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What should I look for when buying spices? 

Strength, color and flavor. The best way to judge strength is by comparing old stock to new for freshness. The difference is remarkable! The color should be bright, not faded. And Flavor, The aroma should reach your nose before your nose reaches the container. 

Where should I store my spices?

In a cool dry area away from bright light. Flavor is lost when spices are exposed to heat and even the slightest amount of moisture can cause caking. Paprika and some herbs are sensitive to light, so it is preferable, for their appearance, to store spices away from strong direct light. And do not forget to close the container tightly after each use. An open container promotes flavor loss.

Why do my spices need to be replaced?

Because weak scented spices waste your cooking time as well as the other ingredients in the recipe. Using additional quantities of weak spices does not compare to using the correct quantity of fresh spice either in flavor or appearance.

When should I replace my spices? 

Whole spices have a longer shelf life than ground spices and herbs. A general rule of thumb for ground spices, herbs and seasonings is to replace after one year, or give them the sniff test, if you can not smell the product a few inches from your nose you certainly will not be able to taste it.

How much spice should I use and when?

As a starting point, use a pinch of dried herbs per four servings (which is about equal to ¼ teaspoon). Always remember, it is easier to add more than to take away. To help release the flavor it is helpful to crush whole herbs with your fingers before adding it to a recipe. In foods that have long cooking times, it is best to add herbs during the last hour of cooking; or if whole spices are called for, add them at the beginning of cooking. (It can be helpful to place them in a small cheesecloth so they can be removed when the desired flavor is reached. This also avoids any pieces of whole spice from remaining in the finished dish). Otherwise, add the spices when the salt is called for. In uncooked foods, herbs should be added as long as possible before serving.

What do the letters mean by some of your teas? (FOP, BOP, GBOP)

The designations are meant as a grading system to describe the dry tea leafs appearance. It has nothing to do with taste, and tea grades are not standardized, and they do not offer any meaning toward quality. See our list, and try them all to find your favorites!
FOP, Flowery Orange Pekoe
BOP, Broken Orange Pekoe
GBOP, Golden Broken Orange Pekoe
For more detail about tea grades, please visit Tea Grading Blog