Spice, change is gonna come

How technology is changing the spice trade.


Anyone order from Burlap & Barrel before?


Nice read.


Interesting partners.

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I started with these spices.


Nice read, thanks! How are the spices? Is there a noticeable difference in taste?

I really like what I have used so far. The cinnamon bark works well for pour over coffee and flavoring sugar. The flavor notes are def different and more pronounced in the paprika and cardamom. The thyme is grassy but also minty and the small batch sizes will get used by me and my wife regularly. The star anise is very fresh which is hard to find.


Interesting concept, I’d definitely like to try their tumerics side by side to see if the nuances are at they say.

Yet most spice labels only say where the product was packed, not where it was grown.

A few years ago we visited Grenada which branded itself as “the spice isle” and claimed to be the second biggest nutmeg producer after Indonesia. After we got home we checked out the jar in our cupboard which said made in the EU. Knowing how absurd this was and still being curious we emailed Schwartz, but they couldn’t tell us where they’d come from originally.

Can definitely see there being a market for this

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Be sure to report back.

Great article @Rooster - thanks for posting and sharing your opinions on the spices!


@Rooster, thanks for describing the spices! I’d like to try them. Poking around, I found a Wall Street Journal article (probably behind a paywall) that recommends several spice sources:

I’ve gotten a couple of spices from Curio since they have a shop local to me, but now I’m curious to try the others!


Nice list of resources! I’ve been meaning to make a drive down to Curio Spice sometime. Do you think the shop is of sufficient interest to merit an in-person visit?

I’d add Oaktown Spice too.

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Local to AVL. They make blends for local restaurants. I plan to get some.

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They have an interesting variety of spices and sample jars so you can smell many of them, and the person who was working the day I visited was quite helpful. I wouldn’t make a long trip just to visit Curio, but if you’re in the area, I think it’s definitely worth stopping by.

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Thank you. Exactly the thoughtful input I was hoping for!

I’ve been thinking about how to frame my thoughts on this, because they’re complicated.

On the one hand, of course it’s positive that farmers get more of the pie, and have incentives that encourage change and growth. (For eg the indian govt recently banned export of onions bec middlemen were manipulating the market - both squeezing farmers and jacking up prices for consumers).

On the other hand, the way these new businesses price the product will never be accessible to the main users of the product. I’m thinking quinoa and Peru, thought I know that’s not exactly comparable.

So it’s nice as a boutique product for occasional users, but I wonder about the impact to the “normal” user. For eg, I can’t afford to buy my usual stock of spices from these outlets - I use “too much.”


I agree some of these spice shops and sourced spices can appear pricey. I find that true of local shops with similar to inferior dry goods locally more and more. I can buy cardamom in a grocery shelf locally, online and in a spice shop. Each will differ in freshness, price and flavor. I like having the choices. I also like supporting small and large shop owners that go the extensive mile to offer me choice. I enjoy learning about the product. So, at this point in my food edu, I’m trying to make sound buying decisions based on what my food prep needs are; where the quality and value are. A lousy cardamom pod can ruin a dish…or elevate it.

The paprika I purchased above is superior to anything I have used so far. The texture is amazing on deviled eggs and my roasted chicken was delicious sprinkled with it. The price was not expensive at all and I’m so glad I took a chance on it.


In the case of Burlap & B, this mid sized enterprise took a gamble and is trying to help growers earn a living by attracting a wider customer base by using social media and print advertising/stories to offer Info, quality, choice and value. Without the investment in these growers I may never experience these spices this easily. A good deal of work goes into this operation as I’m sure you know is reflected in the cost, which I consider worthwhile.

My sister worked for a tea importer years ago. This entailed ordering tea from Sri Lanka, running taste tests and trading the commodity to all the major brands you find on a grocery shelf. She never drinks it -sawdust. I see a similarity in the spice trade.


The thyme bloomed In a batch of soup incredibly well. Super fresh.


We have the Burlap & Barrel Wild Mountain Cumin (whole seeds)–it’s really fragrant, and even better than Penzey’s cumin seeds which is usually my go-to.