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How To Tell If Your Saffron Is Good Quality

How To Tell If Your Saffron Is Good Quality

When you’re looking to buy saffron (the most expensive spice in the world) and are spending your hard-earned cash on this legendary spice, you naturally want to know that not only are you are getting the real thing, but also that it is of a high quality. Join us as we unravel the secrets of identifying good quality saffron and explore the realm of fake saffron to safeguard your culinary adventures!

What Is Fake Saffron?

Saffron is a big business and unfortunately as in most trades, there are dishonest sellers who are trying to make money by selling a fake product. When looking for saffron, you can potentially come across low-quality saffron, misleadingly packaged saffron with additives or you can purchase a product that may not even be saffron at all.

To make fake saffron, some people use corn silk that they spray with colorings to make it look like saffron and some products contain all kinds of fillers that can be harmful to the consumer. 

Fake saffron is sold at a cheaper price to lure people in but it’s a useless product that could be dangerous to consume, so there’s no point in purchasing saffron that you don’t know is the real thing.

Additionally we want to note that sometimes, to make it seem like you’re getting more saffron than you are, some sellers add sprays of water which can add 10-15% more weight to the product. This sounds crazy, we know! Saffron should not feel moist when you get it – the threads should be dry and delicate and have a fresh aroma. If your saffron feels moist, then it has most likely had water added to it. 

A wooden spoon filled with high quality red saffron, adding vibrant color and flavor to dishes.

What Does High Quality Saffron Look Like?

Now that you have a better idea of how to look out for saffron that's entirely or partly fake, we want to let you in on a few secrets on how to ensure that the saffron you've bought is good quality.

Good quality saffron has a deep red color and the threads are usually between 1.2 to 3.8 inches long. It’s best to avoid buying ground or powdered saffron as it might have been mixed with low quality saffron or other spices of the same or similar color, like turmeric or marigold. 

If you want to purchase quality saffron, you need to find a reputable, registered and trustworthy seller who can provide you with a high quality product and answer any questions you might have about the origin of the saffron and provide test reports if needed. 

High quality saffron usually comes in small and airtight packaging to protect the spice. If it’s sold in a big bag and seems cheap, then it’s probably not the real thing!

Characteristics of High-Quality Saffron

Let's hone in on the specifics of high quality saffron. These three characteristics will give you an idea of the quality of your saffron so study them closely.

The Color Spectrum

When assessing saffron quality, pay attention to the color spectrum. Genuine saffron displays a vivid, consistent hue. Conducting a water test (steps outlined below!) can be useful, as real saffron releases color gradually

Aroma Assessment

Authentic saffron is characterized by a distinct, earthy scent. Unlike imitation saffron, which tends to have a fading aroma, the real deal lingers with potency.

Thread Appearance

Inspect saffron threads for uniformity in length and purity. Premium saffron often features red strands with yellow tips, indicating a superior grade.

Testing Your Saffron for Authenticity

Taste & Smell Test

If you’ve had saffron before, a simple taste and smell test might be enough to tell you if the saffron you have purchased is real. Smell the saffron – does it have that very distinct aroma that you’re expecting? Take a thread and put it in your mouth – what does it taste like? 

Some experts say that saffron should always smell sweet but never taste sweet. Floral and honey are common flavors that are used to describe saffron, and honey and hay are often used to describe the scent. If you’ve had good quality saffron before, you should be able to recognize both the taste and the scent.  

Touch Test

Quality saffron should feel fully dry when touched, leaving a distinct aroma on your hands. Another test involves infusing saffron threads in cold water and then rub them back and forth between your fingers a few times; real saffron threads will remain intact, while fake saffron will fall apart like dust.

The Baking Soda Test

A quick and easy test involves a magical mixture of baking soda and water. Add saffron, and note its transformation. If it turns yellow, it's pure; if red, it may be altered or fake saffron.

The Cold Water Test

Another simple test is to put a few threads of saffron in cold water. All kinds of saffron (even fake or low quality) will release some color into the water but pure saffron will not release much color straight away. Instead, real good quality saffron will release a golden hue from the threads slowly and it can take as long as 10-15 minutes before the water turns completely yellow. 

Like the baking soda test above, red is not a good result and usually means you’ve bought altered saffron or fake saffron containing chemical colorings. 

The saffron threads themselves should not lose their red color either. If you see the threads going pale or white, that’s another sign of a fake product. 

Armed with these meticulous tests, you can confidently embark on your saffron journey, ensuring that each culinary creation is adorned with the finest spice. If you're eager to delve even deeper into things you should know about saffron, don't miss our comprehensive post on the subject. May your saffron always be of the highest quality, transforming your culinary adventures into a vibrant tapestry of flavors.

Always visit a reputable spice seller when you want to buy quality saffron to ensure you’re getting a high-quality product that’s safe and comes with all the flavor, aroma and health benefits that you’re looking for. 

To Wrap Up

Armed with these tests, you can confidently identify high-quality saffron while steering clear of fake counterparts. May your saffron always be of the highest quality, and may your culinary adventures be filled with vibrant flavors! 

Additional Resources

For those eager to delve deeper into the world of saffron, check out these recommended readings:

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