How do I recognize high quality saffron

Recognize saffron quality

Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world and is therefore often counterfeited. For example, it can easily be imitated by a turmeric mixture or fake saffron threads, which are often indistinguishable for inexperienced buyers. There are a few tips for consumers to buy really real and also high-quality saffron. The most important factors and distinguishing features for the quality of saffron are the following:

- area of ​​origin
- purity
- dye content
- bitter substance
- scent
Most of these criteria are nowadays already defined in standards and certified by quality seals. Even so, it is helpful to know some of the mentioned characteristics in order to find good quality saffron.

The best saffron comes from Spain

The spice is mainly grown in Iran, Afghanistan, Kashmir and the Mediterranean region. For the latter, the main areas in addition to the most famous country of origin Spain include Greece, Italy, southern France and Turkey. Of all these countries, Iran ranks # 1 and accounts for over 90% of the market share around the world. The most popular, however, is real Spanish saffron, which is of the highest quality and enjoys an excellent reputation. In order for consumers to get real saffron quality, it is important to pay attention to the seal for the country of origin. The Spanish spice can be recognized by the imprint "De La Mancha". If this seal is not included or if there are similar-sounding descriptions such as “Producto de Espana” on the packaging, it is very likely that it is Iranian forgeries that have legally received the seal, for example by filling packaging from Spain.

Buy saffron threads instead of powder for a strong purity

The best quality saffron can be guaranteed if the spice is bought in whole strands. It is also available in powder form, but then it can no longer be assumed to be one hundred percent pure. Fraudsters often mix leaves or the yellow coloring agent turmeric into the powder and stretch the saffron in this way. In addition, the quality of the saffron suffers from the fact that the spice in ground form loses its aroma very quickly.

Recognize quality by the aromatic smell and color

The popular spice has a very unique and aromatic smell that allows connoisseurs to quickly distinguish real from fake saffron. So it should smell very hot and bitter and have a smoky aroma. Many also describe the substance as medicinal and hay-like. If this spicy smell is not there, the saffron quality can be assumed to be of low or poor quality and it is likely that it is a fake or stretched variant.
Buyers who are unsure about the smell can also use the color and various tests to check the authenticity of the fabric. Substances of high saffron quality are deep red or purple, whereby the rule “the redder, the better” applies. The whole thing can be tested chemically with caustic soda or, more simply, with a glass of hot water. If the saffron in it still remains golden-yellow after about 10 minutes, it is of high quality. In the case of counterfeits, the liquid will turn cloudy and turn red. This color content is also referred to as the crocin value, with the water-soluble crocin being used as a measure of the coloring power of saffron.

Standards and classes for the quality of saffron

To prevent the many counterfeiters, there are several standards for saffron. One of them is the international ISO standard, which divides the spice into classes from 1 to 4 and uses the crocin value as a yardstick. The highest quality saffron has substances with a value of over 190, which belong to class I. The following values ​​apply to the classification:
Class I - Crocin value> 190
Class II - Crocin value 150-190
Class III - Crocin value 110-190
Class IV - Crocin value 80-110
In addition to this standard, there are special Spanish standards that also subdivide according to the Crocin value and have similar guide values. The highest saffron quality also provides values ​​of over 190, whereby the highest quality fabrics can be called “Coupe” or “La Mancha”.