Frequently Asked Questions
Cooking with Spices
What does it mean to be single origin? Are other spices single origin?
Single origin means that all of our spices are capable of being traced back to a single area of production — even a single farm or cooperative of farmers. It also means that each of our spices exhibits its own unique terroir — the environment where its grown imbues a unique set of flavors and smells to the spice, similar to how grapes from France produce different wines than grapes from Argentina.
Other spices are...well, from many different origins. Often, the spices you're buying are sourced from many, many different farms from a handful of countries. High- and low-quality lots are blended together for consistency and cost, and so much of the flavor is lost along the way.
So you're a Public Benefit Corporation? What does that mean?
Why yes, Burlap & Barrel is a Public Benefit Corporation. It's a new kind of legal business entity that values public benefit alongside profits. Our social mission is written into our articles of incorporation and is legally binding, and we're also obligated to publish annual impact reports showing progress towards our stated public benefit.
Our public benefit is "to promote the reduction of inequality and exploitation in food systems by connecting farmers to high-value markets, helping them access a larger share of the product value chain, and establishing long-term, mutually-beneficial trade relationships."
You can read more about our impact here.
Who are you, and how did you get into spices?
We've been in business since 2016, when Ethan & Ori launched the company to build better, equitable supply chains in the spice trade. Ethan is a chef-turned-international aid worker and Ori is a marketer-turned-social entrepreneur, and this is their second social enterprise food business together.
The initial idea for Burlap & Barrel came about when Ethan was living and working for a non-profit in Afghanistan, and started bringing Wild Mountain Cumin home to share with friends in the restaurant industry. They loved the cumin, and the people who harvest it in the mountains of Badakhshan loved the idea of having direct access to a new, high-value market in the US.
Ori and Ethan started building a direct trade model that connected spice farmers in Zanzibar and Guatemala with home cooks and professional chefs in the US, and Burlap & Barrel has grown from there!
Want to know more? You can read more about our story and the whole Burlap & Barrel team here.
Where is Burlap & Barrel located?
While Ori and Ethan are based in New York City, we're a remote company, meaning that our team is spread out across the country, in California, Oklahoma, Colorado, Japan, Virginia, Boston and New York.
All of our spices are packed in the United States and ship from our warehouses in Pennsylvania and Las Vegas.
What if I can't afford to purchase your spices?
As a Public Benefit Corporation, it's important to us that the spice supply chain works for everyone. We do our best to keep our prices reasonable while still paying our partner farmers a significant premium over the commodity price for their spices. If you can't afford to purchase our spices, please get in touch and we'll do what we can to help out.
I'm an early-stage food entrepreneur trying to figure out how this whole thing works! Can you help?
Of course! Entrepreneurs need to help each other out. We're happy to set up a call to talk about supply chains, ingredients, e-commerce, earned media coverage and anything else we've learned over the past few years. Get in touch to set up a time to chat.
How do you find the farms you work with?
This is our favorite part of what we do! We’re always looking for new farmers to partner with and new single origin spices to add to our lineup.
All of our partner farmers meet the following three criteria. We work with farmers who are:
- Passionate and knowledgeable about what they’re growing, above and beyond the commodity market’s narrow and outdated definitions of quality;
- Growing exceptional varietals of spices and carefully handling them to maximize flavor;
- Ready to become the direct exporter of their goods and cut out layers and layers of intermediaries in the process.
How do I know I'll like the spices?
We travel around the world to meet expert farmers who grow the most interesting, unique spices, and set them up to export for themselves, which most of them have never done before. We're very, very selective about the spices we source, which is why the best restaurants in the country use our spices: Eleven Madison Park, Blue Hill, Chez Panisse, Jean Georges, and many, many others.
We're so proud of the spices that we source that we make a 100% quality guarantee. If any of our spices don't meet your standards, or if anything else went wrong with your order, please let us know and we'll make it right. The only exception to this is Spice Club, our quarterly seasoning subscription, which is a taste adventure where the surprise is part of the fun. We're a small company, and sourcing beautiful spices is our passion as well as our job, so we're only happy when you're happy!
How long will my spices last?
Spices don't get better with age: the faster you use them, the better they'll taste. Generally speaking, spices provide a good aroma and flavor for about 3 years from harvest, although it depends on the spice and the part of the plant it's harvested from.
Most supermarket spices have spent several years in transit, in warehouses and distribution centers, and on the store’s shelves, and any beautiful flavors and aromas they once had are largely a thing of the past. Commodity spices have traded hands 15+ times and most have taken YEARS (yes, years) en route to your supermarket.
We source our spices directly from partner farms, bringing them to you at peak freshness, faster, and with a longer shelf life in your kitchen.
For spices that you already have in your cabinet, a good rule of thumb is to look at the spices (Has the color faded? Are there signs of insects or mold?), smell the spices (Has it lost its aroma?), then taste a small amount (Has it lost its flavor?).
You can also check any spice jar (ours or other brands') for a "Manufacturing Date" printed on the jar or label — that'll tell you when it was packed in the jar. If you're more than a year or two from the manufacturing date, you're better off replacing them with something fresher.
How do I know your spices are safe to eat?
Great question. Spice supply chains have historically been opaque and virtually impossible to trace back to the farmer, and as a result, spices have been at the center of several food safety crises in recent years. That's why we take the food safety aspects of our supply chain incredibly seriously.
Not only do we know our partner farmers personally and manage our entire supply chain from (literally) farm to table, we also look closely at their agricultural techniques and post-harvest processes and make recommendations to ensure optimal food safety. After harvesting and drying, we send a sample from every lot of every spice to an accredited 3rd-party laboratory, either in the country of origin or in the United States (or both) to create a formal Certificate of Analysis, measuring micro-biological pathogens and vectors, including E. coli, Salmonella, total/aerobic plate count, and yeast & mold.
Our standards are higher than the FDA's recommendations across the board. If the preliminary test results don't meet our standards, we sterilize the spices using either steam sterilization or an ETO treatment. We never irradiate any of our spices. Following the sterilization, we test the spices again, and if ETO was used, we allow for an off-gassing period of at least a week (often 2+ weeks) before packing. ETO is not an ideal solution, but we find that steam sterilization reduces the flavor and intensity of our spices, so our goal is to remove all possibility of contamination in the supply chain and therefore avoid the need for any sterilization treatment at all. COAs are available on request; please email Ethan (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more info or questions about our food safety procedures.
Long story short, we would never sell anything that isn't completely safe to eat.
What to do with my empty spice jars?
Our jars are made from recyclable materials, so they can be dropped into your recycling bin and efficiently reprocessed into other products. They can also be reused to store more spices: re-fill that empty grinder!
We asked our Spice Forum what they do with their empty containers, and here’s what they suggested:
Repurpose in the Kitchen
Our jars hold exactly half a cup (4 oz. / 120ml), which is handy for using around the kitchen.
- Fill our jars or grinders with your own homemade spice blends
- Store and pack salad dressings, croutons, nuts, dried fruit and granola
- Fill them with hot chocolate mix or serve desserts like pudding out of them
Make Flavored Oils & Simple Syrups
- One trick that we love is to take a jar that has just a bit of spice leftover and fill it up with a favorite oil. You’ll get a wonderful infused oil that absorbs every last bit of flavor from the jar.
- If you have leftovers of a sweeter spice, use them to infuse a simple syrup to use in cocktails, iced teas and sparkling water.
Science & Home Projects
- The jars make nice planters for herbs
- Make your own candles or even a fairy lantern
- Have a budding scientist in the house? They make fun tornado jars!
Around the House
- Our jars are a perfect size to hold things around the bathroom, like cotton balls or swabs
- Have you tried repurposing our heavy duty gift boxes? My sock drawer loves them!
How should I store my spices?
The short answer is: you shouldn't! Spices are for cooking, not for storing. Try to keep them in an area where you can see them while you're cooking, ideally within arm's reach.
That said, we know you can't use every spice every day, so we recommend keeping them in a dark, dry cabinet away from the heat of the stove or direct sunlight, protected from light, heat and humidity. We don't recommend storing spices in the fridge, because condensation can build up as you take them in and out.
How should I be cooking with spices? Do they need to be ground or toasted? How do I know how much of each spice to put in a dish?
Spices are a beautiful way of adding flavor, aroma and color to your cooking. We like the idea of experimenting as much as possible with your spices. Our spices also tend to be more flavorful than your regular grocery store spices. Start with a little less than your recipes recommend and taste from there.
You can use our spices whole or ground, but you may need to remove some of the whole spices prior to serving. (Looking at you, cloves and cardamom!)
If you want to grind your spices, a coffee grinder, a pepper mill, or a mortar and pestle is generally the way to go. We recommend a simple blade grinder, since they're the most versatile. They can get a decent grind on just about anything you throw at them: cinnamon bark, cardamom husks, peppercorns, hibiscus flowers, etc.
PSA: Spices have volatile oils that can stick to grinders, so we recommend getting an inexpensive coffee grinder that you only use for spices. Your grinder may smell like the spices next time you use them, which could be wonderful...or not.
Where do you ship?
We ship throughout the US and Canada, including Hawaii, Alaska, US territories, and overseas military bases.
If you live outside of North America, you can still get our spices delivered
We've partnered with Stackry for international shipments.
Here's how it works:
- Sign up for an account with Stackry, which will give you a US shipping address
- Place an order on our site and use that address as the destination (free shipping for $45+ orders)
- Stackry receives the package at their warehouse, then contacts you to choose a shipping option to your home address.
Interested in a large wholesale international order? Please contact us, we may be able to help.
What size are your spice jars?
Our spices come in four different sizes:
- Glass Jar: 2" diameter x 4" tall
- Glass Jar with a Removable Grinder Top: 1.75" diameter x 5.5" tall
- Mini Glass Jar: 2" diameter x 2" tall
- Plastic Quart Container: 3" wide, 4" deep x 9" tall
How long does shipping typically take?
We ship all orders within 2 business days from our warehouses in Reading, Pennsylvania, and Las Vegas, Nevada. If you selected free shipping, your order will arrive in 2–5 days from the time it was shipped.
How much does shipping cost?
Shipping in the US is free on $45+ orders, or a flat rate of $7.99 on orders under $45. Shipping to Canada is free on $100 orders, or a flat rate of $40 for orders under $100.
What is your return policy?
As a small food company, we are not able to handle returns. If there is an issue with your order or you are unable to use your new spices, please contact us via this form and we will help resolve it.
Are your spices organic?
Our spices are single origin, sourced directly from small farms around the world. Most of our spices are organically grown; some of our partner farmers are certified organic and some are not. They are harvested by hand, dried naturally and transported whole to preserve freshness. Our spices non-GMO, non-irradiated and naturally free of gluten, allergens and any additives, colorings, anti-caking agents and other fillers.
Organic certifications are expensive — often too expensive for an independent farmer to be able to afford. As we grow, we’re working with our partner farmers to get them certifications and develop new capabilities (on-site grinding, growing specific types of spices) to help improve the value of their spices and allow them to get a bigger cut of the price of the final product.
Are your spices Kosher or Parve?
All of our spices are parve / pareve and almost all of our spices are Kosher without supervision. Spices (like vegetables and other plants) are inherently Kosher and do not require a specific Kosher certification as per the Orthodox Union & Chicago Rabbinical Council. The spices that are parve without being Kosher are those that are mixed with a little bit of plant-based oil, including Black Urfa Chili, Silk Chili and Za'atar.
We manage the entire supply chain for our products, including sourcing directly from partner farmers, and our spices are stored and packed in facilities that do not accept animal products of any kind, including meat, dairy or seafood.
There is virtually no chance of cross-contamination with any non-Kosher products or ingredients. We do not use any anti-caking or flow agents, which would not be considered Kosher.
Are your spices gluten-free?
Our spices are naturally free of gluten, and since we manage the entire supply chain, we know that there's virtually no chance of cross-contamination with any products containing gluten.
However, our spices are not third party-certified gluten-free, so if there's a severe gluten sensitivity, please use caution.
Are your spices non-GMO?
Good news: there are no genetically modified spices! You can rest assured that our spices are all non-GMO.
What is Proposition 65?
If you live in California, you might have noticed a Prop 65 warning on the packing slip of your order.
The state of California requires that a variety of consumer goods (including herbs and spices) sold in the state include the warning. The reason that herbs and spices are included is due to naturally occurring compounds from the soil that could be present in the final product at low rates.
We test all of our spices to meet or exceed federal and international safety standards. However, we comply with Prop 65 by printing the warning on packing slips for orders shipped to California.
If you’d like to learn more about Prop 65, head over to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov