Glossary
BC Oysters, Canada Oyster Capitol
  • Size & Appearance
    • cocktail oysterAnother name for extra small to small oysters, usually measuring from 2 to 3 inches.
    • extra smallMeasuring from 2 to 3 inches.
    • smallMeasuring from 3 to 4 inches.
    • mediumMeasuring from 4 to 5 inches.
    • largeMeasuring from 5 inches and larger.
  • Tasting Notes
    • flavour notesAn oyster can offer a number of flavour notes due to species and merrior. Tastes can range from some salty to floral, some have fruity notes, mineral flavour or even hints of spice or mushrooms. Some descriptors you may commonly find: briny, sweet, nutty, buttery, cucumber, melon, watermelon, seaweed, creamy, copper, mineral, springy, plump, and meaty.
    • brininessRefers to the amount of salinity or seawater flavour that is imparted by the oyster. The common definition of brine is water saturated with salt, like seawater. Generally, East coast oysters are brinier than West coast oysters,  but there are exceptions.
    • cucumber notesA description of the flavour of the raw oyster. Cucumber is a common note, referring to the green, slightly bitter flavor of a fresh garden cucumber.
    • sweet When the oyster is kind of mild and sweet instead of briny, and often these come from the Pacific Northwest.
    • melonA description of the flavour of the raw oyster. Like wine, oysters can have a progression of flavours.
    • salinityTasting an oyster is often described in three stages: salinity, texture, and finish. Salt is often the first and sometimes primary flavour of an oyster. This is because oysters take on the salinity of their environment, which can range from almost fresh to completely saline. A fully saline oyster will have a very briny taste while oysters with very low salinity, can taste flat, sweet or almost buttery.
    • textureTasting an oyster is often described in three stages: salinity, texture, and finish. The texture should be soft and fleshy, crisp on the palate.
    • finishAn oyster’s finish is the very last flavour or impression after swallowing. Some common finish flavours are mineral, metallic, earthy, cucumber or melon.
  • Terminology
    • liquorThe liquor of an oyster is the liquid that is found inside the shell. It is ideal to preserve this when shucking the oyster as it adds to the overall flavour.
    • merroirAs terroir is used to describe wine, merroir refers to flavours an oyster may possess as a result of the marine environment in which it was grown. Merroir may impart the tastes of kelp or other seaweed, mineral or metallic flavors. Oysters of the same species can vary considerably in flavour depending upon where they are grown.
    • mignonetteThis condiment often served with raw oysters is typically made with minced shallots, cracked pepper, and vinegar.
    • cultivatedCultivated oysters are seeded by farmers, and grown for sale and consumption. Oyster farmers often use cultivation techniques such as trays, racks, bags to help determine some qualities of the final product, such as size, shape, and texture of the shell and cup.
    • beach or bottom culturedBeach/Bottom Cultured Oysters, also called Intertidal Cultured Oysters, are oysters which are raised on tidal beaches with sandy or rocky bottoms. These oysters are accustomed to fighting the tides, clamping tightly shut during low tides to preserve their “liquor” and to protect themselves against predators. Because of this “tough” life, beach raised oysters are hearty. They have hard, sturdy shells which shuckers like to work with. And their ability to close tightly, coupled with their hard shells, gives them a longer shelf life.
    • Rack & Bag Cultured OystersGrown in mesh cages or bags, typically staked a few feet off the bottom. The oysters are protected from predators, and tend to grow faster as they do not have to filter as much sand & mud in order to get nutrients. They will develop a deeper cup than beach cultured oysters, but if raised entirely this way then their shells can be brittle and difficult to shuck without breaking.
    • Longline Cultured OystersThis variation of off bottom culture uses long ropes with seedling oysters attached. Often staked horizontally about one to two feet from the bottom in an intertidal region or suspended vertically in deep water. These oysters will have a sturdier shell and firmer meat than suspension tray raised oysters as the line allows for more environmental engagement and requires more tenacity for the oyster to remain attached to the line.
    • Suspended Tray Cultured OystersThis method produces one of the most favored results, oysters that are clean, sweet and light in flavour, with tender meat. Suspended in mesh trays or nets in deep water their entire lives, they are protected from predators, mud, sand and silt. They form beautiful shells with deep cups, but often brittle as a result of their pampered lifestyle, making them challenging to shuck.
    • Bag to Beach Cultured OystersThis method combines two farming methods, the oysters benefit from the rich feeding environment of the deep water, then form sturdy shells and firm flesh on the beach before harvest. Rack & bag oysters are typically moved from their deep water environment onto the beach culture environment about 6 months before harvesting.
    • TumblingSome oysters raised using suspension methods will be periodically tumbled to help strengthen their shells, it also adds firmness to the meats. You can often recognize oysters that have been tumbled by their smoother shells.