Grades and Types of Persian Saffron:
Saffron is an expensive spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the “saffron”.
The vivid crimson stigma and styles, called threads, are collected and dried for use mainly as a seasoning and coloring agent in food.
Saffron has long been the world’s most costly spice by weight. Although some doubts remain on its origin, it is believed that saffron originated in Iran.
Saffron’s taste and iodoform-like or hay-like fragrance result from the phytochemicals picrocrocin and safranal.
It also contains a carotenoid pigment, crocin, which imparts a rich golden-yellow hue to dishes and textiles. Its recorded history is attested in a 7th-century BC Assyrian botanical treatise and has been traded and used for thousands of years.
In the 21 st century, Iran produces some 90% of the world’s total for saffron. At US $5,000 per kg or higher, Right now saffron is the world’s most expensive and luxury spice.
A degree of uncertainty surrounds the origin of the English word “saffron”. It might stem from the 12th-century Old French term safran, which comes from the Latin word safranal, from the Arabic za’farān, which comes from the Persian word zarparan meaning “gold strung” (implying either the golden stamens of the flower or the golden color it creates when used as flavor).
Saffron is not all of the same quality and strength. Strength is related to several factors including the amount of style picked along with the red stigma.
Age of the saffron is also a factor. More style included means the saffron is less strong gram for gram because the color and flavor are concentrated in the red stigmas.
Saffron from Iran, Spain, and Kashmir is classified into various grades according to the relative amounts of red stigma and yellow styles it contains.
Grades of Iranian saffron are: “sargool” (red stigma tips only, strongest grade), “pushal” or “pushali” (red stigmas plus some yellow style, lower strength), “bunch” saffron (red stigmas plus large amount of yellow style, presented in a tiny bundle like a miniature wheatsheaf) and “konge” (yellow style only, claimed to have aroma but with very little, if any, colouring potential).
Grades of Spanish saffron are “coupé” (the strongest grade, like Iranian sargool), “mancha” (like Iranian pushal), and in order of further decreasing strength “rio”, “standard” and “sierra” saffron.
In addition to descriptions based on how the saffron is picked, saffron may be categorized under the international standard ISO 3632 after laboratory measurement of crocin (responsible for saffron’s color), picrocrocin (taste), and safranal (fragrance or aroma) content. However, often there is no clear grading information on the product packaging and little of the saffron readily available in the UK is labelled with ISO category. This lack of information makes it hard for customers to make informed choices when comparing prices and buying saffron.
Under ISO 3632, determination of non-stigma content and other extraneous matter such as inorganic material (“ash”) are also key. 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). Formerly there was also category IV, which was below category III. Samples are assigned categories by gauging the spice’s crocin and picrocrocin content, revealed by measurements of specific spectrophotometric absorbance. Safranal is treated slightly differently and rather than there being threshold levels for each category, samples must give a reading of 20–50 for all categories.
These data are measured through spectrophotometry reports at certified testing laboratories worldwide. Higher absorbances imply greater levels of crocin, picrocrocin and safranal, and thus a greater coloring potential and therefore strength per gram. The absorbance reading of crocin is known as the “coloring strength” of that saffron. Saffron’s coloring strength can range from lower than 80 (for all category IV saffron) up to 200 or greater (for category I). The world’s finest samples (the selected, most red-maroon, tips of stigmas picked from the finest flowers) receive coloring strengths in excess of 250, making such saffron over three times more powerful than category IV saffron. Market prices for saffron types follow directly from these ISO categories. Sargol and coupé saffron would typically fall into ISO 3632 category I. Pushal and Mancha would probably be assigned to category II. On many saffron packaging labels, neither the ISO 3632 category nor the colouring strength (the measurement of crocin content) is displayed.
However, many growers, traders, and consumers reject such lab test numbers. Some people prefer a more holistic method of sampling batches of threads for taste, aroma, pliability, and other traits in a fashion similar to that practiced by experienced wine tasters. However, ISO 3632 grade and colorings strength information allow consumers to make instant comparisons between the quality of different saffron brands, without needing to purchase and sample the saffron. In particular, consumers can work out a value for money based on price per unit of coloring strength rather than price per gram, given the wide possible range of coloring strengths that different kinds of saffron can have.
Grades and Types of Persian Saffron:
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Saffron in other languages: (Crocus Sativus)
Arabic – Za´faran
Estonian – Safrankrookus
German – Safran
Indonesian – Kunyit kering
Portuguese – Acafrao
Russian – Shafran
Finnish – Sahrami
Swedish – Saffran
Dutch – Saffraan
Norwegian – Safran
Japanese – Safuran
French – Safran
Greek – Zaforá
Icelandic – Saffran
Hindi – Kesar / Zafraan
Italian – Zaffarano / Zafferano
Chinese – Fan hung hua
Spanish – Azafrán
Swahili – Zafarani
Latin – Safranum
Georgian – Zaprana
Japanese: Safuran (#サフラン)
Chineese: Zànghónghuā (#藏红花 or #藏紅花)
Russian: Shafran (#шафран)
Greek: Krókos (#κρόκος)
Hindi: Kesar (#केसर)