Illustration by Rupert Bottenberg

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Vancouver Island’s Ultimate Oyster (

Eating an oyster from the waters around Vancouver Island is a way to taste the mysteries of the Pacific Ocean in a single bite. Oysters owe much of their particular qualities – flavor, size, colour, shell shape – to the salinity level and depth of the water in which they are raised. Interestingly, though each of the 12 varieties of oyster from Vancouver Island has its own very distinct qualities, they all originate from the same seed, further underlining the importance of water depth and salinity in their flavor profile.

Consider the Kusshi. Named after the Japanese word for “ultimate” or “precious,” this perfect bivalve is now one of the most sought-after oysters in the world. Raised by only one shellfish grower, Keith Reid of Stellar Bay Shellfish in Vancouver Island’s Comox Valley region, this small (just over five cm) oyster is raised in deep trays, and an aggressive tumbling process after harvest smooths any frills off the unusually deep cup of its midnight-purple shell, making it easy to shuck without any breakage. The taste? A perfect balance of ultra-clean brackishness and a fresh, almost floral flavor, with a meaty mouthfeel due to the slight stress tumbling. Read article