caviar to the public and provide transparency in all of our processes,” says Celine, who also believes in educating customers about caviar’s nutritional benefits. The roe is a source of vitamins and minerals like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, iron and magnesium. She shares that even her son, who just turned two last month, is a fan of caviar.
Today, Caviar Colony is available in 16 restaurants in Singapore such as Alma, Labyrinth, Ki-sho, Pollen, Salted & Hung and Preludio. It is also being served at restaurants in Bali, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Italy. “I am proud that Caviar Colony is a Singapore-founded brand,” adds Celine. “One of the biggest wins we’ve achieved is to be featured on the menus of established restaurants here and around the world.”
Caviar Colony has definitely made its mark in such a short period, but Celine maintains that there is still much to achieve. Next on the horizon is maximising the use of different sturgeon by-products for uses like medical and aesthetic purposes. “It’s only the beginning for Caviar Colony. We just want to keep our heads down, continue to innovate and provide excellent quality caviar to more people. We want to be a global player, and to be known as a brand that sells exceptional caviar.”
Main image: Prestige Singapore