Posted on January 15, 2014
Believe it or not this question is typed into Google around 10 times per day. As we couldn’t find a really good answer online we’ve decided to try and answer it in this article.
For a retail buyer good saffron is surprisingly hard to find in Australia, there are really only 2 options, you can buy saffron in a shop, or you can buy it online.
The major supermarket chains Coles and Woolworths do stock saffron. In Coles we found Masterfoods saffron ½ gram for around $7, and in Woolworths we found Hoyts brand saffron 100mg (1/10 gram) for around $14.
Both packs contained saffron threads and not saffron powder. You should never purchase saffron powder unless you really trust your supplier. It is just too risky as you really don’t know what ingredients have been ground up to make the powder, and with saffron being so expensive it is very tempting for the packagers to add less expensive ingredients (turmeric for example) to bulk it out.
Of the two brands Hoyts brand is far more expensive than Masterfoods. But is it better ? We bought a pack of each to compare the difference.
The first thing we noticed about the Masterfoods saffron is that it had been repackaged. On the label it says packed in Singapore from imported ingredients.
There is actually no country of origin on the label so we are guessing Moroccan or Afghan as it is the cheapest and is not hard to obtain in bulk from overseas. There is also no grading on the label so we are assuming it is grade 2. Labelling laws in Australia don't make it compulsory to state the grade, but if the manufacturer does state the grade then it has to be a true statement. In our view, if it were grade 1 the manufacturer would surely state that it is grade 1.
This is evident from the high yellow thread count observable in the Masterfoods saffron, and the fact that the threads are actually quite long indicating a cheaper harvest.
We put the Masterfoods saffron in water and it held its colour indicating that it probably does not have artificial colourings added.
Lastly the Masterfoods saffron really seemed to be missing an aroma, it did smell of saffron but when we compared it to our own Sahar Khiz Persian saffron the aroma was noticeably less. We are guessing that it is either old stock, or has staled during the repackaging process in Singapore. It really should have a strong pungent aroma.
Singapore is a humid climate and it seemed to have taken on some moisture leaving it to feel a little spongy. Having absorbed some moisture it had lost its fresh aroma. The other problem of course with repackaging is that we really don’t know when the saffron was originally harvested and packed so it may well be a few years old.
The Hoyts saffron we found in Woolworths is actually made by Tas-saff and is grown and harvested in Australia in Tasmania. The pack size of 100mg is very small and only good for 1 recipe which in our view will suit the one time cook, but is really not practical if you plan to use saffron ongoing.
The yellow thread count was less although we did still find yellow threads in it, and when we placed it in water we were satisfied to see that it didn’t leach any artificial colours. The Hoyts / Tas-saff saffron has been grown and packed locally, and it had a reasonable aroma given that the pack size is very small. The quality we thought was very good though it was a small pack size.
The other thing you will find in the supermarkets is artificial saffron powder. Please please stay away from artificial saffron it is basically just food colouring, and if all you want is yellow food I would recommend turmeric, or simply red food colouring. It will turn your food yellow, it is much cheaper than the artificial saffron powder, and at least you can use it in some other dishes later.
Moving away from the supermarkets you will find good saffron in specialty shops. I would recommend looking in Persian shops, Indian shops, and Arabic shops.
If you are fortunate enough to live near a Persian (Iranian) supermarket I would almost guarantee that they would stock a good quality saffron. Persian cooks know saffron very well and it is used in many traditional Persian dishes.
A Persian shopkeeper would not risk his or her reputation in the community by stocking poor quality saffron, so ask them about it I am sure they would love to talk to you about their saffron. Quality saffron should be fresh and fragrant with a recent packing date (less than 12 months), dark burgundy red with no yellow threads, and it should by brittle dry. My favorite Persian supermarket to buy saffron in Sydney is Super Sahel at 337 Penshurst St in Willoughby. To buy saffron in Melbourne there are a few different Persian supermarkets in Box Hill.
The world of saffron is intriguing and saffron has an amazing history as a spice. Our mission at Saffrondust is to take the hard work out of buying saffron. We buy the best quality grade 1 (sargol) Persian saffron direct from the manufacturers in Iran, and we guarantee quality because we know saffron.
Please browse our range at Saffrondust.com.au and when you are ready to buy saffron you can be assured that we have sourced the top quality saffron in the world and you are buying highest grade saffron for a lower price than you would pay for lesser quality saffron in the supermarket. You can view a sample of our range below, otherwise head over to our home page to view our complete offer !
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