9 Boutique Spice Brands Bringing a World of Flavor to Your Kitchen
Burlap & Barrel
This company, cofounded by Ethan Frisch and Ori Zohar, specializes in single-origin spices from small farms and cooperatives around the world, like a savory-sweet smoked pimentón paprika ($8) from the Spanish region of Extremadura. In 2021, Burlap & Barrel is releasing a new product about once a week: look out for wild Timur peppercorns, harvested with the help of a Nepalese nonprofit, and dehydrated ramps handpicked in the Adirondacks. burlapandbarrel.com.
It all started with turmeric. In 2016, Mumbai-born Sana Javeri Kadri realized that this golden powder was becoming increasingly trendy — but that the Indian farmers who harvested the plant saw little profit, since the country's muddied supply chains remained rooted in colonial structures. A year later, Diaspora Co. launched its first product: Pragati turmeric ($12) grown in Andhra Pradesh by organic farmer Prabhu Kasaraneni. The company now offers 21 spice varietals sourced from India and Sri Lanka — all purchased directly from family-owned producers. diasporaco.com.
To create this Mekko dry rub ($10), Essie Spice founder Essie Bartels channeled her childhood in Ghana through roasted peanut and grains of Selim — the Xylopia aethiopica tree's pungent seedpods, common in West African soups and stews. But her flavors wander far and wide, with other internationally influenced products like a tamarind-guava-vanilla marinade and a mango-onion relish spiked with Jamaican Scotch bonnets. essiespice.com.
This company specializes in premium-grade saffron threads (from $22), carefully harvested on a family-owned estate in Afghanistan's Herat province. Founder Tahmina Ghaffer, who was born in Kabul, started Moonflowers with the hope of bringing attention to the country's "red gold" while supporting the women who, until recently, made up 80 percent of its saffron farm workers. The future of these female farmers' work is now tragically unclear. Visit the site for a list of nonprofits, refugee organizations, and Afghan activists to support and follow. moonflowers.co.
New York Shuk
Warm, rosy baharat for a big bowl of couscous. Earthy hawaij for fresh Yemeni coffee. And, of course, za'atar ($10) — the pungent blend of Syrian oregano, sumac, and sesame that can be found on tables from Jeddah to Jerusalem. New York Shuk cofounders Leetal and Ron Arazi draw on their family's roots in Morocco, Lebanon, Israel, and Turkey (and now, New York City) to bring the fundamentals of a Middle Eastern pantry to a wider audience. nyshuk.com.
The brainchild of chef Meherwan Irani — founder of Chai Pani and other beloved restaurants in Asheville, North Carolina — Spicewalla ships in bulk to restaurant kitchens across the country. But home cooks, rejoice: the website stocks practically every blend you can think of. (Five spice? Chai masala? Herbes de Provence? They've got it.) There's also an impressive selection of whole spices in consumer-friendly sizes. Try these fruity, fragrant pink peppercorns ($8) for a pop of color on your next dessert. spicewallabrand.com.
Founded as an importer of high-quality olive oils from owner Mehdi Boujrada's native Morocco, Villa Jerada has since expanded to seasonings, spreads, and rubs from across North Africa and beyond. After adding harissa and preserved lemons to your cart, try their take on the ubiquitous (and rather free-form) Maghrebi spice blend ras el hanout ($10), here made with rose petals, anise, nutmeg, and nearly a dozen other aromatics. villajerada.com.
A version of this story first appeared in the September 2021 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline The Spice of Life.