Spices and Herbs

Christopher Columbus discovered America when he was aiming to open up a new route for the lucrative spice trade. While we no longer discover new continents, we can explore new worlds of smell and taste through the herbs and spices that we enjoy from around the world. The world of the small-scale farmers and plantation workers that grow and harvest these herbs and spices for us is often challenging, which is why Fairtrade began certifying herbs, herbal teas and spices in 2005.    

Today, Fairtrade shoppers can choose from a diverse collection of herbs, herbal teas and spices - vanilla, rooibos, cardamom or turmeric, just to name a few - for cooking, flavouring, or the creation of a delicious hot drink. Of the around 50 plants that are significant for the global herbs and spices trade, Fairtrade certifies the large majority. To discover the full range, have a look at our Herbs and Spices list.

What Fairtrade Means for Spice and Herb Producers

There are a number of Fairtrade certified spices, including: vanilla, pepper, ginger, turmeric. Fairtrade herbs include lemongrass, lemon verbena, peppermint, celery and oregano.

Buying Fairtrade certified spices and herbs helps small farmers survive on the world market by providing more stable prices. Cooperatives and farmers’ associations also receive a Fairtrade Premium above the selling price to invest in local social and business development projects. Read more

General Herbs, Herbal Teas and Spices Facts

  • Although only 50 types of herbs and spices are traded on a global scale, according to the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization, a lot more exist but only for local consumption. So if you travel to a new area, try to include an exploration of local spices into your tourist activities.
  • Herbs and spices can not only help you to transfer otherwise stale dishes and beverages into exotic sensual adventures, but are also praised as natural health enhancers and disease cures for an almost infinite amount of physical and mental conditions.
  • Saffron is historically referred to as the ‘spice of kings’. It requires considerable effort to generate large amounts of it and takes anywhere from 60,000 to 250,000 flowers to extract one kilogram of its dried form. Most saffron is grown in Iran, followed by Spain, but you can find smaller amounts also in rather unexpected places such as Switzerland.
  • The name of rooibos, a popular herbal tea, originates in Afrikaans and means ‘red bush’ in reference to the plant the leaves are taken from. Unsurprisingly, South Africa is one of the dominant spots for rooibos cultivation.
  • While the spiciness of a spice is commonly measured by subjective impressions, fans of more exact figures might find the Scoville scale, named after American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville, appealing.  It measures the spiciness of Capsicums (chillies) in Scoville heat units or SHUs.

Where to Buy

Fairtrade spices and herbs are available in many markets. If you can’t find them, talk to you local grocer or get in touch with your local Fairtrade organization by checking out Fairtrade Near You or select one of the countries in blue on the map below.

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