Frequently Asked Questions
Welcome to our list of Frequently Asked Questions! If you have questions about any of the information provided here, or if you need specific information about your order, please contact us directly.
How do I know I'll like your spices?
We travel the world to meet 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're happy to make an unconditional 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. We're a tiny company, and sourcing beautiful spices is our passion as well as our job, so we're only happy when you're happy!
Where do you ship?
We ship to all US states and territories and Canada. Unfortunately we do not ship to other countries - shipping costs are prohibitively expensive and we're not set up to manage customs and import regulations in different countries. (If you're interested in a large wholesale international order, we may be able to work something out. Please contact us.)
How long does shipping typically take?
We ship all orders within 2 business days from our warehouse in Reading, Pennsylvania. If you selected free shipping, your order will arrive in 2 days from the time it was shipped (for the East Coast) to 5 days (for the West Coast/territories/Canada).
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 their own unique terroir - the environment where they’re 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 times, 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.
How should I store my spices?
The short answer is: you shouldn't! Spices are for cooking, not for storing. That said, we know you can't use every spice ever 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.
Why do you mostly sell whole spices?
Most of our spices are whole because they stay fresher longer, and have the fewest steps between the farmer's fields and your kitchen! To maximize enjoyment of spice’s flavor and aroma, buy whole spices and grind fresh (or smash in a mortar and pestle) whenever possible. We also offer whole spices (other than peppercorns) in grinder-top jars to make cooking with them as easy as possible!
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 2 years from harvest, although it depends on the spice and the part of the plant it's harvested from. Whole spices will stay fresh longer than ground spices, which really only have a shelf life of a few months before they start to degrade.
Most supermarket spices have spent several years in transit, in warehouses, 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.
Are your spices gluten-free, kosher and/or organic foods?
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 are non-irradiated and naturally free of gluten, allergens and any additives, colorings, anti-caking agents and other fillers.
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 (organic, kosher, etc.), as well a 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.
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. So 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 really 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.
What if I can't afford to purchase your spices?
As a Public Benefit Corporation, it's really 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;
- Are ready to become the direct exporter of their goods and cut out layers and layers of intermediaries in the process.
How did you get into this? Why haven't I seen other single origin spices?
Ethan and Ori have been friends for over a decade. They started Guerrilla Ice Cream, an activist ice cream cart in the summer of 2010. They sold politically inspired ice cream flavors from a cart around NYC. Ori got 3 cavities.
After that summer, Ethan moved to England to get his Master's degree in international development and spent a few years as an aid worker in Afghanistan and the Middle East. While he was there, he was cooking with local ingredients and came across spices that were exceptional. He shared them with his chef friends on his next visit home, and they were a hit.
Ethan then visited Ori, who was working on a startup he founded in San Francisco and suggested the idea of a single origin spice company. They decided to get started - Ethan got the business off the ground with Ori supporting whenever he could. Ori joined as a co-founder about a year later, and, well, here we are.
The reason you haven't seen other single origin companies is that sourcing spices is really hard. It's much easier to just buy spices from the big commodity importers. We take responsibility for the spices as soon as they leave the farm - it's up to us to find the farmers, choose the spices, get them tested, to the airport, through customs, sterilized, tested again, packed, and into the kitchens of home cooks and chefs.
We do it because it's worth it. We get to work directly with farmers to get truly exceptional spices - while creating a more equitable supply chain that's capable of supporting our partner farmers' livelihoods in the process. That's our mission and we're a public benefit corporation, so it's also written into our charter.
Can I come on a sourcing trip?
Funny you should ask. We do sometimes bring people along with us on sourcing trips. We’re always looking for chefs, food makers, and journalists that would be interested in exploring with us, as well as local experts and farmers that can help us get the most out of our trips. Interest? Reach out.
What are the 11 herbs and spices in KFC’s secret recipe?
No one knows (it gets the people going), but their Twitter account may have a hint.