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Spice: The Real Spice of Life

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Throughout the culinary world, the usage of spices in food goes hand in hand with one another. Adding spices to one’s dishes is an art, it’s a skill that is developed not only through an individual and their experience, but it’s also passed down from generation to generation.

Today we are going to take a deep dive into the history of some of the most well-known spice-oriented countries while also determining the root of the spice usage of our very own, South African, Boerewors.


India is well known for its usage of spices and various flavours in its food. The spice trade in India dates back to 2000BC, starting with the major trade of cinnamon and black pepper.

When their trade developed, the Indian spice trade moved on from smaller, national-oriented trade into a fully-fledged spice trade empire that spanned the globe. From then until now, India has become a major role player in the spice market around the world, being one of the highest contributors to the overall spice trade.

The typical Indian curry consists of over 10 spices, some reaching around 15 in total! It is well-known that this nation is not afraid of adding a little spice to their lives, maybe it’s something the rest of the world could learn to do as well.

The Middle-ages and Europe

After the spice trade established itself post 1000AD, the demand for spices across Europe skyrocketed.

Italy and Spain were in high competition with one another, seeking a monopoly on the spice trade by establishing spice plantations in North Africa and parts of Asia. This led to Spain alone, receiving deliveries of over 1000 tons of pepper and 1000 tons of other spices each year.
This may not sound like a lot to the modernists, but in the middle-ages, that was equivalent to the yearly supply of grains to over 1.5 million citizens!

The main usages for spices at this time were actually oriented towards medicine. In the medieval era, the European belief in spice and herbal treatments for sickness was major. If you got sick, a glass of ginger-infused wine was just what you needed!

South Africa

Something that a lot of people don’t realize about our own country was that South Africa was actually discovered due to the European need for spice.

In the early 15th Century, a Portuguese trade ship captained by Bartholomeu Dias sailed to seek a new pathway into Asia. His intention was to hug the coast of Africa all the way around the southern tip and back North toward Asia. His travels led to the eventual discovery of South Africa.

Towards the end of the century, another Portuguese explorer known as Vasco Da Gama settled in South Africa along with the Dutch and South Africa soon become the halfway stop for those seeking to transport spices between Europe and Asia.

Inevitably, the spice trade influenced the usage of spices within South Africa. With all those spices coming through our country, it’s no doubt that we made use of them!

Spices such as coriander, cumin, fennel, garam masala, and turmeric became a staple in South African culture until eventually being infused with our food over the next hundred or so years.


The beautiful, national sausage of South Africa was no exception to the usage of spices.

Boerewors consist of a combination of coriander, all-spice, black pepper, and nutmeg. These spices were readily available to the settlers here until they eventually found their way into the Boerewors themselves.
Nowadays spices can be found pretty much anywhere. There is not a shortage.

The Copcas team specialises in spices for your food and cooking creations, so why not take a look at our store?

Spice up your life the right way!