These are the stories of Essential Spice. The stories of personal relationships that bear real fruit told from the first person perspective of our founder. We don’t identify our close partners by name because the volatile nature of some of their environments and their prosperous relationship with us could bring unwanted attention.
The Story OfSMOKED Chilies from Mexico
Tending the Fields
Authentic Smoked Flavor
Essential Spice goes to the origins of these food ingredients. In each case, we’ve spent years of effort on the ground with these farms, farmers, and farming co-ops. A great example of this is our chilis. We needed a really good, strong chili vendor. We worked for months/years to find a reliable and high quality vendor.
We finally booked a flight into St Luis Potosi to get people on the ground there and try to develop relationships. As soon as we got there it was clear who we needed to talk to. Everyone told us the man to speak to was The Don. We got a dinner booked with him, and had no idea what to expect. We were in our early 20s… young and inexperienced, but on a mission to find quality and uniqueness in food.
As we waited at the predetermined restaurant and time, the Don walked in a very well dressed man and looked around. After a minute or two he left. I thought I missed my chance, but couldn’t let him go. After chasing him into the street, I introduced myself and his response was “I didn’t expect a young man.” Now this was many years ago, but I was able to convince him to join us for what turned into an incredible dinner of high end food to the music of classical Mexican guitar. We convinced him of our serious intent and goals, and he invited me to his farm.
The farm was small but unbelievably efficient. He grew everything on site and pumped out tons of product through his small dehydrator. The Don introduced us to his family and it was very clear that his son being a part of the business was a huge factor for him. After getting to know the family, joining his son for a soccer match, and spending quality time with them I learned that the Don, his father, was sick. I only knew this family for days, but I had envisioned a long future working with The Don already. I was crushed.
In that moment I could see the fear and doubt in the son’s eyes. I told him we could do it. We could build a partnership, he could take on the farm that his father built and continue that growth and legacy. That was 15 years ago. The Don is obviously no longer with us, but every week a truck shows up in Atlanta, GA from that farm in St. Luis Potosi and my relationship with the son and his family is incredibly valuable to me on a personal level. I know everyone from this family now and their children know my children. The farm is run as an extension of their family and we feel like they are an extension of ours. They had never done any export operations on their own. They were selling only locally and to third parties that killed their profit margins. Our relationship gave them a much more healthy profit margin while also allowing us to provide customers with their unmatched quality at an amazing price.
This is how Essential Spice sources food and ingredients. Every product we offer is developed with that level of personal relationship and quality of product source and handling.
The Origin of OurVANILLA BEANS FROM MADAGASCAR
On The Vine
A Walk through vanilla
Dried & wrapped
Our story in Madagascar is well documented and unbelievably valuable for the community, but the story of the generation of that relationship still blows my mind. At the time, when we went to Madagascar to develop Vanilla Beans and Extract all of the farmers and the people who processed these beans had no idea what they were even used for. These people were doing back breaking work with no idea about the end use of the product. We travelled to Madagascar and began developing relationships locally.
One person stood out among the rest on that first trip. A young and vibrant guy met us for drinks one night and the first thing he said was “I’M YOUR GUY HERE”. He was adamant. We were young, having drinks, and traveling on what was a wild adventure across the world so we were happy and agreed with him, “sure thing buddy.. you’re our guy”, but we had plenty of budding relationships locally and thought more of him as “maybe one of our guys here in Madagascar”. He was unique in that he had a great education with a business degree. He understood the relationship building process in business and knew what he was doing. He knew his position in the community and he knew what his family farm could accomplish. He knew business, he knew real relationship building, and he knew the farming process. Months and years went by with us working with several businesses and taking quite a few flights back and forth, to and from this sparsely populated, distant, but incredibly vibrant African Island.
We discounted our new young friend and his claims but finally, after many conversations and his unwavering statement that he was OUR GUY for this project, we gave him a full order. One Metric Ton with beans 14 centimeters or above, exactly 23% moisture content, and we needed the Vanillin Content over 1.5. These are extremely high quality standards with the precise specifications we require. This young ambitious guy and his family farm represented a smaller and lower capability to us than most of the farms we had worked with up to that point, so we didn’t expect much.
Five days later we got a call. Our order was ready. FIVE DAYS!?! We were used to waiting six months for orders like this. We were blown away by the idea that he could have prepped the order that quickly to our standards and were thus still skeptical. We went to the farm and began the tour. It was a small but clearly efficient and well-organized agricultural process. He took us into their curing barn and opened several crates of vanilla. It was perfect. The aroma was the nicest we had ever experienced. The beans were all to our exacting standards. I looked at him and said “YOU’RE MY GUY” and our business and personal relationship was cemented in that moment.
These stories of Essential Spice are more important to me than just the method by which we find amazing quality. In this case, Madagascar can be a dangerous place with much of the country having extremely limited access. Going to these farms requires travel on precarious roads and hikes through jungles with machetes to clear the way. We built this relationship with this family and their farm through work and time on the ground with them in Madagascar. Our young, vibrant, and ambitious friend died years ago in a car accident and near that time I also learned that he named his son after me. The news of his death and his son bearing my name deeply affected me, but also cemented the importance of these relationships and what we build with these families and communities. Our relationship with that family has never been stronger. Will, a member of the Essential Spice team and part of the crew that goes out to develop these relationships with me, refers to the matriarch of the family as “mom”. These are personal relationships built over time, which creates something special, something more than just a product brought to market.
We’ve worked with this family through building every part of their export business. We helped them get their exporting license and build production processes. Everything about the scale and production capacity they have now is a product of our relationship. The prosperity and meaningful work that this brings to their family and community makes this a relationship I’m extremely proud to have developed and one of the closest personal family relationships we’ve developed through this process.
Tales ofblack pepper from india
From The Source
In the Action
The Land of Spice
Our friend in India comes from a family of black pepper farmers and was the first of that family to go to school and get an education. His goal was to get his family out of the cycle of local exporters and bring opportunity and profit margins that could sustain their family and help them grow their community. He was on a mission.
This young and ambitious friend of ours originally sent us hundreds of emails. He is from an area of India known as Kerala. Kerala is on India’s Arabian Sea shoreline and is known for its stunningly beautiful backwaters and beaches. The area is also known for its wildlife preserves and parks that are home to elephants, langur monkeys, and tigers. We had other farming relationships for products that required annual site visits and we decided to entertain the requests of this incredibly ambitious and persistent guy that would not stop emailing.
When we met him at the airport we were struck by how animated, happy, and enthusiastic he was. He was dancing around he was so happy and had to put down his welcome sign to give us immediate hugs upon arrival. He was truly excited to meet us and saw it as a huge opportunity for his family and their farm. Farms in India become extremely sustainable and efficient out of pure necessity. They had extremely low margins with local exporters and were barely surviving but their work ethic and remarkable efficiencies truly impressed us.
When they started talking prices I was astonished. I explained to them that working with Will, packing to our specifications, and building the relationship with us would work. We painted the picture for them and described the way we build lifelong relationships with Essential Spice. I talked to the father and told him that the investment he made to give his son an education would pay off far into the future. They were clearly hard workers and had an unbelievably efficient farm. We told the family that we would give them a trial order. They were excited about the opportunity, but we both didn’t know how it would go until that first trial order arrived.
A few months later that container arrived in the United States and it was perfect. The highest quality we’d ever seen at an amazing price for us, yet also at the highest price they’d ever sold their product. Our pricing allows them to be multiple times more profitable than they’d ever been while also bringing the highest quality product to US markets at extremely competitive pricing.
What we do at Essential Spice on a day to day basis is build the relationships that let us bring the highest quality food products to the US market, while having life and community changing effects driving prosperity at the local level. We do this by going there personally to develop real relationships. The unmatched quality built through personal connection is what allows us to bring to market these spices and foods that are so essential to each of these locations around the world.