TYPES OF SAFFRON

There are several saffron classifications and they are mostly based on its coloring power, that depends on the quantity of crocin. Coloring capacity establishes the quality of the saffron and can reach a maximum value of 300. In Italy there is a classification based on the standard ISO 3632-2-93 (International Standard Organization): it divides saffron into four product categories based on parameters of coloring power:

 

 

CATEGORY

COLORING POWER

I

more then 190

II

between 150 – 190

III

between 110 – 150

IV

between 80 – 110

 

 

In Spain even if subdivision is different, is still based on the coloring power:

 

CATEGORY

COLORING POWER

Coupe

more then 190

La Mancha

between 180 – 190

Rio (standard saffron)

between 150 – 180

Sierra

between 145 – 150

 

 

In Iran saffron classification is based on the separation procedure of the stigmas from the flower.
In order to understand this process it is necessary to have a precise idea of plant anatomy:  The flower, bell-shaped closed, purple-rose, consists of six petals, joined at the base. Grafted there are 3 yellow stamens and 3 red coloured filamentous stigmas with enlarged  trumpet-shaped apex. These stigmas, about 3 cm long, are commonly known as Saffron. 

Stigmas at the base are white and going up they change color starting with yellow. Gradually towards the apex become orange and finally turning into an intense red. In a few words, when saffron is completely red and devoid of lighter parts, it is the best part of the product. Here we have the concentration of elements that gives the typical, best color, flavor and aroma.

The Cutting height of stigmas determines quality and type of saffron.  When only the vertices of stigmas are cut, you will have the Sargol quality (ALL RED FILAMENT in English)
If the filament is cut further down, before it becomes orange, then you have the Negin quality which is the best in flavour, color intensity and is therefore the most precious and rare. Only very experienced hands can perform this cut. Few manufacturers can guarantee Negin Super quality that is top of the range.

When the cut is practiced more at the base you will have a small yellow portion (1-4 mm) and

this quality goes by the name Pushal. If yellow portion reaches 6 or 7 mm, then you have Dasteh Quality (BUNCH in English). This type of stigmas usually looks like bunches similar to harvested wheat bundles. 

There is an additional category that is rarely found on the market due to its poor quality: it is mostly composed only of white and yellow part of filament and it can be considered the waste of all other qualities. This is called Konj (STYLE in English). This type of spice is also commonly called “white saffron” due to low coloring power.

NEGIN

The word Negin in Persian means “jewel”. To achieve this quality, red saffron stigmas are cut from the white base where their branch split into three filaments taking on the red coloration. Filaments are more homogenous, thicker and slightly darker in color.

Colouring power: 240 – 270

Olfactory power: 32 – 47

NEGIN SUPER

Even more valuable and expensive than Negin, this variety is the best in the world.

Only the most skilled workers with years of experience manage to obtain this quality from a selection of the best flowers with precise and delicate processing.

Colouring power: 250 – 300

Olfactory power: 35 – 50

SARGOL

The name means “Top of the flower”, (Sar = top, Gol = flower). Internationally called “All Red”, it is the most widespread variety of Persian saffron in the world and mistakenly, or often in bad faith, peddled as the best quality. It is however a good saffron quality, composed only of the tips of the stigmas. Filaments are shorter and completely red. This quality is divided into two subgroups (grade A and grade B) according to product quality, length of filaments and percentage of fragmented filaments.

Sargol Grade A

Colouring power: 235 – 255

Olfactory power: 32 – 45

Sargol Grade B

Colouring power: 210 – 235

Olfactory power: 30 – 40

PUSHAL

It is very similar to Spanish variant “La Mancha”. It is composed of the red part with a few millimeters of orange/yellow stem. It’s much cheaper than other variants and for this reason it is used by those who prefer cost at the expense of quality. The strength of this variant, in addition to the price, is certainly the fact that it cannot be counterfeited due to inhomogeneity of pigmentation.

Colouring power: 200 – 240

Olfactory power: 30 – 40

DASTEH

The Persian word Dasteh, as well as its English name Bunch, means “deck”. This variety of saffron is composed of whole filaments, from base to apex, and grouped into bunches. Hence its name. In the past the name of this variety was Dokhtar Pich, which means “grouped by a girl” because tradition has it that girls collect and assemble them in bunches. Composed of 75% red filament and 25% white filament, this variety has a low coloring power and due to the simple level of processing it also has a very low cost. Like Pushal, it can’t be counterfeited.

Colouring power: 140 – 170

Olfactory power: 20 – 30