First, in order to make it easy for you, Safaroma team has created the following beautiful infographic. This infographic not only shows the whole saffron plant's parts but also it explain the each section of a saffron thread. This is based on Afghanistan's national and regional grading system.
Secondly, keep in mind that the intensive labor and small quantity of product resulting from that drudgery makes the saffron industry susceptible to fraud. Saffron scams in the past led to the formation of the Safranschou Code which punished the double-dealers with penalties, incarceration and execution. But through the years, the trade became lenient and scams persisted. Coupé saffron stigmas may be mixed with low quality threads, or with filaments from other plants. Saffron powder may be mixed with turmeric and other similar-looking spices. Of course these are the illegal activities that compromise the consumers and the saffron industry in general.
Nowadays security measures come in the form of the ISO, or the International Standards Organization, which laid down a uniform grading system for both the saffron filaments and saffron powder. The ISO/TS 3632, created specially for the saffron industry, was released in 1980, adjusted on a regular basis, with the latest version released in 2011. This standard inspects the authenticity and quality of the saffron products based on categories, and checks their labeling and packaging as well. The market price of saffron products is dependent on the results of such inspection.
In fact, saffron sample grading depends on laboratory standards set for color, flavor and aroma, which means testing the major components crocin, picrocrocin and safranal through photospectroscopy. They must surpass a given ceiling in order to be considered even at the lowest or poorest category. Crocin, in particular, is the primary consideration because all other components are affected by its presence. Authentic saffron threads and powders are graded from I to IV, with I as the finest and IV the poorest. The following is the grading scale for crocin absorbance:
- Grade I: >190
- Grade II: >150
- Grade III: >110
- Grade IV: < 110
In Afghanistan mainly saffron threads are graded as follow:
Although Sargol (means top part of a flower) is considered as the premium saffron, there is another variation of Sargol Saffron. If three stigma threads are attached together and form a cluster, this type of saffron is called Negin. Since production of Negin saffron is an extremely delicate and precise manual skill, it is the most expensive type of saffron and very limited to offer. The ISO reading of Negin is usually more than 270.
2. Sargol (All Red)
This grade consists of ONLY dark red stigma tips and has the highest quality compared to the other types. Sargol saffron is the pure saffron with no broken stand and has the ISO reading of 260-270. Due to accumulation of saffron`s active components in stigmas, Afghanistan's Sargol has a very strong aroma and rich coloring capacity.
Safaroma Saffron is only consist of Negin and Sargol Saffron, which are dark all-red Saffron threads.
3. Pushal (Mancha)
Pushal saffron is the stigma's orange part of the plant attached to a 1-3 mm style end. According to ISO 3632 system, this type falls into grade II category that has a color reading of up to 250. Although Pushal does not have Sargol`s pure texture and premium quality, but some consumers prefer to purchase Afghan Pushal to be assured of saffron validity and authenticity.
4. Khooshe (Bunch)
This grade is relatively low strength grade (ISO reading is 70 to 75) and consists of red stigmata plus large amount of yellow style, presented in a tiny bundle.
5. KONJ (KONGE)
This grade consists of only orange/yellow styles and has a very little aroma and coloring potential.
Although Saffron powder is not a grade of Saffron, it is prepared by fine grinding of Sargol, Pushal and Bunch parts of the plant. This product has a slightly lighter color compared to Sargol and Pushal and its coloring capacity is obviously less. The manufacturing process is done by superior technology to avoid loss of Afghan saffron`s quality. Saffron powder can be easily adultered and mixed with other ingredients such as artificial dye and turmeric, so it has always to be obtained from trusted source.
However, in Spain saffron is graded differently, not with ISO 3632, but the scale used is the same. The category labels are different, though:
- Coupe: >190
- La Mancha: 180–190
- Rio: 150-180
- Standard: 110–150
- Sierra: < 110
Saffron has a very subtle flavor and aroma — some say it's floral, some say it's like honey, and some would just say pungent. The flavor can be hard to nail down and described. If you're going for authenticity in dishes like paella and bouillabaisse, you've got to have saffron. Please share our this with anyone who you think craves for detail information about real authentic saffron.