The Holiday shopping season is upon us, with its great rewards for a well-chosen present and its terrible embarrassment for a flop. Many now turn to online shopping in their quest to find the perfect present, thanks to its great convenience and endless choice. However, internet shopping has not yet adapted to accommodate every product. Some classic, no-brainer gifts, like clothes and food, can be harder to shop for online.
Spices are a great example of a classic good Christmas gift- small, easy to use, and always well-received- whose purchase is complicated in internet storefronts. We all know why spices make such a great gift. They’re easy to wrap and transport, and are always welcome. The options are near limitless. Best of all, you’re sure to partake in future spice cooking, so spices are an actual gift that keeps on giving.
Let’s not forget spices were given as a gift at the first Christmas: literally two of the three original gifts, frankincense and myrrh, were common Arabian spices.
So we have a near perfect gift for the Holidays, yet not everyone is convinced they should buy spices online. So much of a spice’s appeal comes from its aroma and flavor, neither of which are yet accessible through the internet. There’s enough uncertainty in online shopping, what do they expect if you can’t try it on. Buying spices online opens you up to adulteration, deceptive pricing, and low quality.
In an industry that’s profited off distance, mystery and astounding the senses for thousands of years, spices present a daunting display of pitfalls and possibilities on the internet. Here’s a few hints to help you buy spices online with confidence.
You can learn a lot from how a spice is sourced. When ordering spices online, scan the website for information on where and how the company buys their spices. Check the product descriptions, “about us” pages or any blogs on spice sourcing. You should see not just the country of origin, but some note on the region, village, or even family that cultivated the spice.
Ethically or conscientiously sourced spices tend to be higher quality. Commodity spices bought through brokers or auctions are often lumped into huge lots with other spices with different origins; these spices tend to be less carefully grown, processed, and shipped. Companies that go out of their way to work with suppliers get better results. In general, the more a spice seller says about their suppliers, the more closely they work with them.
One of the most common ways companies inflate prices is through packaging. Of course, Christmastime is liable to bring out more creative packaging, but any excessively packaged or promoted product should be a cause for alarm. The purpose of a spice container is to identify the contents and keep it fresh. Metal cans, opaque plastic jars with screw top lids, or reseal able bags are best. A company that puts too much emphasis on packaging and beauty probably hasn’t invested as much in the product. And besides, wouldn’t you rather decorate your gift yourself?
The best way to ensure your spices are pure and unadulterated is to buy them whole. Many customers are still surprised that ground spices often contain fillers and additives like flour or stems. This is even easier to mask when the product is sold remotely. Try to go whole when you buy spices online.
Trying to find good, quality spices for loved ones is hard enough as it is. A recent study found that even reliable supermarket brands overcharge for low quality spices. Shopping for spices always requires a little more attention, like any product you don’t purchase regularly. By paying attention to just a few small details, you can buy online with a lot more confidence.
Don’t forget what great rewards await for a well-bought spice gift. A spice gift is exciting, fun, and almost guaranteed to be used. Best of all, odds are, when it does go in to use, you’ll receive a delicious gift in return as thanks. Happy shopping!