Food and beverage stories
Tassie’s golden tea
There’s an exciting new Tasmanian niche export that is literally worth its weight in gold — Saffron Tea.
It’s the brainchild of saffron pioneers, Nicky and Terry Noonan, who are confident they’ve 'struck gold’ with plans to send their precious tea to Asia.
"Tea made from pure Tasmanian saffron is a new export market,” Nicky Noonan explains. "We grow in an environment that is recognised as amongst the cleanest in the world, and that’s what people want.”
Saffron is most commonly used in cooking to add colour and flavour, but it is also coveted for its healing powers. Saffron tea is prized for promoting health and well-being.
The exotic spice has a rich history: it’s one of the world’s oldest crops, dating back more than 3,000 years. It’s also one of the most expensive. A kilo of this 'pure gold’ spice will set you back around $30,000. Luckily, we only need it in very small quantities!
When the Noonans planted saffron bulbs into the rich soil of the Huon Valley thirty years ago, the local industry was born. This pioneering couple also hold the distinction of being the first saffron producers in the southern hemisphere.
Today Tasmanian saffron is thriving, with some 10 artisan producers scattered across the island. The Noonan’s Tas-Saff operation dominates the landscape, and their saffron is regarded as among the best in the world. It has even been given the top international ranking.
"People trust the Tas-Saff brand, which is now recognised not only in Tasmania, but also across Australia, and even overseas as well,” Nicky adds.
Purple saffron flowers grow in neat rows at the Noonan’s Glaziers Bay farm, south of Hobart.
Thousands of these ground-hugging flowers were carefully picked by hand during a short harvesting window that has just wrapped up. The saffron spice comes from the three-pronged red stigma — or ‘thread’ — of the flower, which is individually removed within 24 hours of picking.
The Noonans can harvest up to 50,000 flowers a day — but only when conditions are right.
"We work with the crop and try to pick the flower just before it opens fully and gets hit by the sun, because the sun compromises the integrity of those stigmas,” Nicky explains.
When you consider how painstaking the harvesting process is, and that a quarter of a million flowers are needed to make just one kilogram of saffron, then you understand why this treasured spice is worth its weight in gold.
The Noonans sell their premium saffron to gourmet outlets, top chefs, and it can be found in major supermarkets. They also make saffron gin and vodka. Everything is done on site.
However, a new brew has been added to the mix. A third of this year’s harvest will be transformed into powdered saffron tea for export to Asia later in the year. And, with the tea used to treat a range of ailments from eye disorders and Alzheimer’s disease, to depression — no wonder it’s in big demand!
"We recently started making a pure Tasmanian saffron tea, and it’s selling hand over fist. In fact, the other day I had one lady from Vietnam who bought 10 packets in one go,” Nicky explains.
Meanwhile, if you’re after a bit of a boost, Nicky says a 'cuppa a day’ does wonders for your health. A $100 jar of her pure Tasmanian saffron tea will make up to 100 cups… now that’s pure gold!
Images courtesy of Tas-Saff
24 May 2019, Edition 205