Saffron: A Short History

The saffron crocus is native to Southwest Asia and was probably first cultivated in or near Persia (modern day Iran).

Saffron is a spice that comes from the flower of Crocus Sativus, commonly known as the "saffron crocus". A Saffron crocus can grow to 20–30 cm in diameter and bears up to four flowers, each with three vivid crimson stigmas. It is these stigmas, also known as threads or strands, that are harvested and eaten as Saffron

Why Is Saffron So Expensive?

Saffron is one of the most precious spices in the world, retailing for more than $500 an ounce. It is so expensive because it is an extremely labour-intensive crop, when harvested. The stigmas need to be extracted by hand from each of the crocuses.

La Mancha Saffron

Saffron is of vital importance as a condiment, both economically and culturally in Castile-La Mancha in Spain. Saffron was originally bought to this area by the Arab settlers, and has remained a vital part of the economy ever since. Real Spanish-grown La Mancha saffron has protected status and this is displayed on the product packaging. Spanish growers fought hard for Protected Status because they felt that imports of Iranian saffron re-packaged in Spain and sold as "Spanish Mancha saffron" were undermining the genuine La Mancha brand.

Spanish saffron is divided into grades. Names to look for are coupesuperiorLa Mancha, or Rio. Coupe is the top of the line and this is what is used to make Simply Saffron. Couple has the minimal yellow stems and very low/no floral waste, and thus highest amount of crocin, one of the key essential oils in saffron.

Saffron Quality

The Saffron market suffers from inconsistent quality, the bulking up of the weight (using floral waste, stones, etc) to increase the price, and adulteration, which can vary between the dying of strands to the substitution of saffron powder with other cheaper spices, such as turmeric.

For the best results you should only use Grade 1 Coupe Saffron. We are proud of the quality of Saffron we use in Simply Saffron and publish the specification as a proof of quality.

Saffron Substitutes

Tumeric is known as the ‘poor mans Saffron’. Whilst it adds colour, the flavour and end result is well below what you can expect from using the best quality Saffron