Heray Spice is a local business based in Chicago, Illinois with a social mission to help farmers with better wages while helping chefs with the freshest and highest quality spices from Afghanistan. At Heray Spice, they empower Afghanistan farmers by promoting fair trade practices and sustainable agriculture, while providing the highest quality spices to customers.
Q. What is your passion? Tell us about it.
A. Love for Culinary Arts: The passion for exploring and sharing unique flavors and culinary experiences can drive someone to start a spice business. The desire to create and offer high-quality spices that enhance the taste and aroma of dishes can be a motivating factor. Cultural Heritage and Tradition: Starting a spice business like Heray Spice could be driven by a deep connection to one's cultural heritage and a desire to preserve and share the culinary traditions of a specific region or country.
Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Mohammad Salehi, Co-Owner and CEO of Heray Spice, located in Chicago, IL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Heray Spice is a local business based in Chicago, Illinois, with a social mission to help farmers with better wages while helping chefs with the freshest and highest quality spices from Afghanistan.
We are also a farmer's co-operative based in Herat, Afghanistan, where we bring farmers together to train them on food safety, standard packaging, and safe processing of saffron. To import the highest quality saffron and pay our farmers better wages, Heray farms are owned by local farmers and have a partnership to only supply saffron for Heray Spice. Our farmers are being paid based on fair-trade principles. The primary customers in our business are individuals and companies in the food industry, such as restaurants, caterers, food manufacturers, and grocery stores. Additionally, individuals who enjoy cooking at home and preparing their own meals are also our customers.
With its gorgeous color and distinct flavor, this ancient spice is worth the price tag.
By Heather Riske Updated on January 4, 2023
Saffron is often referred to as “red gold,” and for good reason—it’s the world’s most expensive spice, retailing for anywhere from $10 to $20 for a gram of the real stuff. With a subtly sweet, hard-to-pin-down flavor, it also serves as a natural food dye and is the key to unlocking the brilliant golden color of classic dishes such as bouillabaisse, paella, and risotto alla Milanese. But what exactly is saffron, and why is it so expensive? Here, learn all about the precious spice, including where it comes from, how to cook with it, and how to tell the real deal from impostors.
What Is Saffron?
Believed to have first been discovered in Bronze Age Greece, saffron has been cultivated for thousands of years for use as a spice, dye and medicine. Saffron comes from the stigmas of crocus sativus, a flowering plant in the iris family with bright purple petals that’s also known as “saffron crocus” or “autumn crocus.” Each flower only produces a few of the prized, crimson-red stigmas (commonly referred to as threads), which are hand-picked and then dried. Native to southwest Asia, the flowers are somewhat temperamental and prefer a dry, semi-arid climate. Today, Iran is the world’s leading producer of saffron, but the spice is also cultivated in Afghanistan, Greece, Morocco, India, and Spain, among other countries.
Mohammed Salehi, founder of Heray Spice, based in Chicago, has been selling saffron in the US since 2017. He also recently introduced Afghan tea and cumin to his buyers. Salehi was an interpreter for the US military in Afghanistan, allowing him to arrive in the US on a special visa in 2014.
To understand saffron is to understand the immense work that goes into this product. Saffron begins with the Crocus sativus flower, a small purple flower that blooms in the autumn as opposed to other flowering herbs and spices that bloom in the spring.
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Mohammad Salehi was a farmer once, and a military linguist before he became the CEO of Heray Spice, an organic saffron company in Chicago encouraging Afghan farmers to raise saffron instead of opium poppies. Afghanistan is the third-largest producer of saffron and has some of the best quality in the world.
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Sustainably Sourced Spices
Sourced Directly, Fairly & Transparently From Heray Farmers Cooperative in Herat Afghanistan.