World Spice Merchants

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Sneezing customers prove the freshness of the spices and herbs for sale in Seattle's World Spice Merchants.

"It happens all the time. Everyone sneezes in here," said one of the women working behind the counter. She said the sneezes were probably caused one of the pepper blends or maybe the nutmeg they were grinding -- first breaking it up with a hammer and then running it though an electric spice grinder.

World Spice Merchants sells a wide variety of pure spices, spice blends, salts, chiles, and herbs by the ounce, with a one ounce minimum. While Penzeys sells their spices in pre-packaged sizes, this market gives customers more control over how much they are buying. Many of the seasonings are available whole or can be ground when purchased or ground at home when used.

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Tourists can take home a taste of the city by ordering their Alderwood Smoked Sea Salt ($1.50 per ounce) which is seasoned for two days with the smoke from Washington State red alderwoods. Another customer recommended the Murray River Flake Salt ($2 per ounce) from Australia. As she said, "It looks like peachy snow."

Unfortunately, the Mole Ole ($2 per ounce) was out of stock yesterday. It is used to give cooks a head start in making the complicated chocolate sauce. The Mole Ole sample smelled like a deep red wine -- round rich whiffs of chocolate and red pepper. This market does runs out of some products from time to time becasue they keep only small quantities of spices on hand to make sure everything is fresh.

World Spice Merchants accepts only cash or check, both in store and online.

Tony Hill, owner of World Spice Merchants, wrote The Contemporary Encyclopedia of Herbs & Spices: Seasonings for a Global Kitchen. The store is located behind the Pike Place Market, home of Market Spice, another well-known Seattle spice and tea store.

[Thanks Seattle Bon Vivant for posting so many Seattle food stop suggestions, including World Spice.]

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