Our cardamom is grown on a single estate in the cloud forests of Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, using traditional organic methods. The farm emphasizes workers' rights, sustainability and fair business practices. The terroir is ideal for cardamom, which thrives in humid, high altitude environments with plenty of rainfall. The comparatively low temperatures in the mountains during the harvest season (November – January) ensures high levels of fragrant essential oils.
Guatemala produces 80% of the world’s cardamom, but the spice is virtually unknown in local markets. It is grown exclusively for export, mostly on tiny plots by indigenous farmers in the country’s remote mountainous region. A general lack of understanding of the spice’s usage, as well as the commoditization of the crop and near monopolization of the industry by a very small number of major exporters, keep small producers from cultivating higher quality products or accessing high-value markets. They grow tiny quantities of cardamom, which they must sell to coyotes and other middlemen as quickly as possible before the quality degrades. The structures of the industry keep farmers in a weak negotiating position that de-emphasizes quality and stifles farmers’ earning potential.
Our cardamom is grown on one of the only single-estate cardamom farms in Guatemala, which is also one of the only farms to manage the supply chain in its entirety, from cultivation to harvesting, drying, and export. They are constantly innovating, experimenting with cloning and other state of the art techniques to produce the finest spice possible. Cardamom is officially graded only by size and color, neither of which represents a product with the strongest flavor or aroma, and it’s usually picked while still underripe, when the color is brightest but before the flavor has fully developed. Yellow cardamom, however, is allowed to ripen fully, resulting in a more complex flavor (and a lower price.) The soapy astringency often associated with cardamom is actually an indicator of pods harvested before peak ripeness.
Our current lot of cardamom was the first flush of the season, harvested in November and December of 2016.