How to check the quality of Saffron

Saffron is a uniquely delicate spice that possesses distinct properties. Measuring these various properties through laboratory analysis largely determines the quality level and market appeal. If certain specifications can be met, the result is objectively high-quality saffron.

The quality of saffron begins with the selection of high-quality corms. There is abundant evidence that the size and weight of mother corms can significantly influence saffron yield and quality. The production process – from the picking of flowers to preparing the stigmas for packaging – involves activities that, when performed improperly, are detrimental to saffron quality. Thus, good practices must be followed.

One of the ways to measure the quality is through the colouring strength. the higher the coloring strength, the higher the quality of saffron. Generally, its coloring strength is being presented by 2 or 3 digit number including ninety-five, one-hundred eighty or two-hundred thirty-five. The higher the number also means the higher the quality of the saffron. Grading standards are set by the International Organization for Standardization, a federation of national standards bodies. ISO 3632 deals exclusively with saffron and establishes three categories: III (poorest quality), II, and I (finest quality).

ISO Standard 3632 is the standard that pertains solely to the measurement of saffron quality. The standard consists of 2 parts, ISO 3632-1 and ISO 3632-2, which specify the test methods for the different classifications of dried saffron, including threads, cut threads, and powder. These standards’ main purpose is to test the strength of the saffron’s flavor, scent, and color; this helps protect consumers from fake saffron which is expensive but offers limited culinary value. Additionally, the standard also tests the drying method of the saffron; poorly dried saffron will retain moisture and as such, weigh more offering an additional aspect of deception to the end consumer.

How to see if its real or fake saffron?

  1. If you put a saffron strand in your mouth and it tastes sweet, its not real saffron.
  2. Another very distinct way of identifying quality is the aroma.
    Pure saffron aroma is a blend of Hay and Honey smells.
  3. Put Saffron in water. In some time, it will colour the water. But what’s the big deal, so can the fake one. However when you take the thread our of water, it wouldn’t have lost its original colour, whereas if it is fake, it would completely lost its added colour, and wouldn’t look the same.
A very interesting test is to add a little baking soda in water and mix it. Then add saffron to the mixture. The water/baking soda mix shall turn yellow if its Pure Saffron. The fake one will turn dim red.

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