Spices should bring warmth not only to your taste buds but to your entire soul – especially if they’re prepared with as much love and care as they are at Salt Spring Island’s Monsoon Coast.
From researching where to find the freshest spices to bottling blends by hand, the chef and owner of Monsoon Coast, Shadel Haddad, is involved throughout the entire process.
The packaging is especially important to Haddad, as he insists on processing and packaging all of his spice blends in small batches to ensure quality and freshness.
“The freshness of spice and the value of fresh spices, should be treated the same way as good coffee – you know, the difference between stale and fresh coffee,” he says. “That’s what I really want to deliver to people so that they obtain full flavour.”
Monsoon Coast has spice and tea blends from Africa, the Levant, South Asia, the Far East and West. They are committed to the highest quality spice blends and even toast each spice individually with a customized temperature to get the maximum flavour out of each one. And unlike the bigger spice retailers, they do not add what Haddad calls “fillers” – like onion, garlic, as well as sugar and salt – to their blends.
“Fillers give you the savoury smell, but they are not real spice, and a lot of people have issues with them,” he explains. “They don’t want to consume them. Fillers give you bulk instead of just spice because spices are normally more expensive.”
Monsoon Coast only packages its blends in glass jars or eco-friendly refillable bags, as plastic packaging is not only bad for the environment but also affects the flavour profiles of the spices.
In addition to their spice and tea blends, Monsoon Coast’s website is also full of more than 100 recipes created to inspire your cooking and use of different blends. Such as golden Moghul Coconut Curry Sauce and warming Mahavira’s Dal (pictured above). Creative director and Haddad’s business and life partner, Pete Gryschuk, has organized their products by spice level, region and size. He also organized their recipe library so cooks can search by blend and other criteria.
“I have a culinary background, and I grew up in Jordan, of Arab and Armenian heritage, so spice was a big part of my upbringing,” Haddad describes. “My mom was very particular about freshness, so we had a little spice shop in our neighbourhood, and they would grind and blend it fresh for us.”
“So, I wanted to bring that here, and Monsoon Coast already had the framework. It was just beautiful serendipity that I found my soulmate in a company.”
With Haddad’s chef background, he hopes to expand their services to also include cultural dining experiences for the local community.
“Humans and spices have a historic relationship. Spice has raised and demolished empires. There’s something almost visceral and emotional, and so satisfying and comforting when we smell spice,” he says.
“It’s a testament to human creativity and resilience.”
To browse the diverse catalog of authentic, fresh spices, visit monsooncoast.com.