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How Can You Tell the Quality of Spices?

Posted by on 9/1/2022
Spices equate to culinary magic. When consumed, they are powerful flavor sources that transport our senses to other countries and time periods, exposing us to a variety of cultures and customs. However, since they are shipped worldwide from a variety of regions, by the time they reach you they can vary in quality and freshness. This begs the question: how can you tell the quality of spices? Whether shopping in-person or online, there are indicators you can use to help ensure what you purchase is fresh and of good quality. Explore the guide below to learn how to check the quality of spices before making a purchase you might later regret.

The In-Store Experience: What to Look For in Spices

In-person shopping may not seem convenient. It takes longer, oftentimes it requires travel, and it can be more expensive. But, when it comes to spices, the opportunity to put in a little footwork comes with distinct advantages, such as your ability to see and smell the exact spices you might purchase. Some basic indicators of how to check the quality of spices and their freshness include:
  • Color. If the color of the spice you are considering seems pale or muted, avoid buying. The item is likely of inferior quality and past its peak for freshness. 
  • Aroma. If possible, take a whiff before buying. If the aroma is strong, that’s a good sign of quality. 
  • Packaging. Spices sold in transparent packs make it easy to spot problems inside, including bad color or, in unfortunate cases, mold. If the packaging is not clear, be wary. 
  • Cleanliness. If the packaging allows you to see the product, does it look like what it should? If it’s a whole spice, is there a lot of spice dust and debris in the container? If it’s a powder, does the color and consistency seem the same throughout the product? A quality product should be clean and consistent. Remember that what you pay for a product is for what you can use.

Spice Shopping Online

If shopping online, obviously you are not in a position to investigate color or aroma, but there are other indicators you can work with that speak to freshness and quality. And, just like with in-person shopping, the online experience has its ways to check the quality of spices. The key to buying spices online is to do your homework to ensure you are shopping with a reputable retailer that invests in quality. A seller that is focused on spices and dried food items is also often a factor to consider, as a specialty spice shop most likely will have more recent items than a large store that stocks a huge range of unrelated products. Remember to ask questions to yourself as you browse the seller’s website. Does the seller provide you with the country of origin? What’s the packaging like? Any idea if they use additives? The answers to these questions matter. Other important factors include whether the seller ships quickly and if their products are non-irradiated. If orders are shipped fast, that helps preserve freshness and quality. And if products are non-irradiated, that means your order hasn’t undergone a chemical process that diminishes the quality of nutrition, texture or taste.

Ground Spices, Mixes and Rubs

For spices purchased that come already ground — or spice blends and rubs — freshness won’t last as long so it’s a good idea to use those quickly. Also be mindful of where you purchase from; not all sellers list the additives they put in spice blends and rubs on packaging. If you buy spices, mixes and rubs that come in transparent packaging, that’s a good sign which indicates the seller is not trying to hide anything.

Shop San Francisco Herb Co.

San Francisco Herb Co. is a premier wholesaler of spices and herbs. Whether you shop in-store or online, we offer a wide variety of non-irradiated bulk herbs, spices and loose-leaf teas that come in transparent packaging. Celebrating nearly five decades of being in business, we pride ourselves in providing a quality product, making it easy for you to know exactly what you are purchasing and we always ship orders quickly. Our friendly staff are ready to assist you, if you have any questions.