Spelling it out: the sensory language of seafood


Pacific Oyster

Wine lovers wax lyrical about citrus notes, chocolaty mouthfeel, oaky taste, and mellow aromas in their glass; coffee conioisseurs use terminology such as ashy, caramel, earthy, and nutty to describe their caffeine hit; now the Eyre Peninsula Seafood Industry has its own descriptors for the flavour and aromas that set its produce apart from other regions.

The industry has launched a flavour wheel for 12 seafood products: abalone, calamari, prawns, King George whiting, snapper, yellowtail, southern bluefin tuna, angasi oysters, Pacific oysters, rock lobster, kingfish, and mussels.

Their tastes – based on the terroir, or special characteristics of where and how the produce has been grown or handled – can now be spelled out using sensory language akin to that used in other gastronomic fields. It is hoped it will help boost the region’s gastronomic tourism brand.

Sensory scientist from the University of Queensland Heather Smyth, who worked on the project, says the flavour wheel will give the region’s seafood “branding distinction” which will help producers

“compete on in much higher level in the market than they did before. That in turn will attach a premium price to their product … it gives them a competitive point and a point of difference no-once else can copy.”

The following descriptors have been attributed to The Food Sage’s favourite oyster, the Angasi:

Plump, flat, pinky-mushroom colour with dark mantle. Tidal rock pool, mangrove and fresh fish notes. Firm, crisp, juicy and chewy. Intense, complex savoury flavours, hazelnut and asparagus, rocketlike, slightly salty and tart. Flavours persist with a metallic finish.

The Pacific oyster, on the other hand, is described using the following terms:

Plump, bright, creamy with a hint of pink and a dark mantle. Fresh clean ocean with cucumber and fresh fish notes. Very crisp, juicy and bursts-in-mouth. Intensely sweet ocean, salty and savoury with a hint of asparagus. Sweet-savoury lingers.

Coffin Bay oyster grower Lester Marshall got the project off the ground after winning a Nuffield Scholarship to undertake a global study on the world’s best regional food brands.

He discovered that many of the great regions of the world had ways to describe their unique regional flavours, but producers from Eyre Peninsula — credited with some of the best tasting seafood in the world — were lost for words when it came to describing their own produce. This didn’t help when it came to marketing their produce and explaining its distinct qualities and superiority.

He partnered Smyth and and with funding from Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, the University of Queensland, and the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry set about unlocking the signature flavours of the Eyre Peninsula.

Smyth says there is interest from the prawn industry to develop a similar flavour wheel to differentiate 20 different products.

The South Australian Oyster Growers Association is also interested in differentiating oysters from the region’s many bays.



Filed under Produce

12 responses to “Spelling it out: the sensory language of seafood

  1. bizzylizzycooks

    This is excellent news, Rachel. Thank you. Coffin Bay oysters are my favourites.


  2. Oysters are truly one of my favourite foods. I love them in so many ways, yet the simplicity of freshly shucked with a little lemon juice and salt and sucking straight from the shell is divine.


    • I couldn’t agree more, Gary. When i was in the Eyre Peninsula earlier in the year i was lucky enough to be taken out to an oyster farm and we ate them straight from the sea, shucked on the boat. Now they were truly the best oysters i’ve ever eaten. I won’t be lucky enough to have them that fresh very often, i’m sure!


  3. I’m so eager to try an Angasi oyster! They’re so hard to find but hopefully I will one day 🙂


  4. I enjoyed reading those descriptions – very beautifully evocative.


  5. Oysters are such a large part of my childhood, I get chills whenever I read about them! I love this initiative and now I am dying to try an Angasi!.


  6. I love Angasis – I had them at the launch for the EP’s Seafood Guide maybe a year ago and they were such a revelation. I so prefer them to Pacifics.

    This guide is very exciting – a world first, and a great example of SA’s savvy and innovative seafood industry.


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