Sahar Saffron, fresh saffron market
Sahar Saffron, fresh saffron market

An intuitive approach to grade saffron quality

Flavor, aroma and coloring strength combined together constitute the quality of saffron.  We will show you that a simple manipulation of the numeric values of these components could produce a single number that can be presented as the quality of the saffron.  In addition, this number makes it easier to compare the qualities of different saffron brands.  For example, table-A below shows the numeric values of color, flavor, and aroma for different brands of saffron in 2012. The second column from the left in the table-A is the ISO’s minimum requirements for grade-1 saffron.  


Table A
  ISO 3632 Greek organic Greek organic Italian Kashmiri Moroccan
Color  190 256 273 225 259 251
Aroma 20 41 42 42 48 40
Flavor 70 91 101 83 90 97


Can you name a saffron brand in table-A which has the highest color, flavor, and aroma? As you can see it is not that simple. Sahar Saffron has developed a simple algorithm for its own in-house use to grade quality of the different saffron brand. We were often asked which brand of saffron is the best. We use this algorithm to obtain an unbiased answer. We have called this algorithm the Quality Volume (QV) method. We later use QV to calculate the Quality Rate (QR) of each of our saffron brand. 


Quality Volume (QV) method:

If you remember from high school geometry, the volume of a cubic space is computed by multiplying its width,   length, and height together. Now, for each brand of saffron multiply the numeric values of its aroma, flavor, and color together to obtain a volume. We call this virtual volume, Quality Volume and is shown by QV.   Quality Volumes of each brand of saffron is shown in the second row of Table-B. For visual ease, these numbers (QV) are proportionally reduced and are shown in the last row in table B.  The brand that has the largest QV is the best so far ( highest volume). Organic Greek seems to have the highest Quality Volume of 116.  

Table B
  ISO 3632 Greek organic Greek organic Italian Kashmiri Moroccan
QV 266000 955136 1158066 784350 1118880 973880
QV 27 96 116 78 112 97

Another test that is done for measuring saffron quality is to figure out the percentage of its moisture. ISO 3632 requires that grade1 saffron’s moisture should be less than %12.  Therefore it makes sense that we take out the moisture from our QV. To do this, let M represent the percentage of the moisture and volatile matter in the saffron. Then all we need to do is to multiply the QV's values by (1-M).  The last row in table-C below shows the values of QV for all our saffron after taking out the moisture from QV. 


Table C
  ISO 3632 Greek organic Greek organic Italian Kashmiri Moroccan
QV 27 96 116 78 112 97
1-M %88 %88 %88 %87.5 %91.9 %91
QV 24 84 102 68 103 88


The brand with the highest QV intuitively would be the best selection. As you can see, after taking into account the moisture content; QV of our organic Greek saffron goes down from 116 to 102.  QV of Kashmiri saffron goes down from 112 to 103. Since 103 is bigger than 102, we can say that our 2012 crop of Kashmiri saffron had the highest quality compared to our other saffron brand.

Quality Rate (QR)

QR of any brand of saffron simply indicates how much that brand of saffron is better in comparison to the minimum requirement for grade 1as defined by ISO. How many times have you seen that a saffron seller claims that his/her saffron is grade 1+ (or grade A+) meaning that the quality of their saffron is above grade 1  But by how much the quality of their saffron is above grade 1?, QR addresses this problem. 
To obtain the QR of any saffron just divide its QV by the ISO’s QV. QRs of our saffron brands are shown in the last row of table D. As an example, the QV of our Kashmiri saffron is 103. If you divide this number by 24 which is the ISO’s QV, we will get 4.3. The number 4.3 simply means that the quality of our Kashmiri saffron is about 4.3 times higher (stronger) than the grade 1 saffron suggested by the ISO. As you can see the quality of all our saffron brands can be shown by A+ but that does not tell us which one is the best. However, QR tells us how far quality of each brand stands to the right of the quality of grade 1 saffron defined by ISO. 

Table D
  ISO 3632 Greek organic Greek organic Italian Kashmiri Moroccan
QV 24 84 102 68 103 88
QR 1 3.5 4.2 2.8 4.3 3.7

Please note that the values of QV in our table are not indicators of the quality of the saffron of their country of origin.  Values of our QV in the table only reflect the quality of our current inventory of saffron in comparison to each other.
You can skip all the reading above and use the following formula to calculate QR of your saffron.


QR= {(color) x (aroma) x (flavor) x (1-M)} / {190x20x70x (%88)}
M is the percentage of the moisture content of your saffron.

QR is always > or = 1. If QR is smaller than 1 then according to ISO 3632 your saffron cannot be a grade 1 saffron.

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