Paige Knight - 25 / Nov / 2023

    Freshness and Fair-Trade are the Spices of Life

    Meet our largest selection of spices from Curio, a local woman-owned business.

    Freshness and Fair-Trade are the Spices of Life
    The B Blog

    We all use spices. From sweeter spices like cinnamon and sugar to savory options like coriander and paprika, spices are what make food worth eating. With the holidays fast approaching, food is top of mind. How to make the perfectly seasoned Thanksgiving turkey and mashed potatoes, the most tender Christmas ham, or the best Hanukkah brisket are likely consuming the thoughts of holiday hosts everywhere. 

    We know that these important questions must be answered, so the team at Blackstone’s of Beacon Hill and I sat down with Aaron, the Wholesale Accounts Manager from Curio Spice Co., to get a crash course in their most popular spices. The Blackstones team hopes to point in-store customers toward the best spices to turn to this holiday season, but we didn’t want to leave the rest of you hanging. That’s why we’re sharing what we learned from Aaron in this comprehensive guide to spices for the holidays and beyond. 

    Curio’s Signature Blends

    Curio Spice Co. is a woman-owned, Certified B Corporation that was founded in 2015 by Claire Cheney, and their signature tins are one of the things that they’re most known for. They’re blends that are unique to Curio, and many of them are odes to places around the world, like the De Lat blend that’s inspired by Vietnam’s domestic honeymoon capital. These unique signature spices are at the heart of what Curio was founded to do: improve the lives of spice farmers by building relationships with people around the world. How are they doing this? This is how Aaron explained it to us: 

    “Historically, the spice industry has been built upon paying farmers very little and charging really high margins. And that was for reasons with global trade where a ship getting from the Mediterranean to Southeast Asia in 800 AD was a very difficult task. But everywhere along the way, everybody made more money except for the farmers. Really what we’re trying to do is pay above market rate. By trying to cut out the fees to middlemen, we’re paying higher than commodity prices… We also pay upfront. A lot of times, in the spice industry, everyone is working in arrears. You pay for last year’s harvest and you’re constantly in the cycle of debt, and that’s one of those things that we are trying to change.”

    Spice farmers are historically underpaid, and Curio is trying to change that. 

    Curio works directly with spice farmers and co-ops, processing their spices all in Winchester, MA. While this allows Curio to pay spice farmers a fair wage, it also helps to improve the quality of the products they’re selling. Due to the intricacies of supply chains, most grocery store spices are 5 years old by the time that they make it onto shelves. Without the hassle of middlemen, Curio is able to fill their spice bottles with this year’s harvest, allowing their customers the benefit of fresher spices that are more sustainably harvested. 

    Unfamiliar Names, But Accessible Flavors

    Curio’s signature blends might feel intimidating, but their other goal is to simplify the process of leveling up your spice game. Aaron put it best when he told us, “while [our spices’] names may not be something you’ve heard of, the whole point is whatever you’re doing today, just do it with this instead. It’s not meant to be complicated.” 

    We fear what we don’t know, so let us introduce you to Curio’s unique spice blends. Make their acquaintance, and we know you’ll do great things in the kitchen. 

    Fun fact: Families in Chios have been harvesting Mastic for thousands of years to make chewing gum and to flavor liquors and candies.

    The First Signature Blend: Aegean Salt

    As its name suggests, the first signature tin ever created at Curio is mostly – you guessed it – salt. A flake salt from Cyprus with an added twist from the addition of lemon peel, thyme, and mastic, Aegean Salt takes finishing salt to the next level. Probably the most unique addition, mastic, is a dried sap that comes from a mastic tree and originates from the island of Chios. It brings a piney flavor that adds a unique freshness to this blend. 

    In This Blend

    • Cyprus flake salt, lemon peel, thyme, and mastic

    How We Use It

    This is the perfect finishing salt, so we suggest using it to top your favorite dishes, like roasted vegetables, seafood, or even a simple caprese salad. Aaron even includes it in his morning yogurt for an added crunch.

    Korerima is one of three types of black cardamom

    Aaron’s Favorite Blend: Bonga

    Aaron’s favorite Curio blend, Bonga is an Ethiopian green chile blend that’s inspired by Claire’s travels. Named for the agricultural Bonga region of Ethiopia, this spice features a variety of direct-source herbs, the most notable of which is koseret and korerima. To use Aaron’s words, koseret “is like if lemon verbena and oregano had a baby,” and korerima is a sun-dried black cardamom with sweet and floral notes. 

    In This Blend

    • Koseret, korerima, besobela, green chiles, coriander, cumin, turmeric, nigella, parsley, and garlic

    How We Use It

    This is perfect for flavoring everything from proteins to leafy greens. Aaron’s go-to is glazed honey chicken, but this is also an ideal spice for beans, lentils, greens, or even guacamole. 

    Da Lat is a good fit for a Hanukkah brisket

    Sweet and Savory: Da Lat

    Da Lat is a Vietnamese blend named for Vietnam’s mountainous honeymoon capital. The first word that comes to mind is “warm,” and this blend can be used for both sweet and savory dishes due to its complex flavor profile. The most notable addition is star anise, which adds a fennel flavor and is enhanced by notes of Vietnamese coffee, chocolate, and cinnamon. 

    In This Blend

    • Vietnamese coffee, chocolate, cinnamon, and star anise

    How We Use It

    On the savory end of the spectrum, this blend is great for flavoring proteins, specifically red meats and pork. Think chili, steak, or a slow-roasted pork shoulder. If you’re looking to go sweet, this is the perfect blend to amp up the flavor in banana bread, zucchini bread, or brownies. 

    Fun Fact: Claire and her husband, Mark, were on a hike in Bali when they befriended another couple. Their next stop was in Sicily, and the other couple told them about a family spice farm in the region. That’s how Claire met Maurizio and Katia, who own the spice farm in Ferla. 

    The Most Successful Blend: Ferla

    Ferla features familiar and accessible flavors, like oregano, thyme, and rosemary, making it one of the most successful Curio blends. Named for the Ferla region in Sicily, this blend features herbs that grow wild on a brother- and sister-owned spice farm. 

    In This Blend

    • Oregano, thyme, rosemary, fennel, chili flake, sea salt

    How We Use It

    This blend is great for Italian dishes, like pasta sauce and pizza. It can also be used to season poultry, like Thanksgiving turkey and roasted chicken. Ferla’s delicate flavor is also a good fit for white fish. 

    Word to the wise: Fleur is best used at the end of cooking, sprinkled onto already-cooked foods for an extra flavor. If you try to cook with Fleur, the delicate flowers are likely to burn. 

    The Flavors of Spring: Fleur

    Fleur is unique because, unlike other blends, it is not named for a particular region. Instead, Fleur is named for Spring. As the story goes, Claire was shut inside during a really terrible winter when she had the idea to create this blend. Hoping to conjure up the feeling of spring and new beginnings, Fleur’s delicate and floral flavors were born. 

    In This Blend

    • Hibiscus, lavender, rose

    How We Use It

    This is great on top of a fruit salad, sprinkled on a dessert, or on the rim of a cocktail glass. When it comes to meats, Aaron recommends salmon or lamb to compliment Ferla’s delicate flavors. Fleur is also great for a holiday cheese board. Simply roll a log of goat cheese in some Fleur spice, and the hibiscus will soak into the cheese and stain it pink, adding a festive pop of color and a beautiful flavor. 

    Fun Fact: Kampot wasn’t farmed during the dictatorship in Cambodia and many thought it was lost when it was re-discovered growing in the wild and able to be re-cultivated. 

    The Most Accessible Blend: Kampot and Salt

    Dubbed an “elevated salt and pepper,” Kampot and Salt is probably the most familiar of Curio’s signature blends; everybody has to salt and pepper their food, after all. Kampot is a black pepper that originates from a region of the same name in Cambodia. Like Champagne, this pepper has to be grown in this region in order to be called Kampot black pepper. It adds a citrus element that distinguishes this blend from traditional salt and pepper. 

    Fun Fact: Kampot wasn’t farmed during the dictatorship in Cambodia and many thought it was lost when it was re-discovered growing in the wild and able to be re-cultivated. 

    In This Blend

    • Kampot black pepper, Maine sea salt, ginger lime, and tarragon

    How We Use It

    This blend can be used in just about anything that you’d typically put salt and pepper on. Aaron suggests using it on chicken, roasted vegetables, caprese salad, or even to rim a margarita glass. 

    Kandy is the most popular autumn spice at Curio

    Most Popular For The Holidays: Kandy

    Kandy spice originates from a region of Sri Lanka known for its spice gardens, and it’s great for baking or adding a warm component to fall vegetables. It’s best to be used with heat, which softens the harsher taste of raw Kandy spice. 

    In This Blend

    • Clove, cinnamon, fennel, cardamom, coriander, turmeric, black pepper

    How We Use It

    To put it simply: where you’d traditionally use cinnamon, use Kandy instead. This spice is great for baking things like banana bread, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie. It’s also delicious on autumn vegetables, like squash and sweet potatoes.

    Familiar Faces: Curio’s Classic Blends

    While Curio has a variety of totally unique blends, they also have blends with names you know – or at least are familiar with. While these blends offer familiar names and flavors, they all have a twist that elevates them above traditional spice blends. 

    Fun Fact: Urfa Chilis are laid out on a tarp to dry out during the day, then they’re rolled up at night to sweat in the humidity. This process is repeated over and over again until the spices are sufficiently dried. 

    Chili Today!

    A fresher version of a traditional chili powder, Chili Today! features Turkish Urfa chilis, which add a smokiness that sets this blend apart. The first thing you’ll notice when you open this blend is its slightly clumped texture, which comes from the oils in the fresh chilis. 

    In This Blend

    • Mexican oregano, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, onion, paprika, cumin, Urfa chilis

    How We Use It

    This blend is perfect for anything you’d use a traditional chili powder in. We think of roasted or breaded chicken and crock pot chicken tacos. This is also great sprinkled over scrambled eggs or avocado toast.

    Fun Fact: Seti means “woman” in the language of Ethiopia

    Seti Berbere

    A classic Ethiopian blend, Seti Berbere has a smoky, spicy flavor that is great for anything on the grill. Curio works with two woman-owned co-ops in Ethiopia to source the spices for this blend. 

    In This Blend

    • Urfa chiles, coriander, cumin, black cardamom, ajwain, fenugreek, allspice, koseret, besobeia, black pepper, mace, and clove

    How We Use It

    Seti Berbere is great for seasoning chicken, beans, braised dishes, and soups. This blend is also ideal for cooking beef, lamb, or chicken on the grill. 

    Comfort Curry and Vadouvan are familiar blends with distinct flavors. 

    Comfort Curry and Vadouvan

    Two of my favorites, Comfort Curry and Vadouvan, are Curio’s spins on curry powders. Each has a unique flavor, with Comfort Curry offering a mild, approachable flavor of an entry-level curry powder and Vadouvan offering a French twist. Vadouvan has a sweeter flavor profile from the addition of shallots, but both of these spices can be used interchangeably to add variety to dishes. 

    In These Blends

    • Comfort Curry: turmeric, coriander, cumin, fennel, cinnamon, black pepper, caraway, ginger, white pepper, nigella, mace, cardamom, and clove
    • Vadouvan: turmeric, cumin, fenugreek, fennel, shallots, garlic, mace, mustard seeds, and curry leaves

    Still Looking For The Perfect Holiday Spices?

    Many of the spices mentioned above are great fits for the holidays. De Lat is perfect for fall vegetables, like roasted squash and sweet potatoes, and would be ideal for seasoning a Hanukkah brisket. Curio also offers a Turkey Brining Kit to get the perfect turkey every time, and their Flame Mulling Kit makes warm mulled wine or cider for a cozy Christmas dinner. 

    If you need some more guidance, stop by Blackstone’s of Beacon Hill’s Boston location at 40 Charles Street. Our friendly staff will walk you through the spices we have to offer so that your holiday meals go off without a hitch. If you don’t live in the area, you can still visit the Blackstones website to browse our variety of spices, kitchenware, and home goods. 

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