Treat Your Taste Buds With Spices That Michelin-Starred Chefs Use

(Bloomberg Businessweek) -- The path most spices take from the exotic places they’re grown to your less exotic kitchen cabinet is a long one, both in miles traveled and time elapsed. Which is why the pepper you grind onto a rib-eye and the cinnamon you sprinkle over your oatmeal are already pale, tired shadows of their original selves. Burlap & Barrel, based in Queens, N.Y., bypasses the centuries-old, slow-moving supply chain and sources whole spices directly from growers. While “single origin” and “fair trade” are virtuous traits, it’s the vividly fresh taste that has chefs from Manhattan’s Eleven Madison Park and Blue Hill ordering Turkish black Urfa chile ($9 for 1.8 oz., bottom right of photo) and delicate shavings of Zanzibar cinnamon verum ($7 for 0.3 oz., center).

The Competition

• Claire Cheney of Curio Spice Co. sources and blends delicious and unusual spice mixes. Edo ($9 for 1.5 oz.) is inspired by Japanese shichimi togarashi and highlights the lemony sansho pepper.

• Sichuan peppercorns are typically heat-treated before import, blunting their flavor and character. Mala Market’s peppercorns ($10 for 2 oz.) are not, so they retain more herbal hints.

• The benefits of turmeric, the bright yellow cousin to ginger, diminish with poor handling and storage. Diaspora Co. imports directly and mills quarterly, so its product ($15 for 3.5 oz.) is fresh and potent.

The Case

Burlap & Barrel co-founder Ethan Frisch left his job as a pastry chef in New York to work for a nongovernmental organization in northern Afghanistan in 2012. But even while he dealt with the construction of roads and schools, his chef’s sensibility remained. The Wild Mountain cumin seeds ($10 for 1.5 oz., center right of photo) he discovered there are tiny, but they pack powerful fragrances of pine and mint. Friends at other NGOs put him in touch with a farm co-op in Zanzibar, where sun-dried black pepper ($8 for 2 oz., atop cinnamon) punches through with fruitiness and heat—and totally redefines a spice you thought you knew. All spices available at

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