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  • Writer's pictureThe 29 States

The World's Most Expensive Spice 🤑

The world's most expensive spice. What is it? What makes it so expensive? Where does it come from? These are all important questions. In this week's blog post, we will uncover the details about this wonderful spice, helping you to gain a deeper understanding of its history, phytochemical properties and use today. So let's get to it.

As some of the foodies amongst us may know, the world's most expensive spice is indeed Saffron. Its price is not only a testament to its distinct flavour and colour but its intense cultivating requirements. Saffron comes from the Crocus Sativus, commonly known as Saffron Crocus or Saffron Bulbs. Generally, it takes around 70,000 Crocus flowers and 200 hours of labour to produce just 450 grams of Saffron! At around £5-10 a gram, the spice is best used for special dishes or occasions.

Today, Iran and Spain are the major producers and exporters of the spice, which is commonly used in their staple rice, pilaf and paella dishes respectively. In Indian cuisine, saffron is used in biryanis, milk sweets and rice dishes which have been commonly eaten at large banquets and weddings throughout the country's history.

Saffron Crocus Cultivation (Source: Rowhani Saffron Co.) The spices famous bright red-orange colour is down to the chemical structures of its molecules. The most abundant pigment is called crocin. This makes Saffron water-soluble and is the reason why it works so well as a colouring agent for non-fatty foods like rice. In order to extract its flavours and colour, it is usually hydrated in a small amount of warm or hot liquid before being added to a dish.

Its flavours can be characterised by a notable bitterness and a penetrating hay-like nuance. This is again down to the chemical structure of the molecule picrocrocin. When this is dried during the manufacturing process, it moderates the bitterness and develops the spices well-loved aroma.

When looking for Saffron in markets or stores, we recommend looking for deep uniform coloured threads, as this usually indicates a higher quality strain. If the tips of the Saffron are not orange, this may indicate inferior quality with the Saffron most likely dyed. Although ground Saffron can be used, it loses its potency quickly and can be mixed with other products making it impure.

The highest quality parts of the plant's stigma stores are found in the sargol and negin. Therefore, at The 29 States, we aim to exclusively use these parts of the flower in our Saffron infused dishes, maximising the flavour and aroma of our foods. If you're interested in trying some of our more luxurious Saffron infused dishes, send us an email at

Saffron Spice Threads (Source: The 29 States)

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