A visit to the Tropical Spice Farm, Goa

A visit to the Tropical Spice Farm, Goa

Two of the Chai Walli team were very fortunate recently to visit a spice plantation in Goa, India, during a trip to meet with our organic tea suppliers. If you dreamt that a spice farm would have the aroma of cinnamon in the air and the romance of tropical fruit and entangling vines at every turn…you’d be correct!

Female hand holding turmeric root at spice farm in goaFresh Turmeric...isn't she a beauty! 
Click the photo above to discover our favourite way to use Turmeric!

After walking over a bamboo bridge towards the visitors space where we were to meet our guide, we were greeted with a sparkling sprinkle of marigold petals and adorned with a teeka on our forehead. The welcome drink was made from the local lemongrass, ginger and green cardamom, and it was everything you would imagine those three divine spices could be when served together, and chilled.

Sprawling over many acres, the Tropical Spice Plantation has a special 1 acre ‘mini plantation’ that guests are able to walk through, with a guide, and point and pick and crush and taste every example of the spices and herbs that are grown here. Alongside a great human guide, was also a four-legged guide, Rani the dog, her name meaning “Queen of Spice.”

We definitely got lost in a world of spice at the plantation, and brought back with us lots of interesting information about the spices found in our chai blends, as well as lots of other fun facts, that we want to share with you…

 dried nutmeg seed and skin on handSpicy nutmeg.

Love nutmeg (Is that a silly question)? We use a part of this spice in our 11 Spice Chai, but you may not recognise it in our ingredients list! That's because we use the outer skin of the nutmeg, which is known as mace. This gives our chai a lovely earthiness. The inner seed of this spice is called nutmeg. But don’t sprinkle too much nutmeg on your morning porridge - ingesting too much nutmeg will make you sleepy, and that’s not the way to start your day!

Green cardamom pod shoot growing in IndiaShoots off the cardamon plant.
A highlight of our Caffeine Free 11 Spice Chai - click the pic to see it in action! 

Cardamom is like gold to us, and rightly so, as it’s the 3rd most expensive spice after saffron and vanilla. Cardamom comes in two varieties - black and green. The green cardamom is sweet and aromatic and plays such an important role in our Caffeine Free 11 Spice Chai! The cardamom tree has shoots that come out from the base, and from these shoots, cardamom pods grow, with 1 shoot producing just 10 cardamom pods.

Yellow cashew fruit being held up at the spice farmCan you guess what this is? 

One of our favourite things grown on the property was cashews. If we held a poll asking what the cashew looked like when it grew, how many of you would know that this gorgeous yellow fruit with a squiggly thing on top was actually the cashew flower and a single nut? The fruit tastes a little like guava, but is no where near as highly prized as the single nut that grows out of it.

But the cashew also has another use. Let’s chat about Feni…

Cashew feni alcohol distiller machine in the spice farm in goa indiaA traditional Cashew Feni distiller.

Feni is an alcohol that comes from fermenting the fruit of either the cashew or young coconut, and is famously made in Goa. At the spice farm they make Cashew Feni, using a very old school (but photogenic) distiller. The fruit ferments for 7 days, and then is boiled, fermented, boiled and fermented. The result? A vodka-meets-ethanol-meets-rum white spirit, offering the daring a product at 45% alcohol. Did we try it? Yes. Did we need to have a nap afterwards? Yes.

There was so much to learn (and taste) at the Spice Farm, but here’s a few of my favourite tidbits:

  • The vanilla bean belongs to the orchid family, and it takes 4 years for the 1st flower to grow after planting.
  • The Bird’s Eye chilli (otherwise known as Peri Peri or Portuguese Chilli) is said to make you “dance like Michael Jackson.”
  • The female Pineapple plant is prettier, has spiky leaves, and a sweet fruit. The male Pineapple is not as appealing to the eye, and its fruit isn’t nearly as sweet. Enough said.
  • All Spice (or Jamaican Pepper) is not actually a blend of 5 different spices, but in fact 1 spice that has the taste of pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and cloves all bundled into one berry!
  • When you’re looking to buy cloves, always go for brown ones, rather than black cloves. The black cloves already have the oil removed from them, whereas the brown ones still contain their oils, so the flavour will be stronger for you!

pretty female pineapple plant at spice farm in goaSweet (female) pineapple.

Our gorgeous tour concluded with a delicious, traditional Goan lunch (served on plates made of the Betel nut leaves), and that elusive shot of Feni (I think!). We are well equipped to chat spice all day long now, and…even more in love with our signature 11 Spice Chai!

Spice plantation traditional goan lunch buffet with womanThank you for our delicious Goan lunch!

Ok, spice girls and guys - what’s your favourite spice?

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