This exceptionally bright and aromatic saffron comes from Herat, Afghanistan, home of Heray Spice’s founder, Mohammad Salehi. Mohammed started this project in 2017, after years of working as a US Army interpreter in Afghanistan before relocating to Chicago, in a program specifically for individuals who had risked their lives in support of anti-Taliban efforts. Determined to sustain a valuable and impactful relationship with his homeland and to showcase its potential for phenomenal products, Mohammed organized a collective of several farmers around the production of the world’s finest saffron. In the four years since its inception, Heray has increased its farmer membership almost tenfold, weathered wildly complex and precarious positioning with the return of the Taliban, and nonetheless followed through on its mission — help farmers, support children’s education in Herat, and introduce western chefs and kitchens to an incredible product.
Making all of this happen is neither simple nor straightforward, but in any interview you’ll find with Mohammad, he states unambiguously that he views Heray foremost as a vehicle for impact, and secondarily as a traditional “business.” 10% of the company’s profits go directly toward educational non-profits in Herat, and the farmers and seasonal workers who actively farm the flowers and harvest the saffron are paid 30 - 50% more than the national standard. In addition to upholding the company’s impact aspirations, these measures are necessary in order to incentivize farmers to stick with saffron, despite it being more tedious and less profitable in the short-term than opium. However, if done well and targeted to a strong market, saffron will outperform opium after its second year, rewarding both the company’s investments and the farmers’ commitments.