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Spicetrekkers.com - On the hunt for the world's best spices and blends

On the hunt for the world's best spices and blends

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Meet the staff: Marie-Pier

The employees in our stores at the Jean Talon Market are the true experts in matters of spices, tea, and cooking in general. It is they who, over time, have made your visits such a unique experience. We invite you to discover, each month, an introduction to each one of them. This interview is translated from French. 

Meet the staff: Marie-Pier - Épices de cru

Marie-Pier is a true source of quiet strength for our team, and everyone here agrees that her calm, sweet nature makes for an exceptional colleague. Deeply curious and passionate about cooking, she collects cookbooks (and literary books of all kinds) and never misses the opportunity to develop her knowledge of tea and spices, which she sometimes shares on our blog. She will also starting giving seminars on spices this fall.

What is your favorite spice blend?

Zaatar, a blend made of the thyme that bears its name, sumac and sesame, along with some other spices and a little salt. It’s a blend that I’ll use anywhere, any time. Continue reading →

Tastes and Flavours : Yucatan

Philippe & Ethné in Yucatan

The Yucatan Penninsula is located between the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, making it a meeting place between Central America, the West-Indies and Mexico. This emplacement means the region is one of the most important intersections of spices in the Americas.

Yucatan food is characterized by rustic dishes with uncommon flavours. Other than a few hot exceptions, dishes tend to be dominated by sour and salty. By contrast, accompanying salsas are ferociously hot.

The cuisine of the Mayas, who inhabit the Yucatan, has long been composed of corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, chiles, annatto, turkey, and wild game. With the arrival of the Spanish to the continent, new ingredients were added, including: garlic, onion, citrus, and herbs and spices from the Mediterranean world, as well as chicken. Later, in the 19th century, an important wave of Syrian immigration contributed a deeper understanding of spice blends and a love of grilling to the local cuisine. From this slow intermingling an original cuisine was born, quite different from the cuisines of other regions around Mexico, one that unites the fragrances of spices like cumin and allspice with smattered herbs like epazote and Yucatan oregano, a variety remarkably different from the one from its European counterpart. Continue reading →

Tastes and Flavours: Southern India

Tastes and Flavours: Southern India - Epices de cru

The Malabar Coast, in the Southwest of India, is, quite possibly, the most fabulous place in the history of the Spice Road. It’s not only where pepper originated, but it’s also there, deep in the jungle, that one finds one of the rarest spices in the world: cardamom, which lends its name to the very hills in which it grows.

In antiquity, East Asian spices like cinnamon, cassia, clove, star anise, nutmeg and mace, would pass by the Spice Coast to eventually reach the Middle East and finally Europe. It was in well-known ports like Goa, Cochin and Tellicherry, that Arab sailors, like the Sinbad of 1,001 Nights, would come to buy the spices of the Hindu Kingdoms. Continue reading →

Meet the Staff : Étienne

The employees in our stores at the Jean Talon Market are the true experts in matters of spices, tea, and cooking in general. It is they who, over time, have made your visits such a unique experience. We invite you to discover, each month, an introduction to each one of them. This interview is translated from French. 


Étienne has worked in our two stores in the Jean-Talon market for over two years. An accomplished musician (he plays in Caltâr-Bateau with our colleague Alex) and an evident epicurean, he has a good sense of humour as well a good dose of goofiness that is contagious. Thanks to his famous habit of biting into each whole spice raw, he has acquired, over time, a great knowledge of the gustatory secrets of each spice in their most primal state. Continue reading →

How true is your cinnamon?

How true is your cinnamon? - Epices de cru

There’s a spice hiding out in many Quebec pantries which has always played a major role in its history and culinary culture: cinnamon. We may hate it or love it – but do we really even know what it is? What if we told you that the product which you buy from the supermarket that you’ve been told is cinnamon is not true cinnamon? What is often sold as cinnamon is in fact cassia, a family member granted, but not true cinnamon.

To fully understand this misrepresentation with which we have lived for so long, we have to go back a few centuries. True cinnamon, also known as Ceylon cinnamon, has one unique terroir – Sri Lanka. And to this day it is still considered to be the best terroir for cinnamon production in the world. Cassia on the other hand, comes from China, Vietnam and Indonesia. There are of course lots of reasons – geography being one – which made the cassia trade lucrative for many countries. True cinnamon was discovered when traders and sailors began exploring Sri Lanka (previously known as Ceylon) and it was then that the differences in quality and flavor of cinnamon versus cassia became apparent. At that time cinnamon, like many spices, was considered a luxury product, available only to the rich. Continue reading →

My Stupid Indian Phone

Posted on by Ethne

My stupid indian phone - Epices de cru

I am the first to admit that I have very little patience. Monopoly is one of the few games I can endure and that’s only because I get paid for passing “Go”! I never fidget or “have something better to do” except, when babies, dogs or canard de confit are around.

My kids, Marika and Arik were used to me saying “speed it up” whenever what I considered to be their ramblings began to bore me. They both learned early on to punctuate their conversations with humour and to speak quickly if they expected to keep me engaged.

I believe in karma: you know, what goes around comes around. Indians in general are also great believers in that sort thing, but I never dreamed to what extent my impatience and Indian bureaucracy would prove to be karmically incompatible. Continue reading →

A Montreal Poutine

Posted on by Steve

Poutine - Epices de cru

I don’t know why the staff decided the American should make poutine for an all-Quebec crowd. I know they thought it was funny. I thought it was funny. Something to do with the March spice of the month, Montreal Spice Rub. But as I make more and more of the staff lunches, I’ve got to build by reputation. And being able to make poutine, one of those simple, honest dishes that can get messed up easily, is a reputation-making dish. Fries, cheese, and gravy- or is it poutine sauce? These are the kinds of questions I would have to answer if I was to make a good, filling poutine for the staff of Épices de Cru.

Poutine consists of French fries, which can vary but are usually thin, cheese curds, which are akin to nuggets of unprocessed string cheese, and sauce, which is contentious. There seem to be two schools of thought on the sauce. One is that it’s basically a gravy: roux and stock. Another suggests a specific “poutine sauce,” one that includes ketchup, green peppercorns, and apple cider vinegar. I admit there is a distinct sour flavour to poutine sauce as opposed to normal gravy, but no one seems to complain about poutine with gravy. For my poutine, I decided to go with a good old fashioned gravy. Continue reading →

Cheap, lazy and impatient: Why I Use a Gaiwan

Posted on by Marika

Gaiwan - Epices de cru

In many ways, I am not a traditionalist at all. I am firmly entrenched in the 21st century, using every modern convenience I can get my hands on to make my life easier. You see dear readers, I have accepted that I am a lazy, cheap and impatient woman who wants easy access to all the best things life has to offer, without having to inconvenience my day in least. Latest phone? I have it. New fangled matcha shaker? Mine. I love what is new, what is convenient, and what gets me to the point of the things, the heart of the matter, without wasting my time or energy. And that is why I have a 400 year old Chinese invention at my desk. A Gaiwan appeals to every part of me. Continue reading →

Oolong 101

Oolong 101 - Epices de cru

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the employees at the Tea Bar have a particular favourite tea, so let’s just say we have a great weakness for oolongs. This befell us because Marika, our tea huntress, always comes back from her travels in China or Taiwan with one or two new oolongs in her suitcases for us to discover. It’s a source of wonder, as we discuss tea in the shop, to note that people know few (and certainly not all!) kinds of oolongs. And yet, as soon as people taste their first sweet infusion of our oolongs, they fall under the charm of these teas. Continue reading →

Tea and Spice: How Are Teas Flavoured, Part 2

How Are Teas Flavoured - Epices de cru

Everyone agrees that teas are sensitive to the surrounding environment, but no one can say exactly why. I decided to get to the bottom of this question with some tests of my own, so last week I exposed five perfectly good teas to intense spice fumes. You can read about setting up the experiment here.

The results are in! Well, some result-like observations. Despite the highly subjective nature of taste testing, and our inability to look more closely at what’s happening inside the leaves themselves, we can make a few comments based on this test. Cassia will tear through even the finest teas, but with noticeably different levels of intensity. Continue reading →

Meet the Staff: Alexandre

The employees in our stores at the Jean Talon Market are the true experts in matters of spices, tea, and cooking in general. It is they who, over time, have made your visits such a unique experience. We invite you to discover, each month, an introduction to each one of them. This interview is translated from French. 


If you’ve ever been to our stores in the Jean-Talon Market, you’ve probably run into Alex, one of our tea advisors. He’s young, charismatic, and enthusiastic, contributes to the warmth of the bar, and never misses a chance to share his passion for tea and music. Alex is also a member of the band Caltâr-Bateau, with Étienne, another of our colleagues. It’s not rare to come across, at the tables in front of our shop, one of his musician friends trying a nice cup of tea, guitar in hand. Continue reading →

Spiced Popcorn: Oscar Night Snack in Style

Spiced Popcorn - Epices de cru

Obviously popcorn is the most appropriate snack for Oscar night. Honour the show that honours the movies by honouring its most famous snack. Just as the stars put on their most elegant ensembles to impress on the red carpet, the same must go for the snacks. If you’re gonna do Oscar snacks, you gotta do it with Oscar style. Nothing adds style to popcorn better than a variety of spice blends.

Plain buttered popcorn is the tuxedo of Oscar night: perfectly acceptable, perfectly boring. No one’s popcorn is getting Monday’s “best dressed” award if they show up wearing butter and salt. Spices offer an infinity of flavours that can be added quickly and easily. Continue reading →

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