Spice Mountain – Borough Market – London
“One of the spice plantations in Goa, inspired the birth of Spice Mountain”
Spice Mountain began on a beach in Goa, India six years ago. Myself (Magali Russie, then a passport officer at the Australian High Commission in London), and my partner (Matt Norris, a London travel agent), had that day visited a spice plantation in Goa. Later, as we relaxed on Palolem Beach, the idea came to both of us at once. Matt had travelled extensively in India. I am originally from Mauritius, and had grown up in Melbourne surrounded by the aromas and flavours of spices.
Living in London we had come to realise that, although spices themselves were fairly easy to come by, fresh and top quality products were much harder to find. The blends available were mass produced and run of the mill. It was difficult for me to recreate the dishes I had watched my mother prepare – using the spices I could find, I knew what I was making was just not the same.
Our heads still full of the scent and the sight of the plantation, we exchanged a look and a smile, both thinking, ‘Surely we could do that?’ In that one moment, Spice Mountain was born.
Filling our suitcases with the spices easily available in Goa, we returned to London. At first I was still working at the AHC, and I began to roast and blend in the spare bedroom, in my spare time. I thought of it as a hobby at first, but soon realised that I was very good indeed at it, and those dishes my mother had made were now being recreated successfully in a Brixton apartment.
Backed up by Matt in his role as Chief Taster and right-hand man, I acquired a pitch on Wednesday evenings on Greenwich Market and began selling, roasting and blending in the evenings after work. Things went well, the only major difficulty being finding quality suppliers, which remained a struggle.
Right from the beginning I decided that the most important thing to concentrate on was the provenance and freshness of the spices I would sell. Everything on sale was freshly roasted and hand ground, in small quantities every couple of weeks, and I bought only the best I could find. This would be the major difference between Spice Mountain and anyone else in the same business – my personal touch, everything blended by myself and carefully examined by the Chief Taster, Matt.
A year later, I finally got word back from Borough Market (where I had enquired about a stall some months previously) that a pitch was available. Coincidentally I was made redundant from the AHC at pretty much the same time, which ultimately turned my hobby into a career. I was free to devote all my time to my calling. Matt, meanwhile, continued his job as a travel agent, which together with the finely tuned palate his role as Chief Taster had given him, would help keep the boat afloat until things properly took off.
Spice Mountain arrived on Borough Market in September 2009, and quickly became recognised as easily the best place to obtain spices, and also the best producer of authentic and fresh blends. As I became more well known, finding the best suppliers became much easier. In fact soon Mohamed was definitely coming to the Mountain.
Over the next couple of years Spice Mountain grew, as did my skills in the art of blending. When Borough Market relaunched Three Crowns Square, Spice Mountain acquired the shop where it remains to this day, packed full of treasures from every corner of the earth. It is perfectly possible to eschew foreign travel completely and simply walk around Spice Mountain – you will get to visit Ethiopia, Japan, Thailand, Mexico, Spain, India, Mauritius and many other places. And of course you can take whatever you want home with you.
Personally, in just a few years I have gone from working a 38 hour week, to a situation now where there are just not enough hours in the day! .It is hard work, but I love it and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Also Spice Mountain’s online business is developing – our full range of products is available on this website, and can be sent to most places quickly. This is a big part of Spice Mountain’s future; while the Borough shop is still the operation’s beating heart, the internet side of the business is one area which will give more and more people access to Spice Mountain.
“At Spice Mountain we pride ourselves on providing only the highest quality spices, from carefully chosen ethical sources, which we then blend ourselves by hand in small batches. This process ensures that our blends are always the freshest and best you can buy”.
Spice Mountain – Borough Market
8 Southwark St, London SE1 1TL
Phone 0203609 3130