Spicy´s spice museum

Ausstellung Am Sandtorkai 34, 20457 Hamburg, DE

Immerse into the fascinating world of spices and get an impression of the large variety of spices, their history and manifold applications, which often go far beyond the spicing of dishes.

Autor: Spicy's Gewürzmuseum GmbH

Spicy's Gewürzmuseum - Tauchen Sie ein in die Welt der Gewürze!

Spicy's Gewürzmuseum - Tauchen Sie ein in die Welt der Gewürze!

Erleben Sie Gewürze im Spicy's Gewürzmuseum mit würzigen Veranstaltungen und aktuellen Sonderauss...

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1. Welcome

Am Sandtorkai 34, 20457 Hamburg, DE

Welcome to Spicy’s Gewürzmuseum on behalf of Viola Vierk, the owner. She learned the trade of spices and had worked in the international spice trade. Since 1993, she has run the spice museum in the beautiful Speicherstadt (warehouse district) in Hamburg harbour.
I invite you to take a small trip around the world with all your senses.
Here, in the entrance area, you see our small and nice spice shop, where we offer our own spices and spice mixtures as well as other spicy products.
Start your tour on the left and dream yourself into the world of indigenous herbs and exotic spices while smelling the scent of our unique collection.
In our exhibition, you find about 50 spices in sacs and on plates. Feel free to touch and smell them.
Just grab into the sacs, grind a small amount between your fingers and smell. It’s the only way the essential oils will be released and reveal their fragrances to you. More than 1,000 exhibits from the last five centuries such as old sieving, dosing and mixing machines, stamping mills and a roller mill, barrows and original packagings tell history all the way from harvesting herbs and spices up to the final product.

In the middle part of the museum you find information and exhibits about the use of spices as remedies, aphrodisiac as well as the favourite spice of Germans Pepper.
Don’t miss our testing station! It is located at the entrance on the right hand side. More than 80 tins with different spices and spice mixtures are ready for tasting. Just put a small amount on your hand and enjoy the different tastes.
Feel free to ask. We are looking forward to answering your questions.

2. Chili

Am Sandtorkai 34, 20457 Hamburg, DE

Did you know that the spiciness of chilies is measured in what is called Scoville Units? The American pharmacist Wilbur L. Scoville invented a very simple system more than a hundred years ago which is still used to determine the spiciness of different kinds of chili.
Chilies are packed with alkaloids, capaicin (stimulates metabolism) and healthy Vitamin C. When exposed to very spicy flavours, the body at first reacts with pain but then produces endorphins, i. e. endogenous happy hormones. It is fair to say, then, that eating chilies makes happy – but be careful: Chili spiciness is not everybody’s cup of tea. Introduce the spiciness slowly and continuously to your body. Chili is considered a stimulant as the consumption of chilies gets the blood flowing and might help in the morning to warm up for the day.
Those who don’t like it very spicy in the morning might use a stimulating shower gel with ginger to start the day.

Aphrodisiac Petitesses:
Chilies are said to have an aphrodisiac impact, especially the red ones, which enflame the mouth and work up one’s appetite for more.
An English saying: “Chilli is good for your Willie…!”
In Calabria, the spicy pods are half-jokingly dubbed “Viagra dei poveri” – the blue pill for poor people. It is there you can also find a red wine with Peperoncino, called “Vinagra”!

3. Saffron

Am Sandtorkai 34, 20457 Hamburg, DE

For a long time, saffron had been accessible exclusively for the mighty and powerful. It is said that in the Middle Ages a pound of saffron was approximately as valuable as a magnificent horse. Therefore, saffron was also called “red gold”.
Saffron was not only the spice of kings but also the spice of gods. The ancient Romans believed that saffron crocuses could only flourish where Jupiter and Juno made love and Jupiters sperm moistured the soil.
Even today saffron is the most expensive spice of the world referred to the price per kilogram. Yet when compared to the amount used it is not more expensive than any other spice of the world. Add just three to five stigmas to your meal.
As saffron is attributed mood boosting qualities, you may benefit from taking a few stigmas now and then in the dark season, for example in a cup of tea.
A famous German nursery rhyme says: “Backe, backe Kuchen….Safran macht den Kuchen gehl“! The ancient word “gehl” resembles the word for yellow, “gelb”. In this context however, the word does not refer to the colouring qualities of saffron but to the leavening effect as used in baking powder.
Modern producers of baking powder therefore add some saffron to their products. As saffron colours yellow, you get the colouring for free.

4. Cinnamon

Am Sandtorkai 34, 20457 Hamburg, DE

The term „Cinnamon“ refers to the spice, not to the tree. Cinnamon is obtained from two tree species, Canehl (also known as Ceylon) and Cassia. Cassia is cultivated in Vietnam, Indonesia and Japan, whereas Canehl grows in Sri Lanka - being named Ceylon until 1972 - and Madagaskar. Cassia and Canehl are the inner barks of the bushes/trees which is peeled off every six years. Despite the peeling, the tree stays alive and grows back, similar to cork.
Cinnamon is very healthy and registered as an official remedy in Germany, as it is used as natural remedy for type 2 diabetes. Additionally, cinnamon has a strengthening and calming impact on the stomach. Cinnamon has a mood boosting effect and promotes the blood circulation.
Some people associate cinnamon with Christmas, which is correct to some extent, as it is used extensively for baking of cookies. Yet if we think about rice pudding, cinnamon ice cream, muesli, porridge, pancakes and crêpes, we find that we love its sweet and at the same time astringent taste all over the year.
Cassia flowers are also called cinnamon cloves as they resemble cloves in both taste and looks.
As the name implies, Cassia Flowers grow on Cassia/Cinnamon trees. Their taste is diverse. Although a biologically single spice, cassia tastes like a mixture of cinnamon, clove, pepper and orange blossoms. Its scent resembles incense, tobacco and vanilla.
Freshly ground cassia Flowers smell sweet and astringent at the same time. Thus, they are an interesting component for the fine cuisine. They complement desserts as well as almost all meat dishes and go well in oriental rice dishes with many vegetables.
If you want to reduce sugar, try the following: replace your cinnamon sugar by ground cassia flowers, e. g. in rice pudding, porridge, muesli, on pancakes etc. They fit fresh fruits like apple slices very well. That way, you save lots of calories, and the appetite for something sweet is satisfied.
A tip for the spice mill: A mixture of different kinds of pepper with some cassia flower results in a refined spice for exotic fruit salads.

5. Oddities

Am Sandtorkai 34, 20457 Hamburg, DE

In this showcase, you see some oddities which may lead to the question: What kind of hotchpotch is this? You are right, this is a special collection including foreign comics, parts of a snake and of other small reptiles, cartridge cases, jewellery, a plastic dino having seen better days and much more. Where is the relation to spice trade? This question can easily be answered: The biggest part of spices comes from comparatively poor and less industrialized countries than Germany. Spice trade is the second eldest business on earth and has been run for thousands of years. It is therefore hardly surprising, that – at least in former times – one odd object or the other fell accidentally into the spice sacs and reappeared here during the final cleaning of the spices.
Notabene: in former times! Nowadays, we face a different situation. There are only few but large companies dominating the spice market. They influence the processing in the countries of origin either by building their own companies or by providing their know how. Therefore, finds like these belong to the past concerning spices arriving in Germany.

6. Vanilla – Queen of spices

Am Sandtorkai 34, 20457 Hamburg, DE

The vanilla plant is a beautiful orchid originating from Mexico. Nowadays, it is cultivated mainly on the island Reunion, formerly called Bourbon. That’s why it is called “Bourbon vanilla” although it is also found on Madagascar and the Comoros.

“Vanilla” translates to “small pod”. Vanilla is one of 18.000 orchid plants. After its blossom has been pollinated, it takes six to eight months until a 10 – 15 cm long and 5 – 15 mm wide green fruit emerges. The beans are immersed in boiling water after harvesting. That way they obtain their brown colour as well as the typical taste and scent. Vanilla is a creeper. Thus, high trees are good supporters for the vanilla plant and additionally offer a good protection against the sun as well. The creeper climbs upwards for 10 to 15 metres.

Vanilla is used for producing chocolat, ice cream, candies, drinks, pet food, medicine, perfumes, tobacco products and synthetic material.

The Spanish conquerors brought vanilla pods along with tomatoes, potatoes, paprika, cacao and many more novel food items to Europe. Ancient Mayas and Aztecs considered vanilla as an indispensable component for cooking and as a remedy.

Did you ever hear about the so-called “Xocolatl”? The favourite drink of Moctezuma, the last Aztecian ruler, was a liquid chocolate beverage consisting of water, cacao powder, spices, honey and lots of vanilla. It is said that he drank up to 50 cups a day.

In Europa, vanilla only gained acceptance as sugar and milk were added to the spiced drinking chocolate.

7. Julius Grossmann

Am Sandtorkai 34, 20457 Hamburg, DE

The procurement of spices was a time-consuming and highly risky business, accounting for very high prices up to weighing in gold. The high profit margins tempted courageous traders and adventurous sea farers to take the risk for the sake of big revenue.

Many men failed, lost their lives and are hardly mentioned. The successful adventurers, however, went down in history as discoverers or envied “Pfeffersäcke” (pepper sacs).
Gone are these legendary times, as is the associated nostalgia, the imagery of exotic cargo hoisted from sailing ships or steamboats, then stored in fragrant half-timbered storage houses.
In those days, a spice merchant, called “Pfeffersack”, was someone who voluntarily paid his taxes – hard to believe. A few sacs of pepper were as good as a bank: They were stowed in a safe place, and the owner was sure that the prices would rise. The “Pfeffersäcke” in Hamburg had a high income, yet the Fugger and Welser families in Southern Germany were far wealthier.

Jealousy was rampant, and the expression “Pfeffersack” obtained a mocking taste – although an oath had to be sworn to be entitled to be one. Allegedly, they sat fat and lazy on their sacs while waiting for their wealth to naturally multiply. The Danish King Christian IV insulted them enviously as greasy herring traders and bear skinners. In 2002, the local newspaper Hamburger Abendblatt titled: “Pfeffersack” is a honorary title!

Immerse yourself back into days gone by, when the spice trade still promised wealth and power and the prospect of a sac of pepper as dowry sweetened a man’s decision to marry … Learn about the history of spices and the “Pfeffersäcke” of Hamburg by looking at the company history of Julius Grossmann. He – more precisely, his company - “machte in Gewürzen” (made in spices – colloquial German) from 1853 until 1997. Unique exhibits from the 19th century, including an artful leather chest of 1903 – filled with gold-leaf panels documenting the history of Grossmann - bring back the ancient times.

Original “Preis-Couranten” (i. e. compilation of market prices of spices on a product price list for a precisely specified period of time) and business records as of 1853 (!) give a vivid picture of a brilliant time of trading in Hamburg.

8. Pepper

Am Sandtorkai 34, 20457 Hamburg, DE

“Geh dahin, wo der Pfeffer wächst” - „Go where the pepper grows” is a German proverb meaning in English “jump in the lake”, go far away and never come back.

Here we are in the “pepper area”. Pepper is ever still by far the favourite spice of the Germans. Inofficial records claim that each German consumes on average about 250 g per year.

Most probably, pepper originates from the woods of the Malabar coast in India. It was discovered about 4.000 years ago. Today’s main areas of cultivation are India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Brazil.

The ancient Indians had an almost incredible knowledge about its healing effects. The genious plant tinkerers not only knew much about its most important pharmacological quality: the anti-inflammatory, fever-reducing and immune-strengthening effect of the ingredient piperin which has even found its way into contemporary medications. They knew as well that black pepper (in particular long pepper) can help effectively against breathing problems.

However, pepper is not the same as pepper. We collected many information about the different kinds of pepper for you. Enjoy studying them. If you like to sample one or another species, help yourself at our testing station.

We recommend our Pfeffermix exklusiv, a tasty mixture of nine different species. You will experience a true taste explosion when enjoying it freshly ground!

9. A vintage Stamping mill for spices

Am Sandtorkai 34, 20457 Hamburg, DE

This is the exhibit mostly loved by Spicy’s boss Viola Vierk. She experienced the use of it “live” during her time in the spice trade.

It is hard to believe that this machine worked until the shutdown in October 1998 right in the middle of a residential area in Hamburg-Eilbek. Family Rostock, Owner of the wage mill, were so conviced of their old machines that they did not want to exchange them for new ones at any price. Heinz Rostock had been the owner of the wage mill Friedrich Heed, founded in 1903, for more than 25 years which thus was one of the eldest spice mills in Hamburg. Taking a look at the old stamping mill, you will get an impression of the toil the spice millers had to endure and why they all had a crooked back. Even when empty the grinding jars cannot be lifted because they are so heavy.

This is an impressive machine. Unfortunately, we could only put up a quarter of it in our museum. In former times, spices were ground cold with the grinder in order to keep the essential oils as long as possible. The stamping mill was processed by a line shaft, i. e. the tamping irons ground the product into the mortars.
This stamping mill truly tells spice history.

10. Nutmeg and Macis – where is the difference?

Am Sandtorkai 34, 20457 Hamburg, DE

Two nutmeg spices from the same plant but slightly different in aroma are nut and blossom – nutmeg (Muskatnuss) and mace (Muskatblüte). The scent of nutmeg is strong and spicy, its taste warm, slightly burning and a little bitter. Mace is more delicate and tastes finer.
Unfortunately, in Germany mace is not as well known as nutmeg which is a real pity as it tastes better by far.

Both nutmeg spices are often used for meat, fish, cheese, rice, sweet potato and vegetable dishes and also go well with minced meat, egg dishes, casseroles, soups, stews, meat broths, vegetable juices, mashed potatoes, semolina dumplings and sauces.

Thanks to its ingredients – among others essential oils – both spices have a warming effect and aid digestion after rich meals. Consequently, they are frequently used in the colder seasons.
Nutmeg has been known as a remedy for centuries and is said to have been effective in the following complaints: flatulence and diarrhoea, stomach weakness and stomach cramps, liver and bile weakness, gout and rheumatism as well as insomnia.

Due to these positive effects, a spice composition of nutmeg in combination with coriander and cumin is used for body joints.

11. A pinch of sensuality – spices as an aphrodisiac!

Am Sandtorkai 34, 20457 Hamburg, DE

About spices: they are aphrodisiac, seductive, warming, healing, enhance blood circulation, have a anti-oxidant effect, are enjoyable and wonderfully versatile!

In the middle ages, spices were used primarily as aphrodisiac and remedies. As the saying goes, the way to a man’s heart goes through his stomach. A German proverb points out: Wir haben uns zum Fressen gern (someone is good enough to eat). Another saying focusses on the relation between food and medicine: Ein guter Koch ist auch ein guter Arzt, i. e. a good cook is also a good doctor.

The effects of spices – in terms of taste as well as in fragrance – are owed to their characteristic ingredients, primarily essential oils and tangy constituents.

The aphrodisiac properties of spices are not scientifically proven, but the folklore has a long tradition:

Different mechanisms are responsible for the effects of the so called aphrodisiacs. Concentrated nutrients like proteins or vitamins are said to stimulate and empower. Thus, kidney and bladder activities are stimulated which also effects the sexual organs. Other ingredients enhance the blood function, especially in the region of the inner and outer sexual organs. Others are meant to loosen physical and mental cramps. Pheromone-like fragrances tune the subconciousness to eroticism and sex.

None of the so called aphrodisiac can guarantee a fulfilled sex life. However, celebrating the ritual or the application will create a favorable atmosphere for a sensual pleasure. Remember: the best herb/spice cannot help when eroticism is absent.

12. Currytable

Am Sandtorkai 34, 20457 Hamburg, DE

Which ideas come to mind when you hear the word “curry”? Your mouth is watering? No surprise: Well spiced meals can generate feelings of happiness.

No curry recipe is like the other, but they have something in common: tradition. No matter whether they were developed in restaurants, by street vendors, in private households or for cookbooks: Their traditions can be traced back until the early history of India. In India, curry is the name of a dish. Indians differentiate between wet currys with sauce and dry currys with a strongly reduced sauce or even without any sauce. However, the British definition of a spice blend has prevailed worldwide.

The first Europeans appearing near the end of the 15th century in India wanted to trade but were soon lured by the great Indian wealth of spices, fabrics and gemstones. Most of all, however, they were busy in outdoing each other. Later on, the Europeans and especially the Englisch were responsible for the spread of Indian curry dishes both in the East and in the West.

Curry-powder is an English invention to approximate the taste of Indian food. There are similar mixtures in India being called Garam Masala in North India or Sambar Prodi in South India. The Tamil word kari means soup or sauce, and so the word “curry” was born.
There is one similarity between the Indian and the English mixture: Both don’t contain curry leaves. They are hardly known in Europe, but go well with with many Indian curry dishes. They exude a nutty citrus-fruity aroma and are best used fresh.

13. Spices as remedies

Am Sandtorkai 34, 20457 Hamburg, DE

Already in biblical times, spices were special.

The holy Brahmin books of Ayurveda praise the same spices that we still use every day for the refinement of food, health and iconic purposes.

The healthy effects of spices – without any harmful side effects – is often underestimated or simply not known in the Western World, whereagainst spices have a millennial tradition as remedies in countries like India or China.

Spices can prevent many diseases and heal minor - sometimes even heavier - illnesses or diseases. Unfortunately, however, the old knowledge becomes extinct. This is a tragedy as it could easily be used in today’s time where spices in good quality can easily be bought everywhere.

Finally the enormous body of knowledge around the healing effects of spices and herbs is proven scientifically. Some spices thus find their way back into pharmacies. Basically, it would be enough to add one or another spice into our cooking pots. Unfortunately, at least German people are quite lazy in flavouring their dishes. We travel around the world, eat oriental, Indian, Chinese, African dishes and others, enjoy the variety of spices in these meals, but back at the domestic stove it’s all over again.

This is a shame as spices are not only good for the general health but as well for the inner peace. For example, cloves have a calming and antidepressant effect. Vanilla calms and strengthens the psyche. With allspices, you support your good mood. Numerous spices like cinnamon and turmeric contain more antioxidants than many vegetables and fruits. For example, blueberries contain up to 50 times less antioxidants than in the spices mentioned. Why are antioxidants important? They can protect from Alzheimer disease, arthritis, diabetes, cancer and heart diseases. Whoever likes to eat well and healthy should use spices.

14. Cloves and Miscellaneous

Am Sandtorkai 34, 20457 Hamburg, DE

Did you ever hear about smoking clove cigarettes? They are common in Indonesia. It is said that the biggest part of the yearly harvest of cloves is processed in the production of cigarettes.
In our region, cloves are used as a natural remedy against toothache, because cloves have both an antibacterial and an anaesthetic effect.

In the past, Indonesian merchants brought ships pinned of cloves to the local importers as a gift. Here, you see a small treasure that is hard to find today.

Walk around the showcase and have a look at an old Hummel porcelain collection of spice containers showing how our grandparents kept the precious spices in the kitchen.

Spice trading board games are played all around the world. You can admire some of them here in our showcase.

Old marking stencils, seal pliers, box scrapers and locking irons give an insight into the time when spices were still stored and refined in the “Speicherstadt”.

15. Sampling station

Am Sandtorkai 34, 20457 Hamburg, DE

We hope you enjoyed your walk around our exhibition and you would like to try one spice or another.

Here in our testing station, you find more than 80 different spices and spice mixtures of our own product line. Sweet, fruity, spicy or bitter – there is something for every taste.

We attach great importance to the quality of our products. Our supplier is a producer and packager of high-quality, natural, pure spices and spice mixtures. The company exclusively uses pure raw materials for our end products. Our products are never genetically manipulated, gassed or irradiated. No artificial irrigation aids are added either. This might result in a natural hygroscopic reaction in our products, which means that the products can absorb moisture from the environment and thus lumps might develop. However, this is not a problem at all. We believe that everyone should be able to enjoy spices as nature has given them to us.

In our small but mighty museum shop we offer a variety of spices, herbs, books, recipes and spice posters for you.

Are you looking for a Tahiti vanilla pod or an Iranian saffron directly from the importer? We also sell them, just ask our colleagues. They are also happy to answer your questions and accept your feedback about this place.

Finally, a short information: In Germany, there is a very strict food law concerning the quality of spices. This is very beneficial for our consumers.

Would you like to join one of our many events? Here you find an overview which can also be found on our homepage www.spicys.de

Thank you for your visit!