Spice capitals of the world
Travelling abroad is a feast for all the senses. Exotic smells and tastes can conjure up images of a delicious local eatery tucked away in the corner of a far-flung place, perhaps even a mouth-watering dessert at a fine dining restaurant. That's especially the case for holidays in destinations famed for producing a particular spice.
Mainly located close to the equator so enjoying warm temperatures, these places mean culinary enthusiasts can visit a favourite foodstuff in its natural habitat, finding out about its history and growing conditions, and sampling the highest-grade examples of the ingredient.
So to add an extra layer of exoticness to a holiday, here are the Flexicover team top five foodie areas you won't want to miss if you're a fan of these spices. Don't forget to make room in your suitcase to bring back a hefty supply.
Thanks to its ideal climate, Kerala in southern India has a 3,000-year long history of producing the ingredients that make Indian food so flavourful. Such is Kerala's importance in the spice trade that it now houses The Indian Institute of Spices Research, devoted to exploring the different varieties, botanical properties and best growing conditions. Pepper, nutmeg, cloves and chilli are abundant in its sun-drenched fields, but of all the spices it grows, it is India's largest provider of cardamom. A member of the ginger family, its distinct flavour is used in Indian curries and desserts, even in Swedish and Finnish sweet breads, and it's a key aroma in chai tea too – a must-have if you visit the tourist-heavy coastal area.
The delicately favoured, bold-coloured spice of saffron is famously more expensive than gold - understandable as it takes 150,000 saffron crocuses to make one kilogram. The high price made it especially problematic that there were 15 years of trade sanctions imposed against Iran, the largest grower of the rare flower. Now relations have improved, better quality saffron is being sold abroad, so watch as the quality of the ingredient - and its resulting delicate flavour - improves. The political shift also means that the tourist trade in Iran is on the up. So saffron enthusiasts can go straight to the source, in a country filled with fascinating ancient and modern history - no wonder it's a major destination for 2016.
Cinnamon, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka may be best known for its emerald-tiered tea fields, but historically cinnamon was its most important export. Native to the country, the spice's botanical name is derived from that of the island, and from the 16th century, it was so coveted that it warranted wars between the Portuguese, English and Dutch. Sri Lanka remains the largest and arguably finest producer of cinnamon in the world, so a walking tour to catch its captivating aroma - as found in the inner bark of the cinnamon tree - is not to be missed.
An ancient Aztec secret stolen by Spanish conquistadors and enjoyed by European nobility, the first vanilla orchid was smuggled to the nearby Bourbon Island in the late 1700s. It’s here that 'Madagascan Bourbon vanilla' was born - and its buttery, rich and overwhelmingly sweet flavour is considered today to be the finest available. But with quality comes cost - understandable as it's one of the most labour-intensive crops on the planet. While four-figure flights mean a trip is a once-in-a-lifetime visit, once there, a visit to a vanilla plantation should be high on your to-do list.
Juniper berries, Greece
Rumoured to be used by athletes before their Olympic events to increase their stamina, the healing benefits of juniper berries were well known to the Ancient Greeks. Today, juniper’s medicinal properties are better known in the form of gin, with its piny taste and citrus hints the signature flavouring. Despite juniper’s prevalence on the islands, traditionally ouzo has proven more popular with Greek palates, but a new love of gin is blossoming. Callicounis Distillery (the oldest ginmaker in Greece and located near Kalamata Airport) produces 80 types, and invites visitors to taste-test their finest wares.
Wherever you are planning to take your next trip it's good to know that Flexicover are committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure that you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.