One question we hear from people accustomed to buying supermarket spices is if gourmet spices are really worth the extra money. Aren’t they all really about the same?
Well, those shiny well-organized containers may look tempting in market shelves; but have you ever wondered how long they have been sitting there waiting for someone to buy them? Or, how much time has passed since they were ground and packaged?
This is just one reason why supermarket spices and gourmet spices are not the same. To better understand the main differences between them, and why Gourmet spices are truly worth what you are paying for, we need to understand a few things first:
Spices get their flavors and aroma from volatile oils. These volatile oils are organic chemical compounds contained in almost every part of the plant from which the spice comes. Volatile oils are also known as essential oils. These oils tend to vaporize over time and waft away into the air carrying the spice’s flavor with it.
Once a spice is ground, its surface area is increased significantly. With more of the volatile oils exposed, they evaporate and oxidize much more quickly.
Some ground spices lose a noticeable amount of flavor after just a few months!
That tin of cinnamon that’s been in your mom’s spice collection for two years? Taste it and then taste fresh cinnamon as a comparison. You’ll be shocked at the difference.
Whole spices last longer than ground. They age at between 1/3 and 1/2 the rate of ground spices. Want to learn more tips on how to determine the quality of your spice? Read our take about it here.
Unlike fine wines, no spice gets better with age. The volatile oils not only fade away, but they also oxidize over time by reacting with the oxygen in the air around them; this changes the flavor of the spice in a way that may make it taste bland, bitter, or just “off”.
One thing you may be surprised to learn is that when you buy a supermarket spice, it may already be as much as A YEAR OLD before you even take it home and use it for the first time. As a result, the spice you just bought may have already lost more than half its flavor!
Here is the path your store-bought spice takes from the farm to your kitchen:
Some big companies have “gourmet” lines of spices that go through the same long, flavor-robbing supply chain as their regular spices do. The gourmet factor is mostly in how they apply different labels and differently colored lids. [*Cue shocked gasp*]
Before you buy a gourmet spice, you’ll want to know a little about the company form which you are purchasing it. Anyone can add the word “gourmet” to their product. Usually, supply chains are shorter when you buy spices directly from a small spice company—either from their web page or via e-commerce sites like Amazon. This cuts out more than half of the time spent in a traditional supply chain and gets you fresher and more flavorful spices.
In our effort to offer the best spices available, Burma Spice takes things a step further in shrinking the supply chain. Many of the most popular Burma Spice products go from farm to table in just a few weeks.
Consider our Dried Kaffir Lime Leaves. We take freshly picked leaves directly from farms in the USA. After washing the leaves, we dry them in a dark, cool room with low humidity. After three days, they’re ready to be packed and shipped to customers. We sell a lot of these and have new fresh leaves every two weeks. This makes a huge difference in flavor!
Not all spices can be grown with the same quality in the USA. The best Ceylon Cinnamon, for example, comes from Sri Lanka. However, since we grind the cinnamon ourselves in small batches, and then sell those small batches through our e-commerce, we’re able to cut off 90% of the flavor-robbing time spent in a supply chain.
Many of our customers have tried Burma Spice Ceylon Cinnamon side-by-side with store bought cinnamon and have been amazed at how pronounced the difference is.
We work directly with the best growers all over the world to assure that we are bringing to your table the freshest, most vibrant, and exotic spices. They are purchased directly from harvest and stored in climate-controlled conditions to ensure freshness and preserve their volatile organic oils. The intense flavor, color, and aroma attest to their freshness.