Meet the Supplier: Burlap & Barrel Single Origin Spices

Meet the Supplier: Burlap & Barrel Single Origin Spices

Michelin-Starred Chefs' favourite spices are now available in Canada through SwitchGrocery! 

Burlap & Barrel spices are single origin, meaning the owners of the company actually go to the farms where the spices are from, pick the harvest they want and work directly with the farmers to get it into your kitchen! What does this mean?  The spices are more flavourful and potent then the ones you buy in the grocery store and have nuances in their taste that you’ve never experienced before! 

Why We Picked Burlap & Barrel

  1. The owners are extraordinary! Ethan and Ori deeply care about spices and the farmers behind them! They set up Burlap & Barrel as a Public Benefit Corporation to articulate that their goals for their company are both to build a business and build a way for farmers to earn an income and grow!
  2. The spices are unlike anything I’ve ever tried before! There is so much more flavour and depth with just a little dash of the spice.
  3. Canadians deserve amazing products like this as quickly as possible.

I believe that awesome companies should be able to get their products to customers quickly, without waiting years to get on the shelves of traditional retail stores. Plus, the food you eat should make you feel good and help you on your health journey!

Burlap & Barrel is all of those things and we are so excited to be able to bring it to you!

Check out our interview with Ori, the co-founder of Burlap & Barrel! 

Behind the Company

Burlap & Barrel was founded by two longtime friends, Ethan Frisch and Ori Zohar.

Ethan started as a chef before leaving to become a humanitarian aid worker in countries like Sierra Leone, Syria, and Afghanistan. It was in Afghanistan where Ethan met a farmer and discovered his first spice — Wild Mountain Cumin — which he brought back for his chef friends to try and they couldn’t get enough of it!

Co-founder Ori Zohar is a social and serial entrepreneur who developed a love for cooking from learning how to cook Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes from his parents. When Ethan began discovering spices, the two decided to join together and Burlap & Barrel was born.

Burlap & Barrel single-origin spices founders Ethan Frisch and Ori Zohar on SwitchGrocery Canada

Ethan and Ori’s activism and entrepreneurial spirit seep into their business. As a Public Benefit Corporation, Burlap & Barrel’s mission is to build new food supply chains that value public benefit alongside profits. Specifically, the public benefit they aim to provide with Burlap & Barrel is:

“to promote the reduction of inequality and exploitation in food systems by connecting farmers to high-value markets, helping them access a larger share of the product value chain, and establishing long-term, mutually-beneficial trade relationships.”

What is it?

Burlap & Barrel spices are renowned by professional and home chefs alike primarily because they are single-origin; an innovative business model that produces the highest-quality products while simultaneously improving the livelihoods of their partner farmers!

Burlap & Barrel single-origin spices Beautiful Spices Equitably Sourced on SwitchGrocery Canada

Here’s an overview of some of our best-selling spices!

  • Royal Cinnamon
    • Tasting Notes – Brown Butter, Buckwheat Honey, Orange Peel; intense sweetness and spiciness – tastes like cinnamon sugar without the sugar!
    • Great with yogurt, cakes, brownies, coffee, chia pudding
    • Named the Best Value Cinnamon by Spruce Eats
    • Harvested in the mountains around the ancient Vietnamese capital city of Hue
    • Harvested in a unique way – rather than chopping the tree down to harvest the bark, the farmers make a cut around the base of the tree and let the bark dry on the tree for weeks before harvesting. This makes it both easier to harvest and concentrates the essential oils in the bark
    • Not widely harvested or exported
  • Black Urfa Chili
    • Tasting Notes – reminiscent of chocolate and dried fruits, tomato-like and sweet with a lingering burn/spiciness
    • Our BEST-SELLER! Goes great with anything; from meat, veggies, eggs, brownies, hot chocolate, you name it!
    • Harvested outside the city of Urfa in Turkey
    • Starts out as a red, sweet and spicy pepper grown, and then cured in the sun changing colour from red to black before being stone ground into flakes
  • Wild Mountain Cumin
    • RICH flavour. Goes well on any meat and veggies, also hummus (tip: toast the spice first!)
    • The spice that started it all
    • Hand picked by foragers in the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan.
    • Other than what is exported for Burlap & Barrel, the cumin is harvested only for local consumption
  • Zanzibar Black Peppercorns
    • Tasting Notes – Cacao, Lemon, Tropical Heat
    • Goes well with ANYTHING!
    • Black Peppercorns grow in bunches like grapes on a vine. Most are harvested while still green, and then dried to give them their black colour. Burlap & Barrels are allowed to ripen longer on the vine before being handpicked and sun-dried
    • Burlap & Barrel is the exclusive importer of Zanzibar Black pepper
    • Organic
    • Sourced from a farmer’s co-op in Zanzibar
  • Smoked Pimenton Paprika
    • Tasting Notes - Hardwood Smoke, Ripe Tomato, Summery Sweetness
    • Great for chili or chicken rub; mimics char-grilled BBQ flavour
    • Sweet red pimento peppers are slowly dried over oak coals, giving them a rich smoky flavour
    • From a single family-owned farm in the Extremadura region of Western Spain
  • Ground Black Lime
    • Tasting Notes – Bright citrus, garden herbs, tanned leather
    • Great with ANYTHING that you’d use a squeeze of lemon (e.g. guac!) also amazing as a chicken rub, in soup, and in Persian cooking!
    • Grown on a family farm in Guatemala
    • Ripe limes are dried in the sun until they turn black and savoury
    • Common ingredient in middle eastern cooking

What makes them stand out?

Yeah, they’re amazing spices, but WHY and HOW? 3 reasons: (1) Connecting farmers to new markets, (2) Educating consumers about the products and process, (3) Sourcing unique spices that are grown biodynamically and organically using traditional techniques to obtain the best tasting spices.

1. Connecting farmers to new markets - The single-origin business model gets rid of brokers and middlemen who drive prices up and quality down. Instead, Ethan and Ori visit the farms themselves, spend time with their partner farmers, and learn firsthand everything about the spices they’re sourcing, blending, and selling.

Burlap & Barrel founders, Ethan Frisch and Ori Zohar, in Spain farm for Smoked Pimenton Paprika SwitchGrocery Canada

Without the middlemen, Burlap & Barrel sets their partner farmers up for economic independence and financial security -- they invest in farm infrastructure and expenses associated with exporting and pay the farmers 2-20x the commodity price for their best spices. For us, this means more high quality spices!

2. Educating consumers about the products and process - Since they’re single-origin, all Burlap & Barrel spices are capable of being traced back to a single area of production. Normally, you wouldn’t be this aware of where your food is coming from, who made it, and who it is helping! 

3. Sourcing unique spices that are grown biodynamically and organically using traditional techniques to obtain the best tasting spices - The traditional spice model is that a large company will buy batches of spice from many regions and mix them all together and sell that spice (i.e. cinnamon) to grocery stores (after passing through up to 10 hands to get there). By the time the spices reach the consumer, years may have passed from when they were first harvested and any distinctiveness that existed in the flavour at harvest is long gone. Furthermore, high- and low-quality lots are blended together for consistency and cost at the expense of losing flavour.

Who should use Burlap & Barrel?

Everyone! If you are an aspiring chef, a foodie, or just someone trying to make a good dinner the whole family will like, you’ll appreciate the distinctive flavours and unique ingredients of these Burlap & Barrel spices!

Burlap & Barrel spices are so much more flavourful than the spices from the grocery store and will really amp up your cooking. Since they’re single-origin, the spices really exhibit the unique flavour of the environment in which they grew — similar to how grapes from France produce different wines than grapes from California! We spoke with Ori on a recent WineTea Wednesday, and his suggestion was to start with ½ the spice you would usually use and go from there since their spices are more potent then normal.  

Final Thoughts

Burlap & Barrel single origin spices have really changed my cooking at home.  I love adding the cinnamon to my Keto Chow shakes, putting Black Urfa chili flakes on eggs, and adding paprika to my cauliflower rice!  I am still finding new ways to use everything and have adopted one of Ori’s suggestions – have a base dish that I know really well, and then play around with spices to see how different combinations work.  I do that with fried eggs – I’ve added Urfa Chili, Paprika, Cumin and Pepper in all different combinations to learn how to work with these new and more flavourful spices!