I'm going to nerd out for a minute...
Not all saffron is the same. Seems obvious, right? But did you know it is the most adulterated spice in the world often mixed with turmeric or ground beet powder to add color or other flower stamens or stigmas to add weight. Because of this it is best to stay away from saffron powder as once it is ground you have no idea what other additives could be lurking inside. If it's super cheap it's not quality and unfortunately often times if it's super expensive, well it's not quality either. Make certain you are buying saffron from a quality, reputable dealer. This particularly extends to foreign markets where a shrewd purveyor of spices can identify the uniformed before a word is ever spoken!
If you are simply just looking to color a dish you can get it from a pinch of turmeric as the low quality saffron has no real discernible flavor anyway. However, when cooking traditional Spanish, African and middle eastern dishes there is no substitute and the taste and aroma of high quality saffron is unmistakable.
We carry "Coup" grade Spanish Saffron which is the highest grade and meets strict ISO-3632 standards. ISO standards help fight against fraud and help recognize quality saffron producers. Saffron is considered to be pure when it complies with the requirements of the standard ISO 3632 and when no external matter has been added to the natural product. We also carry Sargol Persian Saffron grade I : > 190 which is known as the finest grade of saffron in the world. Ours exceeds the > 190 coming in at 226 ISO.
Saffron is a very complex spice and it is so expensive because it cannot be mechanized and only hand harvested. 1 lb of dry saffron requires the harvest of 50,000–75,000 flowers; a kilogram (2.2 lbs.) requires 110,000–170,000 flowers and it takes 40 hours of backbreaking labor to pick 150,000 flowers.
Blooming Your Saffron
A “pinch” of saffron is about 20 medium threads. Saffron needs moisture to truly release its flavor and the best way to extract flavor from saffron is to soak the threads in hot (not boiling) liquid for 5 to 20 minutes and then add both the saffron and the liquid to the recipe.