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In episode 075, we talk to Ethan Frisch, the co-founder of Burlap & Barrel Single Origin Spices. We talk about how he got started in the spice business, what are some of their most popular spices, and why it's important to include spices in your grocery budget. Ethan appears on an April 7th episode of ABC's Shark Thank.
You can listen to this podcast episode below or listen on any of these podcast players - Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts. If you would prefer to read the text, you will find a transcript below.
Here is the transcript from our interview with
Eric : Hey everybody. Uh, welcome to a special episode of Eat Shop Waste Not. I am super excited today. Um, I have Ethan here from Burlap and Barrel, and I gotta tell you, they are by far my favorite spice company on this planet. They do some of the most amazing, um, spices. They source 'em from all over the world.
They're single origin. Um, but let me, let me just turn over to Ethan now to tell you all about them. So, Ethan, welcome to the podcast today.
Ethan: Eric, thanks for having me and uh, I'm glad you like the spices.
Eric: Yes. Yeah. Like I originally found you guys on Instagram and saw, like, you had all these like, oh my gosh, like, what is that? Like all these like cool, um, spices I hadn't heard from before and I was really attracted to you guys. So I've been, oh, I can't remember. It's been, been several years now that I've been, um, using your guys' stuff and, um, been an affiliate for you, for you guys.
So for those who haven't heard of you, um, tell us all about Burlap and Barrel.
Ethan: Yeah. Uh, Burlap and Barrel is a single origin spice company. We're a social enterprise. We work with small farms in 23 now different countries, uh, mostly with farmers who have never exported before. Um, and you know, a lot of people don't really think about spices as agricultural products or don't think about the farm or the farmer when they're grinding black pepper or, or using some, some cinnamon in a, in a dessert or something like that.
But, uh, like any, like most of what we eat, uh, spices come from farms. Um, and so what we have tried to do from the very beginning, we've been in business for almost for a little more than six years at this point. Uum, is to connect, uh, farmers with, with home cooks and professional chefs around spices. Um, and especially since most spices don't grow domestically or, or locally in, in the US.
Uh, there are some exceptions and we can talk about those. But, uh, spices come from all around the world. Um, And so, uh, what we do is, is travel a lot, which is always fun. Uh, find farmers growing really, really high quality, different versions of spices that, that people in the US may think they know, but but probably haven't tasted this, this variety before.
Um, and figure out how to set up those farmers to export their own crops for the first time. Bring those spices into the US . Um, anything from, uh, our Zanzibar Black Pepper, one of our best sellers, uh, sort of a semi-wild black peppercorn that grows in Zanzibar, a couple of islands in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa.
It's got this really spicy, kind of a lemony flavor profile. Uh, we work with farmers in central Vietnam, growing a, a rare species of cinnamon, an heirloom species of cinnamon that's very rarely exported from the country. We're the only company importing it into the US. Super sweet, super spicy. Just a, a real strong cinnamon flavor.
Wild cumin from Afghanistan. Um, fermented white peppercorns from, from Indonesia. All kinds of really interesting spices from all around the world.
Eric: I think I've tried every one of those you just mentioned. They, and they all are like, just extraordinary. Um, how did you get started in this, um, spice World?
Ethan: I was a professional cook here in New York City, uh, working in pretty high-end restaurants, uh, including at a restaurant called Tabla, uh, which was one of the first high-end Indian restaurants in the US. Um, so I, I learned a lot about spices there and, and learned a lot about cooking in general, but, Uh, I left kitchens to, to pursue a career in international development.
I wanted to be an aid worker. I wanted to travel. Uh, I wanted to, to, to see if I could have a, a positive impact on the world. Um, and so I left kitchens, got a master's degree in international development, and then moved to Afghanistan, uh, where I had a job with a big nonprofit. Um, I lived in Afghanistan for about two and a half years.
Uh, mostly working in very remote rural areas in the northeast of the country. A a province called Badakhshan , um, which also coincidentally happens to be famous, at least within Afghanistan or, or in the region for its wild cumin. Um, and I picked some up. It must have been at a local market or something, and I had never tasted anything like it.
I thought I knew my way around a, a spice cupboard, uh, but, uh, I had never tasted anything like this cumin before. And I started carrying it home with me in, in my suitcase. I was also bringing home lots of other stuff. Uh, Afghanistan is famous for saffron, um, also incredible dried fruit and nuts and honey.
All kinds of really interesting ingredients that I had never tasted, at least those versions of before. Um, And so I was carrying home duffle bags full of, of food, uh, you know, just sort of walking 'em through customs, hoping nobody stopped me. Um, and sharing them with, with friends in the restaurant industry.
Chefs or food writers or other people I knew would appreciate them. Um, and the feedback that I got was so enthusiastic. You know, professional chefs who I would've thought could get access to anything they could imagine, any ingredient they needed in New York City, you could, you know, they could place an order, but it actually turns out that wasn't the case.
That even at, at really high end places they were cooking with, you know, kind of commodity spices, maybe even worse than, than the spices that you'd pick up in the supermarket. Um, and, uh, and there was the, the response was so enthusiastic. There was clearly so much demand for it that I started exploring whether there, you know, whether we could build a business around that.
Um, and I had had a, a previous experience of entrepreneurship. Uh, with my, my co-founder of, of Burlap and Barrel Ori Zohar, we had, uh, started an ice cream company back in the summer of 2010. I had been the pastry chef at a little restaurant that closed. Um, I'd been making a lot of ice cream there and wanted to, to sort of experiment with entrepreneurship.
And so Ori and I were, were buddies and, uh, he was working in advertising. I was working in kitchens and so we started a, um, an activist ice cream cart, which is a whole other story, but we had this sort of experience of entrepreneurship and, and, uh, social entrepreneurship in particular together. And so I called him up, uh, and said, you wanna start a spice company?
And he said, sure. Um, so, so we started the company together back in 2016, the end of 2016. Um, And, uh, we've, we've grown pretty significantly. We started with cumin from Afghanistan, the Zanzibar Black Pepper, and a few other spices from a co-op of farmers in Zanzibar, Tanzania, and Cardamom, and a couple of other spices from a farm in Guatemala.
Those are our first three, uh, partner farmers, our first three suppliers. And since then, we've expanded now to more than 20 different countries, a total of about 400 Individual farmers, some of whom we work with individually and some of whom are members of, of cooperatives or associations. Um, but we do all of the legwork to set them up.
Uh, most of them have no experience exporting, especially to the US. And so all of the food safety requirements, the regulatory requirements, paperwork, logistics, to actually get the spices here. Um, we take care of all of that. Uh, and so we had to figure all that out. I, I, you know, it wasn't something either Ori or I had had ever done before.
Uh, import, export, sale. I mean, all the, all the things that we had to learn, we were brand new for us. Um, but we pieced it together slowly. We started the business outta my apartment in, in Queens, in New York. Uh, at one point I had more than a ton, more than a metric ton of spices in my one bedroom apartment.
Eric: Oh my gosh.
Ethan: My girlfriend at the time, now my wife was, was very tolerant and luckily was spending a lot of time traveling for work. Uh, so I, I kind of had the run of the apartment, so I, you know, we turned the living room into a, a spice warehouse essentially. Um, and then eventually we, we, we built it up to a point where we could hire a company to do the packing for us.
And, and that's kind of where we're at now, six plus years in, uh, we import the spices. We work with farmers all around the world. We manage all the logistics and then we have a couple of companies that do the packing for us in, you know, in food safe, in the right kind of facility, not, not my living room anymore.
Um, and, uh, and we sell all, all over the country to home cooks and, and professional chefs.
Eric: Oh, that, that's a great story. I love, you gotta love the stories that someone starts in their apartment or their garage somewhere and just kind of gets going here. I remember as a kid, my dad had a computer store. I mean, he actually got a store front, but like, , all the computer stuff was like all scattered around the house all the time and it was like everywhere you were tripping over like, you know, keyboards and mice and cables and everything here.
So I definitely have experience in, uh, trying to run a business inside your house for a while. So that's great. You've been able to move from that point here and, and that's your girlfriend, um, still ended up marrying you over here. So that one's pretty good here. You know,
Ethan: Yeah. Who, who would've thought I, I was pretty surprised that she was willing to move forward after that experience. Uh, but, and, and we still, as I'm sure you can imagine, uh, have a fair amount of spices in our, in our home.
Uh, you know, boxes coming in and samples. You know, we all work from home. We're a remote company, which is a, you know, very post 2020 post covid kind of, uh, setup.
But, um, you know, I have samples showing up from all around the world. She's got a, uh, step over boxes and, you know, all kinds of funny smells. Whatever the, the, the most recent thing to arrive is, yeah.
Eric: Sure. That's, that's awesome. I love, I love this. Um, so we mentioned some of your spices already. So what are some of the, um, most popular spices that you guys have right now that are selling like hotcakes?
Ethan: The Zanzibar Black Pepper is very consistently one of our best sellers. It, you know, everybody uses Black Pepper. Most people use Black Pepper. People think they know what Black Pepper is supposed to taste like, but. Uh, to taste a really high quality black pepper, a fresh black pepper, something with a, you know, a particular terroir to, to borrow a term from wine, uh, you know, a flavor associated with the place that it grows.
The, the soil, the climate, the, the other plants that are going around it. And, and the black pepper in particular because it is part of an agroforestry project. Um, the farms don't really look like you would imagine a farm. It's not neat rows of pepper. It's, it's the jungle. And then you're walking through the jungle and then you realize there's a pepper vine climbing up this tree.
And there's another one over there. Uh, pepper, um, black pepper is a fruit, uh, and it grows in little bunches like grapes on a climbing vine. Um, and each peppercorn grows from a single tiny little white flower. Uh, the flowers are pollinated by, by raindrops. Uh, so as they hit this stem, they run down the stem and, and carry pollen from one little flower to the next.
And that's how the, the flowers get pollinated. Uh, black peppercorns take, um, you know, anywhere from like four to six months to ripen depending on, on where and, and the weather. They start off green and then turn yellow, orange, and then ultimately red as they ripen. But almost all black pepper, probably most black pepper that you or, or anybody listening has tasted was harvested when the peppercorns were green, they were harvested. It was harvested under ripe. Farmers will wait for the peppercorns to get to their, their full size and then pick them even though they haven't ripened yet. Uh, because you get a sharper flavor that way. Um, and, and they're, they're harder, like the individual peppercorns are a little more resilient, so you don't have to worry about bruising.
Uh, but you're, you're eating an under ripe fruit. It's the same thing as, you know, you could eat an under ripe peach. Uh, it will have a sharper, more tart flavor, but, but you miss all the. The deliciousness, the sweetness, the complexity, the aroma of a fully ripened fruit. And that's exactly the same thing that happens with black pepper when it, when it's picked under ripe.
Um, and then after it's harvested, it's usually dunked in boiling water, very briefly, a a minute or something like that, and then spread out in the sun to dry. And so what, what, you know, we call it black pepper. Obviously what we see as the, the skin of the black pepper is actually the dried fruit. It's like a raisin that has kind of wrinkled up and turned dark around the pit of the pepper.
And the pit of the pepper is where all the heat is concentrated. Um, but the complexity, the sweetness, the savoriness, all the other flavor that you got from black pepper is all in the fruit, that outside fruit. So when you're eating cheap or, or um, uh, low quality black pepper. It's black pepper that's usually pretty old.
It has sat around for a long time. It was harvested under ripe. It wasn't dried very well. And it's really just about adding some of that heat. But, but you don't get any of the, the flavor or the, the actual flavor of the peppercorn itself. So, uh, the pepper that we get from Zanzibar is harvested at varying points are out the ripening process, but usually sort of halfway through, give or take.
Um, and then it's dried in the sun on, on woven straw mats. Uh, it's all picked by hand. It's a cooperative of, of organic farmers who manage the forest. They also grow cinnamon and cloves. Uh, a couple of other, a couple of other spices as well, but, but black peppers of, of the spices we get from Zanzibar, definitely the, the best seller. Um, That's our black pepper.
Uh, Royal cinnamon is also a, a very strong seller, a real crowd favorite. I think partially because people have often tasted cinnamon or, you know, you know what you think, you know what cinnamon tastes like, and then you taste a, a really high quality cinnamon. And it, it's really, uh, kind of a revelation.
It, it's, it's so much stronger and sweeter and spicier than you would expect. Um, cinnamon is, is tree bark, which I think a lot of people don't realize. It's the inner bark of a genus of trees. There are three or four, uh, commercially cultivated species that come from different countries. Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, uh, Vietnam.
Um, and we have two Cinnamons, one from that same co-op of farmers in Zanzibar. Uh, that's the cinnamomum verum species. A little bit more savory, kind of citrusy. Um, and then our royal cinnamon, which is the, the crowd favorite for sure. That's from central Vietnam. Uh, it's a, a species that's very rarely exported. Um, it's used sometimes for its medicinal qualities, a species called cinnamomum lueroy, um, and just, just very sweet and, and intensely spicy.
It's like, like cinnamon turned up to 11 or, or something like that. It's a, it's a, a much stronger flavor and, and, um, more complex character than probably any cinnamon, any other cinnamon I had ever tasted. And, uh, probably any cinnamon that you or, or your listeners had tasted.
Eric: Oh my gosh. Yeah. I think everybody listening right now probably wants just bake some cinnamon rolls right now. Cause that's, that's totally what's on my mind. Yeah. I've had that cinnamon before. It is amazing. It's, um, it, yeah, it, it hits you.
Ethan: Ori and I got to visit the, the Royal Cinnamon, uh, some of the farms this past summer. We went in, uh, the end of May. Um, and it's a, it's a, it's a crazy drive. I mean, flying to Vietnam is already a long trip. And then, uh, flying down to, um, another city in the center of the country and then driving up four hours up into the mountains.
These are really rural, remote areas of the country , um, and farmers grow, uh, a whole bunch of subsistence crops for themselves and their families. There's a lot of rivers, so they, they, uh, uh, a lot of people will catch kind of fresh fish from the river. That's a big part of the local diet. A lot of, um, like fresh greens and, and herbs, uh, things like that.
And then, and then these cinnamon trees, which. Uh, they take ,for really good cinnamon. Uh, the tree will be 20 plus years old when you harvest it. And the trees are so big you, you can't get your arms around them. Um, and the way that cinnamon, uh, develops the, the older the bark, the more concentrated the oils, and so the strongest flavors from the oldest bark.
So the best cinnamon is from the bottom. You know, 15 feet or so of the tree, and then the, the quality will, will go down as the tree, as you get higher up on the tree. Cause the bark is younger, but the, the bottom of the tree, the base of the trunk is that really dense, concentrated bark. Um, and, uh, because of, because of this long timeframe, you know, at minimum you would, you would wait like seven to 10 years before harvesting a cinnamon tree.
But really, ideally you're waiting 15 to 20 years before you do the harvesting. There's a really beautiful intergenerational cycle of farming in this part of Vietnam. Uh, parents will plant trees that their kids will harvest. Um, or it, you know, it's, it's almost literally it's an investment that, you know, will grow.
Uh, so we, we had met a farmer at one point who had just gifted a plot of her farm, a plot of cinnamon trees to her daughter as a wedding gift. These are trees that she had planted 15 years ago and then gave this this plot of land in these trees to her daughter. Uh, to, to either, you know, continue to grow or to harvest and, and sell.
Um, so it, it creates this really beautiful intergenerational cycle and, and, uh, such a, a deep expertise. You know, farmers who've been growing these crops for generations, um, they know everything about how to, how to make the trees do what they want them to, how to develop those, those incredible flavors.
How to harvest, how to pack, uh, how to do all that as, as quickly and. Uh, at a high level as possible so that what we're getting by the time it gets to the US is still the, the freshest, best tasting cinnamon in the, in the country for sure.
Eric: I like the idea that it's such a long term thing, like people like don't see sometimes air culture. That that is a, it is a long game, especially like, I, I mean, I do a lot with different varieties of fruit and like when you develop a new variety of fruit, oftentimes you're talking about like decades.In order to propagate that. And eventually when you find something that's good, then you have to grow it out, and then you have to get enough of it. So like, everything's , it's a long game. Um, so much agriculture here and that's kind of neat seeing that. Um, I love that story with them kind of being handed down as your, as your wedding gift.
I mean, I mean, I'm sure a, a plot of cinnamon trees beats, um, a another toaster.
Ethan: Yeah, I didn't get any cinnamon trees as a wedding gift, but, uh, it would've been fun.
Eric: All right. Um, so one of the questions I wanna get you, so right now, everyone is feeling the crunch at the grocery store. I mean, we're, you know, I'm seeing, like, you know, this past week or two, it's been like all these memes of like how expensive eggs are. And, um, you know, like you're to take someone on a high-end trip to the egg section of your store to get something expensive.
So food price have been going way up right now. Um, so for your opinion, you know, Things are getting tighter and tighter and tighter. Like, um, why do you believe it's, it's worth it for people to still invest in getting like these good spices?
Ethan: Yeah, it's a great question. I mean, I mean, I, I see the, the price increases really as evidence of, of, uh, the fundamental flaws in our food system that we depend on these huge corporations and conglomerates to, to move food. Very inefficiently, huge distances. They do a terrible job with food safety again and again.
We have food safety outbreaks, food, uh, problems, you know, disease outbreaks related to, to poor food safety. The FDA is is asleep at the wheel. So first and foremost, buying, uh, directly whenever possible. Buying from small companies who are paying really close attention to this stuff. Getting around the, the big conglomerates that fill the grocery store with crap, honestly, that that's the , that's my first piece of advice.
Um, you know, you may see price increases with, with eggs from the supermarket that you won't see at the farmer's market, where maybe the prices are always a little higher at the farmer's market. , uh, they're not going up now, they're, they're more consistent. So being able to build in those buying patterns as much as possible in, in your day-to-day shopping, I think will not only get you better food, but we'll also insulate you from, from these kind of crazy price shifts.
Um, when it comes to spices, I mean, spices are basically pure flavor and, uh, you only need a very little bit to, to totally change a dish that you don't really have to make any other changes to. You could make a tomato sauce. And today add some smoked paprika, and then it's sort of a, a Spanish profile, maybe smoked paprika and, and, uh, thyme or, or some herbs.
And it's kind of a Spanish profile. You could add some turmeric and cumin and Chile, and it's kind of an Indian profile. You can, you can do a lot with spices. To change a, a set of base ingredients in, in huge ways. Um, and so without needing to spend more money on, on other things, uh, a little bit of spice will, will give you an entirely new dish, uh, from the same base ingredients.
Um, and then, you know, like with, with anything that the cost per serving is very low. Um, you know, our spices are a little more expensive than, than often what you find at the supermarket, or, you know, if somebody's Trader Joe's or whoever sells spices for 99 cents, I, I don't know how, how, is anybody making any money off of that?
I don't, I don't know how that works for anybody, let alone a farmer. But, um, , but you know, even, even at at seven to $10, which is where most of our spices are priced, um, that's still a, you know, a couple of pennies tops per serving and you get so much more flavor from a jar, one of our jars than you do from, from something from the supermarket.
So I think, you know, it's, it's a good value if, if you can, if you can float it, um, and, uh, and, and you can, it just allows you to do so much, so much freedom. To try different things and experiment with different flavors without needing to shell out for different veggies or meat or any other kind of fancy ingredients.
You can, you can do a lot with spices.
Eric: Yeah. The way I think of it too is like you're, you know, it's an investment in, in what you're making in, in, in your food. The biggest problems I think I ever wanted do with people, um, Cooking a home is they get tired of the same old thing.
Like it's just like, um, not that they can't be creative, but sometimes people just like don't know how to be creative. Um, so like, if they're cooking the thing the same way, they're like, oh man, I , I'd rather this, let me just buy this frozen thing. It's easier cook tonight. Or, oh man, I, let's just go to this restaurant here.
You know? And at that point that now you're spending more money, you, you are spending more money to go out, to go out to eat somewhere for the convenience food. You're spending more. . Um, you know, cause because I think that's what happens. People just get bored. and we don't have the time for it here.
But, so if you have a good, like if you build yourself up a good like Spice Pantry and get different things, get different combinations of, of things together, that will last a while too. It's like, you know, it may seem up front, like, oh my gosh. Like, okay, I'm gonna, you know, like your, you go to your website here and you're like, okay, well the cinnamon here is, where is Cinnamon's?
What is it? Is it $10 for the cinnamon or seven?
Ethan: Uh, yeah, I think it's not 8 99 or nine point 99.
Eric: Okay. Uh, for that cinnamon here, where you go to the store and like, oh, this one's a dollar or something here for type of cinnamon that, is, nowhere near as good. Um, you know, you, you just see, okay, well this is way more money here, but it's.
You gotta think of it like, you know, like get into that long term thinking, like, let's a farmer, like it's a long term plan. You're like, you're investing long term , in better food. You're not going to the every week to the store and buying cinnamon for $10. You know, you're not doing that.
You're doing it like one time for however long you, long you have, you know, five, six months or so, or, or depending how long you, you use things up here. And so like, I think that's like something people need to consider too. is that, and we, we've talked about another episode we talked with Redmond real salt.
Um, and, and again, their salt is more expensive, but the flavor's better here. And my kids will eat the vegetables more because it has that particular salt on it. Um, so I think like that's something you gotta consider that too. It's like, you know, don't always look at like, that bigger price up front. Because also, we live in a culture too, that, that easily goes and drops $5-6 a day at starbucks.
Or, or different things like that, that you could also do at home. Of course. Um, so I think that's like, for me, spices something to invest in. And if maybe, your budget, maybe you can't afford to get like, the highest quality chicken at the store and you have, and you just say no, people are on a budget and they may have to just buy the $2 chicken , and dress it up with your spices is, is, you know, a way is a way to go, is a way to kind of improve things.
Ethan: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely it. It makes such a big difference.
Eric: Um, so the last question before we let you go for, uh, this episode, um, is, so what do you think the issues are then with buying the cheap spices in the store? Besides, besides the flavor? What do you want people to know about those, those dollar spices that they're buying the really cheap ones.
Ethan: Yeah. Uh, the Spice Trade really, uh, unfortunately has not changed much in hundreds of years. Um, Spices are grown almost universally on very small farms by small holder farmers all around the world. Uh, the farmer will then sell to a local broker, a middleman, a truck driver, an intermediary of some kind, uh, who's buying from a bunch of farmers in one region and consolidating all those spices together.
That person's selling out to somebody else. Somebody with a bigger truck or a bigger warehouse, you know, further down the mountain, closer to the big city. Um, and essentially have a funneling effect with a lot of small farms at the top of the funnel, and then ultimately very few big exporters at the bottom of the funnel to, to get the spices out of that country of origin.
Um, the, the downsides, there are a lot of downsides to that model. The, the biggest one is that, uh, everything gets mixed together. So farmers don't have any incentive to grow something different or special or even better quality. They only get paid for the volume that they grow. So, uh, it's not about flavor or quality or anything else.
So, so they grow varieties that will have high yields, but, but often high yielding varieties in any kind of plant will, will not taste as good because the plant has to produce more fruit and the, you know, not enough, uh, resources to make sure that all the fruit on that plant are gonna taste good. Um, and farmers are also not incentivized to do anything in particular cuz they're just gonna sell somebody else who's gonna sell to somebody else.
And so they know that it doesn't really matter what they do, they, they're just grown for volume and selling onto the next guy. Um, And that's kind of a backwards system. Farmers are incentivized essentially to, to grow a lower quality product and they don't make a lot of money doing it. Um, and uh, because there are so many intermediaries, you don't know what kind of conditions the spices are being stored under.
You don't know how anybody is handling them. There are a million stories about things getting mixed into spices. Even, you know, not, this isn't like it used to be like this, it's still like this. Spices get mixed with. other things, dyes to make them look, you know, brighter colors, they get mixed with other spices or, or higher quality and lower quality get mixed together to try to kind of get one over on the consumer.
And that's even before it has left the country of origin. So then it gets imported often by a, a few very large importers who likewise, don't really care that much about the flavor, don't really, uh, know very much about where it came from because, because of this very fragmented supply chain. Um, and they hold onto it forever too.
So by the time. Shows up on your supermarket shelf. Spices are easily two to three years old. So if there was any flavor or anything kind of distinctive or, or special about them, it's long gone. They're old and stale. So, you know, we got asked a lot like, what's the best way to store your spices? And the answer is, if you're buying a supermarket, it doesn't matter cuz it's already too late.
They've been stored under way worse conditions before they even got to your kitchen. So, uh, whatever. They're, they're already stale. Um, and, and then, you know, if you, if you look at that model, how much is a farmer getting paid? And, and where is the real value in the spice? So what we, what we realized early on in, in kind of exploring this industry was that if we found farmers who were already doing something really special or already growing a higher quality product, if we went to them directly, we could pay them a lot more double, at least sometimes 10 times more than they'd make from the commodity market.
We and they together could manage the process of getting it out of the country of origin. Uh, we have freight companies and customs companies and other people that we've, we've found to work with on that. Um, and then we import it directly. So we're buying right at the point of harvest. We're often planning with our, our partner farmers months in advance.
I have a phone call tonight actually with a pepper farmer that who we work with in Vietnam , uh, it'll be, you know, 8:00 PM my time is 8:00 AM his time. So we're, we're talking then to plan for his harvest, which is coming up next month. Um, figure out how much he's gonna be harvesting and, and to put, put a plan in place to, to buy it right away and, and have it, you know, have it in hand in the US within, uh, a few months of harvesting, but, you know, between the drying process and, and then putting it on a ship and getting it here.
Um, but that's so much faster than than, uh, any other big spice company would be able to do. Um, so that's kind of the problem. Supermarket, spices, uh, the money isn't going where it needs to go. You're, you're paying for, for something that really doesn't have a lot of flavor. There's, there's not a lot of value there left anymore.
Um, and there's no traceability. So if you wanted to know where it came from, how it was handled, you wanna make sure that it doesn't have heavy metals or salmonella or anything else. You have no way to do that. You as a, as a consumer, as a home cook, have no, there's just no access to that information. Um, so that's why we felt like this was a system that was, was ready for an overhaul and, and here we are.
Eric: And I hope, people out there who haven't heard this kind of thing before, I hope you're like a really, I think this is a really good education, just like seeing how the spices, they just sit there. You know, they're there for a long time.
It's like with honey and I, I like to try different varietal types of honey like you could. You could take some honey people and just take all the honey and pour altogether and, and, and you don't get the distinctive flavors you do when you try an orange blossom honey versus a wildflower honey, or a clover honey, or some, and I found some unique, a sea grape blossom honey.
It's a type of plant that grows in down the Florida Keys. I got, I got the taste, I had a, a very unique salty caramel type flavor to it, like almost picked up some of the salt from the ocean. Um, so like, yeah, when you, like, you separate those things, you get to really savor, uh, like the differences instead just kind of conglomerate all together.
Um, and you know, you're company as uniquely as like you're supporting those farmers. Like you're, you're paying them, you know, they're getting paid what, what they’re worth. They're producing a good product. People are getting a whole that good product here. And it's something like to be prideful in, that you're putting something good.
I just love that you guys are out there supporting those people, bringing tho those unique things that you can't get from any other company out there.
So like I, I have just been a huge proponent of you guys and I hope more people are listening to this here will check you guys out. Um, so yeah, they just gotta head over to Burlap and Barrel, any other tips when they head to your website? Things to look for?
Ethan: Uh, burlap and barrel.com. Um, no. Click around. There's tons of information, farmer stories, sourcing stories. I've been to almost all of our partner farms, myself personally. Um, we have an amazing customer service team, uh, Jenny, Carolyn, and Susan. So if you have any questions about how to use anything or a spice that that's new to you, that you're looking for some tips about, or you pick up anything that you know doesn't, doesn't quite work for you and, and you need some help or you want to, uh, exchange it, feel free to email us anytime, [email protected] and we'll get right back to you.
Um, we have an amazing community on Facebook, uh, Burla and Barrel Spice Forum. 8,000 people. Lots of posts, lots of recommendations and tips, and that's also a great place to go for recipe suggestions or any questions you might have. Um, but our, our, our website is a labor of love and, and a huge amount of work has gone into it.So, um, you know, click around and, and do some exploring. It's, it's a lot of fun.
Eric : There's a lot of good things to read in there and I love all your photos with like the spices. You have like the jar on top of the spices. They all just look vibrant and beautiful and you're just gonna wanna like reach out and grab them and order them as quick as you can.
So, Thank you so much, Ethan, for coming out. This is great. Just getting to talk to you in person and, um, uh, well not person but virtually. Um, but yeah, this is, this is great and I hope like more people will check you guys out.
Ethan: Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it and I appreciate all the, all the support over the years. I'm so glad to hear that, that you like the spices and you've cooking 'em all the time for your family. And, uh, it's, uh, it's a real honor. So thanks for having me and, and great to.
Eric: You're welcome.
📚 Additional Resources
Here is the list of spices we talked about in this episode. Check out the link to see how you can order them yourself. To the right of some of the spices you will find a recipe link from the blog using that spice.
- 🛒 Zanzibar Black Peppercorns | 🍴 Cacio e Pepe
- 🛒 Royal Cinnamon | 🍴 Peach Ginger Sour Cream Muffins
- 🛒 Fermented White Peppercorns | 🍴 Olive Oil Béchamel Sauce
- 🛒 Cinnamon Verum
- 🛒 Wild Mountain Cumin | 🍴 Instant Pot Smoked Barbacoa Tacos
- 🛒 Smoked Pimenton Paprika | 🍴 Better Than Campbell's Bean Soup
- 🛒 Taurus Mountain Thyme
- 🛒 New Harvest Turmeric