Which country has the best saffron in the world?
In this article to review, we will examine which country has the best saffron in the world?
Saffron is one of the most fragrant and luxury spices in the world known as “Red Gold”. Anyone who uses this expensive spice is looking for the highest quality saffron in the world since most of the lower grade types of saffron don’t taste and smell as good as they should do. Though, when buying the saffron, you should consider the factors that determine a good quality type to make sure you get the quality equivalent to the money you pay for it. If you are the person who holds this question in mind that “which country has the best saffron in the world?”, reading this article will help you in finding a fair answer.
Saffron is derived from stigmas a purple flower named “Crocus”. The stigmas of this flower are handpicked and dried in open air and sunlight to obtain the best saffron which has a sweet and earthy smell, as well as beautiful reddish-orange color. This expensive spice has a variety of usages in different industries such as the food, pharmaceutical, and perfume industry. There reason why saffron is so expensive that is that each Crocus flower has only three stigmas and these stigmas should be picked deliberately by hand.
History of saffron
Although there is debate on the origin of saffron, many books and articles refer it to Iran. This plant has largely been used since 3500 years ago. The word “saffron” itself is borrowed from Arabic (Zafaran), and ultimately from Persian (Zarparan) which means “golden leaves”. According to documentations, Iranians were the first people who cultivated and exported the saffron to the other parts of the world and introduced its benefits to different cultures including Arabic and Chinese.
ISO 3632, a measure for saffron quality
There are different types of saffron in terms of quality and strength. Age is one of the other determining factors of the best quality saffron. The best saffron is one that is consisted mostly of the upper part of the stigma which has the most concentration of smell and color. Iranian, Kashmiri, and Spanish saffron are among the top quality types in the world and each one is classified into various grades. For example, the grades of Iranian saffron from highest quality and strength to lowest are Sargo, Pushal, and Bunch.
Besides the specific classifications, there is an international standard for measuring the quality of saffron. Based on the ISO 3632 international standard, the quality of saffron is measured in the laboratory for three main factors including color, taste, and aroma. Unfortunately, there is no information about the grading and quality of most saffron in the market and it makes it harder for consumers to choose the best possible saffron when facing a variety of brands from different origins. Therefore, most people try to rely on their taste to choose the best saffron. But, is there any way to discriminate original, high-quality saffron from a fake one?
How to choose the best saffron?
One way to identify the pure and high-quality saffron is by tasting. Saffron itself doesn’t have any taste and it’s a little bitter. Some profiteer merchants try to add some sugar into saffron stigmas to increase its weight. So, if you felt a sweetness in your mouth when tasting saffron, make sure that it’s fake. Another way of choosing good quality saffron is by determining its color. The best saffron is dark red and its color won’t change when it is dissolved in water. Finally, you can distinguish the original saffron by its smelling. High-quality saffron smells somehow between honey and alfalfa.
Which countries produce the most saffron in the world?
Rank one: Iran
With approximately 430 tons of production in 2019, Iran is ranked first among the countries which produce and export saffron in the world. Since Iran is not a member of WTO and is subjected to sanctions, most of its production is sold at an unreasonably lower price to other countries such as Spain, Hong Kong, and UAE. With rich soil and cold and arid areas, Iran is the most suitable country for cultivating saffron. Ghaenat is a very popular brand in the field of saffron production. Moreover, Gonabad saffron has a registered trademark from FAO for the traditional cultivation and irrigation methods.
Rank two: Spain
Spain is the second-largest producer of saffron in the world after Iran. Universities in Spain largely focus on their research to improve the quality as well as cropper yield of saffron. The districts where saffron is being cultivated in Spain are perfectly similar to those of Iran such as Ghaenat. Although Spain produces only 25 tons of saffron, it is one of the most important exporters of this magic spice.
Rank three: Afghanistan
According to the latest reports in 2018, Afghanistan has produced 18 tons of saffron and is rapidly increasing its share in global saffron export share in the world. The 58 million dollar export market of this golden spice, is an attractive market for foreign investors. Because of similarities in climate, Iranian and Afghan saffron are pretty similar. Afghanistan has recently imported 13 tons of saffron to India and is finding customers in many other countries such as the USA and Saudi Arabia.
Rank four: India
In Kashmir province, India more than 120 thousand families are working in the saffron industry. In India, about two hundred villages located in five districts of Kashmir are producing high-quality Kashmiri saffron which has a great aroma. India also has an important role in saffron trading by importing 11 percent of total saffron production in the world.
Rank five: Greece
The lands located in the north of Greece are suitable for cultivating saffron. Greece produces about 8 tons of saffron per year which have an export value of 9.47 million dollars. Although Spain is the main European saffron exporter, Greece has introduced itself as one of the main exporters in Europe.
Any attempt to answer this question is somehow biased. To understand which country has the best saffron in the world, we need to refer to international organizations that measure the quality of saffron based on reliable measures. Recently, the international institute of food taste and quality measurement has announced Afghanistan’s saffron as the best saffron in the world for the fourth consecutive year. However, many believe that these results are somehow affected by the political issues and the sanctions imposed on Iran by western countries.
As mentioned before, many countries are trying to gain a share in the saffron market. This is why the competition is getting more difficult in this profitable trade. Iran solely produces nearly 95 percent of saffron production. However, it should employ some strategies to keep its position in this competitive market. One of the most important success factors in getting a competitive advantage in the saffron market is preserving the saffron quality during the transportation process. Suitable and standard packaging not only helps to preserve the quality of saffron but also helps to increase the value-added of this magic spice.