About Saffron

Saffron is a spice coming from the crocus sativus flower. 

Of all the flower’s structure, only the three red threads or stigmas are consumed as the spice. 

Saffron consists of the following three main compounds:

Crocin C44H64O24 :     for colour

Picrocrocin C16H26O7: for flavour 

Safranal C10H14O:        for fragrance 


Negin: this is the highest quality grade for saffron threads. In terms of thread’s length, it is almost equal to Pushal, yet with the colour intensity of Sargol. Negin saffron is usually wider on the tip part.  

Sargol (Momtaz): this type is comp  letely red without the orange or white tips. As Sargol saffron goes through further sorting process, it sometimes contains smaller shreds of broken stigmas. 

Pushal: this type has longer threads that are orange or sometimes white on the end side. 

Fake or Adulterated Saffron

The first and easiest way to tell pure saffron from the adulterate one is noticing the ISO certificates. ISO 3632-1 and ISO 3632-2 are the specific standards that testify saffron’s taste, fragrance and colour as well as lack of any chemical toxicity. 

The following table shows saffron’s properties according to ISO 3632:

Moreover, saffron’s physical appearance is another way to assess its quality. Real saffron is round on one end and more flat with smaller dents on the other end. Additionally, saffron’s colour is sharp crimson not light red. Furthermore, saffron threads must be separate and not stuck together in bundles. Usually when  they are stuck together, it means they are sprayed with soda or salt water to gain extra wight. 

Extra care should be taken when buying ground saffron. Sometimes ground saffron is mixed with turmeric, sugar or salt to add extra weight. In this case, although it gives a yellow colour, it lacks the usual saffron taste.

Adulterated saffron can contain artificial colours such as tartrazin orange, amaranth, sunset yellow, quinoline yellow and azorubine. Other impurities include fibre, sand, insects, fungi and other pollutions. 


High storage temperature, moisture and sun light are the most critical factors affecting saffron’s quality. Saffron’s essence can be evaporated, thus, inappropriate storage can cause saffron to lose its essence, flavour and other properties. Ideal storage temperature for saffron does not exceed 20 °C. It is also recommended not to ground saffron until right before the time of consumption or keep it in a closed container as the essence in the powder form can evaporate faster.

Allowed Dosage

Monthly intake of 3 grams of saffron is proved beneficial for health, yet this amount must not reach 5 grams as it can lead to adverse consequences on body. Note, consumption of 5 grams of saffron in one intake can cause death!

Excessive dosage of safranal in saffron can create toxic effect. Some recent studies suggest that due to the peculiar climate and soil properties in Iran and especially in Khorasaun, the Saffron cultivated in this region contains less amount of safranal compared to the saffrons from other parts of the world.   

Why Saffron is Expensive? 

Saffron flower is very fragile and to this day should still be harvested by careful hands. Additionally, its further process of detaching and cleaning the threads takes so much time and care. 

Moreover, for the first few years, a saffron farm would not yield conspicuous harvest and once a piece of land is under cultivation of saffron, it can only be used for 15- 20 years. After 20 years that land is not arable for anything anymore. 

Furthermore, saffron is relatively scarce due to very peculiar cultivating climate and very small quantity of harvest yield. 1 kg of saffron flower accounts for 2000- 2700 flowers which in the end gives 37- 55 grams of saffron threads. On average, the harvest rate can vary between 2 to 12 kg per hectare. 

Most important of all, there is a huge gap between the saffron farmers and its final consumers. The presence of multiple intermediaries in this market along with reexport of the product through a second or third country has added up a big margin to its final price. For example, according to the official statistics, from 2015 -2019 Iran and Spain as the two biggest exporters have exported an annual average of 232 and 124,6 tons of saffron, respectively. Out of this 124,6 tons, Spain imported an annual average of 61,8 tons, 46,2 tons of which again came from Iran. On average,  the Iranian saffron goes through up to even five different countries to reach its final customer.