There are five main species of oysters made regularly available in oyster bars and markets throughout the United States. You may not recognize the species names, but any oyster eating novice will recognize some of their trade names: Belon (Ostrea Edulis), Olympia (Ostrea Conchaphila), Kumamoto (Crassostrea Sikamea), Wellfleet (Crassostrea Virginica), and Hood Canal (Crassostrea Gigas). The only actual species native to the U.S. are the Virginica and Olympia, the rest were implants from foreign shores, but today all are staples in any self-respecting oyster palace. So it is very rare when a "new" species of oyster reaches these shores and is made available for purchase, but that is just what is happening at BlackSalt Market for a limited time and I can honestly say I haven't been this excited to taste an oyster in quite a while.
Let me introduce the rare and unique Ostrea Chilensis, also known in New Zealand as the Tio Point or Bluff Oyster. Tio Point oysters are a Chilensis species oyster grown fully submerged in the pristine Marlborough Sounds located northeast of New Zealand's South Island. The Tio Point is a flat oyster and is closely related to the European Flat oyster, or as we recognize it, the Belon. They can only be found growing wild in Chile and New Zealand and are highly prized in both countries as choice delicacies.
Tio Points are produced by Kono, a Maori owned business, and are grown sub-tidally using the rope method in the clean, nutrient-rich waters of the scarcely populated Marlborough Islands. These growing methods allow for the oysters to grow cleanly, uninterrupted and with easy access to flavor boosting nutrients. The resulting oyster has a plump, firm meat, with zesty aromas, metallic brine, and a slightly sweet, steely crisp. The Tio finishes long and strong and leaves the mouth with an exotic burst of flavor unparalleled at the oyster bar. It may not be for the uninitiated oyster slurper but, if you're a veteran the experience to taste a Tio Point could create a whole new base line of oyster excellence.
Tio is the Maori word for "oyster" and Tio Point Oysters exemplify what quality oysters can be and why we are so attracted to them. It's an experience, a flavor, a moment of meeting nature in an unadulterated bite. Tio Point oysters won't be an item that we will be able to bring in often, as the costs prohibit this, but they are special enough to at least try once. Every oyster tells a story. The subtleties of flavor betray in a moment what took nature years to develop. Harsh winters and long summers spill out in crisp meats, flaked with steel resolve and electric brine. The Tio Point is a story unlike any you have heard before and for a short while your mouth can listen in on its memoir.