Tried & Tested: Steenbergs Organic Spices & Loose Leaf Teas

Passionate about providing products packed with flavour, aroma and provenance, Steenbergs Organic is a family-run firm with a mission to make us smile.

In fact, such is their commitment to Fairtrade, the environment and people that not only are their products ethically sourced and environmentally sound, even their North Yorkshire-based factory is a purpose-built, eco-friendly factory located just 200 yards from where they first set up shop in 2003. Steenbergs was also the first company in the UK to offer spices carrying the Fairtrade mark and they continue to innovate and expand the range.

Thankfully, such a virtuous business model has actually been pretty good for business and today Steenbergs Organic is at the forefront of Fairtrade spices in the UK and Europe. I was fortunate to receive a selection of organic spices to sample for my article ‘The Hidden Health Benefits of Spice‘, as well as a number of loose leaf teas and organic baking ingredients.

Ethics aside, what’s instantly appealing about Steenbergs Organic is the packaging. Quaint little jars and tins are presented with clean and clear labelling making for a fresh and modern alternative to your typical resealable pouch or supermarket spice jar. Because these really are no ordinary kitchen cupboard spices. Take Steenbergs Organic Dukkah.

A complex blend of chunky pyramids of sea salt with toasted organic seeds (chickpeas, coriander, cumin and sunflower) and their own unique blend of spices, the dukkah is lovingly toasted until the seeds reach a light golden brown shade that enhances their flavour and gives them warmth. The organic seeds are then ground individually to give a coarse, chunky texture before the rest of the ingredients are blended in.

It’s exhausting just reading about it but, thankfully, the £2.65 price tag (per 55g jar) means there’s really no point worrying about the whole process as dukkah is a spice mix traditionally eaten and enjoyed simply. Whether that be by dipping fresh Egyptian baladi bread (pitta bread will do!) first into olive oil and then into the spice, sprinkled over salads or vegetables or as a crust for fish or chicken. Personally I was most tempted by their recommendation for adding dukkah to potatoes, cooked and tossed in hot oil. The dry roasted flavours of cumin clung to the crispy skins and gave the whole plate a wonderfully fragrant and fresh Arabic twist.

Another easy way to add flavour to your food is with Steenbergs Organic Perfect Salt (£2.45/90g, or £3.70/180g).

Described as ‘the ultimate cooks cheat’, this blend of natural sea salt, black pepper and mixed herbs (thyme, sage, oregano, mint, marjoram and parsley) packs a punch of saltiness and umami all in one all-purpose seasoning. Admittedly the health benefits of the herbs may be compromised by the temptation to dip and lick the mix straight off your fingers, but if you’re going to overload your plate with salt, this is the salt to do it with.

Steenbergs Organic have over 400 organic spices, peppers, seasoning blends, herbs and flavoured sugars to their name, certainly making it easy to swap all your usual go-to ingredients with the organic version. Thankfully, the reasonable prices and noticeably higher quality also help making the move a whole lot easier to stomach.

Bright yellow with a pleasing, sharp, bitter, spicy and lingering depth of flavour, their powdered organic Fairtrade turmeric (£2.60/40g) gives real body to Indian and South East Asian cuisine while Steenbergs Organic Cayenne Pepper (£2.45/55g, or £3.95 for a 150g bag) delivers a surprising warmth and sweetness against the pungent bite of capsicum.

Another area of Steenbergs’ expertise is tea. According to their website, ‘without question the best tasting teas available to the contemporary drinker are loose leaf, unblended single estate organic Fairtrade teas.’ Personally, I’ve always considered a mug of Yorkshire Gold to be the pinnacle of a good cup of tea and despite spending a considerable amount of time in China, the suitcase of green, jasmine, Lapsang Souchong and regional black teas that came home with me still remains untouched.

However, according to Steenbergs website, I’m not alone in this dislike of the delicate Chinese tea as ‘the market for China tea is small in Britain, because of our love of strong Indian, Ceylon and African teas swamped with milk, thickened by sugar and gulped by the mugful.’ Their own HUGE range of teas therefore incorporates Fairtrade tea leaves from across the world, with everything from spicy Organic Chilli Chai Tea to Organic Liquorice and Peppermint Tea.

Like spice, tea is often used for medicinal purposes and it’s difficult not to feel uplifted by Steenbergs Organic Happy Hippy Herbal Tea (£4.50/50g tin). Developed to lift up flagging spirits and fight those wintry blues or mid-afternoon blues, the pinky rose flowers and yellow chamomile tops are pleasing on their own but when steeped for 3-5 minutes, they produce a fragrant and fresh hot herbal tea ideal for calming down stressful situations or sharing with friends.

Because this is tea that really does deserve to be made a ceremony of. Beautifully presented and surprisingly tastier than your average tea bag, even I have been convinced into making the effort to ditch the trusty Yorkshire every once in a while and sitting down to a proper cup of Steenbergs Organic loose leaf tea.

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