A little bit of history.

Mythology.

According to the Greek mythology, a son of Zeus and Hera, whose name was Crocus, loved Smilax. His friend Hermes killed him by accident, while he was training. Crocus died as he called for the Gods, who deeply touched, covered him in dew and then turned his blood into the red threads of the saffron flower.

From ancient times.

Saffron has been one of the most renowned plants since ancient times. It is the most sought after, appreciated and expensive spice of all due to its therapeutic qualities, its dying power and its unique aroma. The first reference to growing saffron goes back to the founder of the Acadian Empire, Sargon, around the year 2300 BC.

The Saffron Company

We have unmistakable written information of the use of saffron that dates back to Egyptian times. They used the flower to ornate their shrines; Cleopatra used it as a cosmetic, and the Ebers papyrus (1600BC) refers to its medical properties.

Phoenicians, first started trading with saffron, and used it as an offering at weddings as a symbol of fertility. Hippocrates and other Greek doctors of the Roman Empire, like Dioscorides and Galenus mention crocus as a drug or a healing herb. Romans used it as a perfume or stimulant as well as to fight inebriation. During the Middle Ages it was a most important ingredient of sensual or aphrodisiac ointments. And today, saffron still is one of the most delicate spices in the market.

There are news of recipes used in the court of Richard II of England and Henry VIII was a fervent admirer of this spice. In the 16th century Katherine of Medici introduced it in the Paris court through some sweets considered to have aphrodisiac effects.

The trade and use of saffron thrived during the Italian Renaissance, and apparently the cooking of yellow tinged rice took place for the first time at a wedding reception, being so widely accepted that it has reached our time. Paracelsus, a Swiss doctor and alchemist living in the 16th century refers to the use of this spice in magic spells, witchcraft and sorcery.

Saffron in Spain

According to some theories, the Moors brought saffron into the Iberian Peninsula in the 9th century. They were the ones who actually expanded the growing of this plant, but the spice was already known thanks to the Phoenician, Greek and Roman colonies, since these peoples already used it wherever they settled down.

The Spanish language mentions the word “saffron” for the first time in the books called “Saber de Astronomía” (“Astronomy knowledge”, 1256) and in contemporary fragments. As the growing of saffron spread thanks to the influence of the Arabs, the product started to appear in some recipes of the time, used by both the Christians and the Moors: “Almisrí” or roasted meat, “isfiriyá”, some kind of crêpe with meat and egg, and “ahrás” or ball meats.

Back in the 14th century we start to have knowledge of the export of this spice from the Iberian Peninsula. Catalan traders ship it to Genova and Naples. After some time they started to sell it in France, Britain and the north of Europe.

Eastern Spain, centre of saffron trade.

The Saffron Company

Halfway through the 19th century people from the eastern area of Spain a the most important traders of saffron. They have the advantage of having the shipping port in Valencia and the production areas nearby. The traders’ wholesale market place was created. At that time this market was mainly under the control of a company ruled by Dámaso Alcaraz, who was the first person in the Valencian Autonomous region to trade saffron wholesale and who would often have the power to set the price to buy and sell the product.

Transport modernization and especially the new railway line between Madrid and Alicante, improved the possibilities for the local traders from Novelda, who already had a long-lasting tradition in selling the local products: almonds, aniseeds, cumin, oil, wine, etc. That is when they started buying and selling this product. This trade reached its highest development when they managed to find a great market in Asia, above all in India, where Spanish saffron was highly appreciated.