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Artisanal Seasonings for Every Chef From Calicutts Spice Co.

May 12, 2020

by Julie Schneider

Editor’s note, May 2020: In our Featured Shop series, we shine a light on a standout shop from Etsy’s talented seller community, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at their process and story. And as we spend more time at home these days, getting cozy and catching up on our reading lists, we’re taking a moment to revisit some of our favorites—like the story behind this Pennsylvania-based spice shop from May of 2019.

When you twist open a jar from Calicutts Spice Co., out wafts a rich, vibrant aroma evocative of old world spice markets. Each herb, stem, and seed that goes into these small-batch seasonings is meticulously sourced directly from family farms, and then roasted, toasted, ground, and hand-mixed by co-owners Robert Orth and his mother-in-law, Autum Ellis, in their storefront-workspace. Fittingly, it’s located at a flavorful address in Hershey, Pennsylvania: 130 West Chocolate Street. And yes, alongside a palette of global flavors—turmeric from India, nutmeg from Spain, chipotle chili from Mexico, to name a few—they do offer their own chocolatey blends too.

Explore the Calicutts Spice Co. collection

“A little bit of our spices goes a much longer way than something you’d buy in the grocery store that’s been sitting on the shelf forever,” says Robert. “What we make is produced every single week, so the flavor and freshness is completely maximized. You can instantly smell the quality difference, and you can taste it.” Available as blends (think fire salt and ras el hanout) and single-origin spices and herbs, as well as sets, Calicutts Spice Co.’s seasonings are ideal for adding a fresh kick to your favorite recipes—or giving as tasteful gifts.

Read on to discover which blend makes a delicious dry rub and which one makes a great topper for your sundae—plus hear Robert’s go-to picks for Father’s Day—then shop the Calicutts Spice Co. collection.

Portrait of Calicutt Spice Co. co-owners Robert Orth and Autum Ellis

What inspired you to start a family-run spice company?

I always say it’s about family and flavors. In addition to running Calicutts, I’m a father to nine-month-old twins, a full-time assistant professor, and I also do criminal justice consulting. While I was scaling my career, I got really into cooking and barbecuing and experimenting with flavors as a creative outlet. I sat down with my wife and was like, “I’m thinking about starting a business creating spice blends.”

At first my family thought I was crazy, but now we have a really unique setup in that I work alongside my mother-in-law, and we’ve really been encouraged to make a go of it. She always says that I’m the brains of the business, but she’s the absolute heart of the business. She makes it run.

What makes your spices superior to supermarket options?

When you go to the grocery store and you buy a spice off the shelf, you don’t know who the producer is, where it came from, when it was made, or the specific ingredients. But we believe in transparency. We share every single ingredient that’s in our spice blends, which is helpful to people with dietary concerns. Our spices are gluten-free, chemical-free, and MSG-free.  

We also do things a little bit differently than some commercial companies. If you buy cardamom in the grocery store, you might notice that it’s tinted green. That’s because the entire cardamom pods were ground. But inside the pods are these little black seeds where the flavor lies. By mixing in the fibrous green outer pods, the flavor gets diluted, so we painstakingly open each pod by hand, take out the little seeds, and grind only those seeds. If we have to take that extra step to get to a better quality product, then that’s what we do.

Open jars of spices from Calicutts Spice Co.
Chipotle and honey spice blend from Calicutts Spice Co.
SHOP: Chipotle and honey spice blend from Calicutts Spice Co., $9
Robert spoons ground curry into a jar.
Cocoa and ancho spice blend from Calicutts Spice Co.
SHOP: Cocoa and ancho spice blend from Calicutts Spice Co., $9
Robert and Autum working side by side in their storefront workshop
"World Traveler" spice gift set from Calicutts Spice Co.
SHOP: “World Traveler” spice gift set from Calicutts Spice Co., $36

Where do you source the whole spices and herbs that you work with?

We work with small, family-owned farms all over the world to source 70 different whole herbs and spices. We get our vanilla beans from Reunion Island off the coast of Madagascar. Our coriander comes from Morocco. We have white peppercorns from Borneo, dill seed from Canada, herbs from the Napa Valley and France. It’s all over the place.

The other way to source spices is to buy from a wholesaler, but I really prefer sourcing right from the farmers, which is kind of unusual. The spice industry is still one of these archaic systems where like 20 different people touch the spice before it reaches the end consumer. We cut that out and go straight to the source. So, we’re able to disrupt the industry in a way. The first two years of running the business was just about sourcing, vetting, and making sure we had good relationships with good partners. We’re diligent to do right by the farmers and by our customers.

Egyptian dukkah spice blend from Calicutts Spice Co
SHOP: Egyptian dukkah spice blend from Calicutts Spice Co., $9
Robert measures out proportions of different ground herbs and spices to make one of his signature blends
Fire salt from Calicutts Spice Co.
SHOP: Fire salt from Calicutts Spice Co., $9
A finished batch of southwestern taco seasoning measured into jars and ready to be sealed
Custom set of spice blends from Calicutts Spice Co.
SHOP: Custom set of spice blends from Calicutts Spice Co., $54 for 6 blends

Do your spices have a shelf life?

Yes, they’re good for over two years. The best time to use them, though, is within the first six months; that’s when the flavors are the most potent. But if you store them at room temperature in a pantry—away from light and changes in humidity—they’ll keep for a really long time.

Any cooking tips? Or recommendations for how to let these flavors shine?

Right on the label of every jar we have suggested uses, and we also offer recipes on our website. We design everything to be all-purpose, so our spices work on any type of vegetable, meat, grain, pasta, soup—and a lot of them are great for desserts, too. I use Ceylon cinnamon in curries, for example, but I also like to sprinkle it on top of vanilla ice cream.

We’ve had people use our spices in astonishing ways that I would never have dreamed of. We have a cardamom coffee blend that’s literally coffee beans mixed with cardamom and some Middle Eastern spices. It’s meant to be a dry rub for beef, for example, but one gentleman likes to add it to his chocolate cupcake batter. He also makes cream cheese frosting with our sweet curry powder.

Herbes de Provence from Calicutts Spice Co.
SHOP: Herbes de Provence from Calicutts Spice Co., $9
Autum packages spice jars and preps them for delivery
Autumn harvest spice blend from Calicutts Spice Co.
SHOP: Autumn harvest spice blend from Calicutts Spice Co., $9
Robert and Autum keeping busy in their storefront workspace
"Grill Master" spice gift set from Calicutts Spice Co.
SHOP: “Grill Master” spice gift set from Calicutts Spice Co., $36
Jars of Calicutts Spice Co. blends pictured alongside the whole seeds that are used to make them.

What makes your spices great Father’s Day gifts—and gifts, in general?

They’re incredibly unique and a good value. You get a lot of spice for the price. It’s a bit of a male stereotype: grilling and Father’s Day, but we have a great gift set called the Grill Master Box that’s been one of our bestsellers. It includes our four most popular blends: Chipotle & Honey, Cajun Blackened, Vermont Maple, and Caribbean. It’s very versatile.

And you know what? Our gift sets look ridiculously good. They come in a lovely gift box that’s been personally hand-stamped by my mother-in-law. We’re always excited to read our reviews and see how people are using our spices and know that a gift went over swimmingly and people loved it. That’s the icing on the cake for us.

Follow Calicutts Spice Co. on Instagram and Facebook.

Photographs courtesy of Calicutts Spice Co.

Shop Calicutts Spice Co.

59 comments

  • gp0ospsz

    Tatiana Kirienko from ooccttoobbeerr said 1 year ago

    Thank you for the article! This is amazing! I adore spices and it is rarely possible to meet manufacturers who care about consumers. These spices look like magic components for potions! :) And I really like that all the packaging for them is so stylish and at the same time safe. I would like to receive as a gift such a fragrant box. Be sure to try the spices from this store :)

  • oupw8lai

    yashchirka from yashchirka said 1 year ago

    The ability to handle spices is a whole art and these people know its subtleties!)))

  • ClassicMemories

    ClassicMemories from ClassicMemories said 1 year ago

    Lovely shop and display items. Congrats on the feature.

  • b99uoxox

    Svetlana from Svettikflowers said 1 year ago

    How amazing! Great gift idea! I love these things for the kitchen

  • PokutniaAnna

    Anna from FairyToysWorld said 1 year ago

    You know I even feel the smell of these spices! Want to have some of them. And this is a great idea for a gift.

  • TreasuredMemoryLane

    Sujata from TreasuredMemoryLane said 1 year ago

    Very great gift idea! They look tempting I feel like cooking something with these fresh, aromatic spices. Congratulations on the feature!

  • thewildplum

    Christina from TheWildPlum said 1 year ago

    Great feature article and shop! Everything looks and sounds absolutely delicious. But I confess, reading this was one of the sweetest parts: "At first my family thought I was crazy, but now we have a really unique setup in that I work alongside my mother-in-law, and we’ve really been encouraged to make a go of it. She always says that I’m the brains of the business, but she’s the absolute heart of the business. She makes it run."

  • SovaHM

    Kate Cherkasova from CherkasovaStudio said 1 year ago

    Yammy! Looking special! Right now waiting for mine dinner and this post is just in time for appetite 🤗

  • uhltfj8f

    Alla from CuteThingsForSoul said 1 year ago

    Wow, this is really a great idea for Father's Day gift. Just spices especially for him. Thank you!!!!!

  • LadyInPurple

    Jennifer Tyson from LadyInPurpleBoutique said 1 year ago

    Congrats on the feature Robert and Autumn! I really enjoyed reading the feature! My husband and I were just discussing Father's Day gift ideas for the family and I'm definitely going to show him your shop!

  • YearsAfter

    Sharon from YearsAfter said 1 year ago

    Wonderful spices which make unique gifts!

  • kjnd3i2q

    Tatyana from MOMsBirdie said 1 year ago

    Thank you. Father's gifts always difficult for me. It's such great idea!

  • mpk37teh

    Oksana from AmigurumiJoys said 1 year ago

    The great article! It looks so delicious!!! My grandmother loved to mix different flavours. Her dishes have always been very tasty!))))

  • Theformerthings

    Teresa Purdie from TericsTangibles said 1 year ago

    Nice article on a a unique product. ! I admire the very unique and personalized blends they offer. I also appreciate the information for use on the packaging which is also a very appealing. Well written and informative

  • sp05xbnt

    Anna from ANNNADesign said 1 year ago

    Great! I felt like the aroma of these spices. Magic.

  • ostruts

    Olga Struts from FiberArtShop said 1 year ago

    Fine aromas of spices create a cosiness in the house. How great to go to the house in which smells like coffee with cardamom.

  • nsglsrat

    Mariya from 2MVA2 said 1 year ago

    The right choice of spices is the main thing in the taste of cooked food. )))

  • irinakosterinakornie

    Irina Kosterina from UniqueTitaniumArt said 1 year ago

    Wonderful review! I even smell it))) Thank you!

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage from accentonvintage said 1 year ago

    Great products!

  • bedouin

    Nicole from Crackerjackarma said 1 year ago

    OOoooo new fave for me ! Cheers to much continued success ~

  • pillowlink

    Rosita from pillowlink said 1 year ago

    Delicious story! Spices is a part of our family life as well. This story is so good - work with spices is really art of intuition. Good luck!

  • hpsv4tv1

    Alina from KuklaMechti said 1 year ago

    Not all people can properly combine spices, it's great that there are talented masters in this business!

  • qx3bksd7

    Aleksandra from CrochetHeroes said 1 year ago

    It looks so great that I even wanted to buy them. Great idea for a gift to yourself and family!

  • 2dyq9z2b

    Anastasiya from byKiama said 1 year ago

    I can't imagine my kitchen without spices. And this ones are damn stylish!))

  • ip6tossi

    Kristina from Krisboprops said 1 year ago

    What an interesting article, I love the seasonings and my husband, too, we often use them) are great help to feel the taste of life)

  • daizovdj

    Julia from FavoriteToysShop said 1 year ago

    I love spices, I have a lot of them for each dish

  • TropicalGarden

    TropicalGarden from TropicalGarden said 1 year ago

    Amazing shop with wonderful spices! I love the smell and taste of spices.

  • nmatdwr4

    Ksenia Ionina from KseniaIonina said 1 year ago

    What gorgeous colors and textures! It looks very appetizing and inspiring. I immediately wanted to take a break for lunch instead of work ))))

  • yokiiez

    yokiemu from wondercappa said 1 year ago

    Great Products. I love spices.

  • msbijouxbeads

    Cathy from msbijouxbeads said 1 year ago

    Enjoyed reading about your spices, must try some of these!

  • PetroBean

    Oriaku Onuoha-Bean from JewelryByOri said 1 year ago

    Yum! I need to get something from them. That Chipotle Honey sounds amazing

  • vrwlwcja

    Lu Lu from Vol4iwa said 1 year ago

    Thanks for the discovery. It is so wonderful - a small family business. And not just the production and sale of the product, but a unique service, tasty packaging, even recipes on the website!

  • makomarova22

    Mariya from MaryBrowncraft said 1 year ago

    Wonderful gift idea! On Father's Day seems very relevant to me!

  • stekiapantou1

    Stekia Pantou from StekiapantouStore said 1 year ago

    i am in love with the transparent labels in the vase perfect color combination i think it will be something different for gift idea

  • x0wtgthk

    Elena from BestBijouxStore said 1 year ago

    I love spices, I have a lot of them for each dish

  • SallysVintageKitchen

    Sally from SallysVintageKitchen said 1 year ago

    Beautiful shop! Great gift ideas! Congratulations on the feature!

  • gmdsgb2e

    Sophie from RainbowJunkyard said 353 days ago

    Oh I love this so much - great read thanks guys. Super stylish brand

  • npizg7hh

    Joshua Vignona said 147 days ago

    Yum! Wish I could make em! Best, Josh Vignona

  • ibbvdk0w

    Lina from DreamArtNatural said 143 days ago

    Oh, the spices... As I like it. None of my dishes are complete whitout them...

  • ClassicMemories

    ClassicMemories from ClassicMemories said 84 days ago

    Congrats on the feature. Lovely shop.

  • 2ujuphls

    Jennifer from IceBreakerPrintables said 84 days ago

    Wow, really love the spice combos!

  • regzk91u

    Vikky Jwlry from vikkyjwlry said 84 days ago

    Love it! cant wait to order some of them

  • bhinndbi

    Julia from FavoriteToyStore said 84 days ago

    I always add spices to my food

  • worldandyew

    Sunny Naik from NorthernLightStore said 83 days ago

    These spices are a perfect Gift!!!!

  • modknitter

    Eva Sims from RinkyDinkTreasures said 83 days ago

    Beautiful shop! I like the fact that they work with family owned farms all over the world.

  • VeraAyr

    Vera Ayrapetyan from AngelinasFlowers said 82 days ago

    Looks delicious! I should try them!

  • x8qnpozo

    Anna from LissiKids said 82 days ago

    looks appetizing!🤤great gift idea!!

  • pfjutwxx

    Aliona from CraftPhotoHoliday said 82 days ago

    A very tasty story turned out. I like to use spices myself and often buy them when traveling. Great memories of spending time in another country. And the memories last longer

  • MashaCreate

    Mariia Shevchenko from MariUkraine said 80 days ago

    Pictures are inspiring!

  • linguaNigra

    Lingua Nigra from linguaNigra said 80 days ago

    wow, those photos are amazing! I'm getting hungry reading this!!

  • PorcelainPlumelet

    Olga Mironova from PorcelainKingdom said 79 days ago

    so great you have recommendations on the backside of the jar! i love spices and want to use them more but always get so frustrated how exactly to use them and where to add these or those. i am not an experimenting person in cooking so I love to have the directions :)

  • drunkmansdaughter

    drunkmansdaughter from NaturallySonia said 79 days ago

    Beautiful appetizing article in many ways and of course congrats to Calicutts .

  • xywetsy

    Elis from GrandmasNaturalSoap said 76 days ago

    Perfect Fathers Day Gift I love spices , my Husband loves to cook,, must be a perfect gift

  • catherinecameron5

    Catherine Cameron from CookieGiftCanQueen said 75 days ago

    I'm impressed with anyone who takes the time to remove the cardamom seeds & grind just them. Cardamom is the best kept secret in the world of baking.

  • s9q5zmdt

    Harriet from Nayrampapery said 71 days ago

    These will make a great gift to people who love to cook. The packaging is so clean and beautiful!

  • deb4kd5e

    Ava from FeltsByAva said 69 days ago

    Great story..Great product.

  • mrsjefferies2010

    Marie Jefferies said 69 days ago

    I love this company their fire salt is my favorite! I use it on everything from eggs to seasons my fish for taco night.

  • seruva14

    Carolynne DeLisle from NonnasNuttyKrafts said 68 days ago

    So my hubby likes to make things plain in taste but I'm more of a "season" person. Early in our marriage I would experiment with different seasonings to see what my family liked. All seasonings add that extra flare to every meal. Don't be afraid to try different seasonings. You will be surprised!

  • cmccormick2

    CONNIE MCCORMICK from WreathsbyConnieM said 68 days ago

    These spices look really delicious

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