Yauco, Rwanda Blue Bourbon, Mi Esperanza, Los Planes, Blue Mountain, Fazenda Santa Ines, Molokai, St. Helena, Luwak, Hacienda La Esmeralda. The top ten most sought after coffee beans in the world - with prices to match.
Hacienda La Esmeralda, sold only at auction, could set you back US$350 per pound. Not the bean for the average coffee drinkers' early morning kick start in preparation for the rush hour commute. For the coffee connoisseur, however, it's another story.
Like a rare Burgundy or Beluga caviar - they are luxury treats that come along infrequently, if at all.
So, how does coffee (or these particular coffee beans), or caviar, or wine relate to pearls ? In particular, how does it relate to the oysters that produce the pearls that create the Colours of Fiji ?
The unique characteristics of these coffee beans are born of their origins - the distinctive conditions under which the plants are selected, planted, nurtured, harvested and roasted. The best coffee, much like the best pearls, originate from volcanic locations. Unique varieties or cultivars grown in rich volcanic soils abundant with natural minerals, particular altitudes and levels of rainfall intertwined with seemingly insignificant factors such as surrounding vegetation and wildlife all impart subtle flavours that distinguish these beans from all others.
They can not be reproduced anywhere else on earth.
Fiji Pearls are born of a locally adapted parent oyster and environment combination that cannot be replicated. Our oysters are a specific subspecies found only here.
Scientifically speaking, they are Fijian Margatifera Pinctada Cumingi-Typica Hybrids (see below) - a naturally evolved hybrid species of black-lipped oyster endemic to our waters.
Extensive research over many years by Justin Hunter and his team at J Hunter Pearls has advanced the understanding of oyster specificity enormously in Fiji.
Distinct from and superior in terms of pearl quality to it's cousin, the Tahitian Margatifera Pinctada Cumingi the comparison between Tahitian Black Pearls and Fiji Pearls is akin to comparing Nescafe Instant with Hacienda La Esmeralda, Beaujolais with vintage Bergundy, or Cod Roe with Beluga Caviar; the former being mass produced with everyday quality and availability, and the latter unique and exclusive to a particular producing region and it's local conditions.
In the case of Tahitian Black Pearls the market has been in decline for some time due to overproduction from inferior oysters and a significantly poorer product. Here in Fiji major steps are being taken to ensure our pearl production maintains the highest standards.
J Hunter Pearls of Savusavu, Valili Pearls of Wailevu, and Civa Fiji Pearls of Taveuni - the only three producers of export quality pearls in Fiji - have formed an alliance pooling resources to increase the profile and guarantee the quality of Fiji pearls. A mutually agreed high quality grading system for pearls destined to the export market is a first for pearl farming - worldwide.
In addition there are agreed environmentally friendly farming practices, rural community development programs, staff training and empowerment processes, quality control systems, research data sharing, technology exchange, and a very high quality pearl production system control for export. This system will ensure that only high quality pearls will be exported from these 3 farms, maintaining and increasing the solid reputation of Fiji Pearls in international markets.
“This is a great day for me; this agreement will give me great guidance and great support in growing my farm. It will ensure better profitability for my farm in the long run and better support in developing my exporter skills. I am so pleased with the outcome of today. Quality is the way forward for me. Making great pearls is my best protection against failure.”
Jone Maivalili, Valili Pearls
“Today is the first day of a new era for the Fijian pearl industry. I have been a pearl exporter for almost 10 years and I have witnessed first hand the steady decline of prices on the international markets. Through these difficult times we have maintained a strong reputation abroad by always delivering a unique product. Quality is the only way for us to maintain our profitability. By establishing this common standard of minimal requirements for export on a voluntary basis, we are sending a strong signal to the international markets that we are in it for quality and sustainability. Our buyers will not only buy a quality pearl, they will buy sustainability, rural community development and environment-friendly farm practices.”
Justin Hunter, J Hunter Pearls
“This is an incredible opportunity for us. We will be exporting our first pearls this year after 5 years of strenuous work and investment. Being able to profit from the vast experience of Jone and Justin is so great. By having a common benchmark to abide by, we are joining forces on marketing strategies to be more efficient and strong. It is extremely rare that you see competitors in the same market join forces. This is not about individual farms competing against each other; this is about us, together, being the best in the world.”
Claude Michel Prevost, Civa Fiji Pearls
Hacienda La Esmeralda is a product sold only at auction. Our own product Civa Fiji Pearls are also primarily sold at auction to discerning buyers, however a small percentage are withheld from each harvest for local sales.
As a coffee connoisseur you may not be able to buy an individual coffee bean from the worlds top ten plantations, however for the pearl connoisseur we have single pearls of character that encapsulate the essence of Taveuni's uniqueness.