Los Angeles, CA
From the street, it can be hard to tell just what or even where Spice Station is. Located in Silver Lake's Sunset Junction, the shop is hidden from the general hustle and bustle, and the curious shopper, perhaps lured by a chalkboard listing "Today's Spice Prices," must amble down a walkway, past a fountain, and through a small courtyard. But inside awaits a world of herbs, spices, chiles, salts, and teas… The actual shop is modestly-sized but rich with inviting colors and culinary possibilities. One wall of shelves – built by the owner's brother from reclaimed wood – displays the rainbow of bulk inventory, while another wall has smaller spice jars for customers to open, smell, and handle. Tables made from reclaimed pallets hold specialty blends, bulk teas, and spice sets.
With the recent arrival of Penzeys in Santa Monica (and the one in Torrance), one might question the need for another spice shop in Los Angeles. Bronwen Tawse, who opened Spice Station with her husband Peter Bahlawanian just a couple of weeks ago, describes their desire to serve the east side market. As local residents, the couple felt Silver Lake was the right spot for their vision of a bulk spice shop where anyone could come buy a little or a lot. They hope to turn the adjacent courtyard into a spot for tasting parties, cooking demos, and a sitting area for customers to relax, peruse their book collection, and get inspired.
The shop's selection of over 100 spices includes standards as well as some harder to find and specialty items. Freshness is a priority; they work directly with about a dozen importers, maintain a small inventory, and reorder and refresh spices as necessary. The absence of direct street presence actually makes sense from an ingredients perspective. Hidden, cool, and shaded, the shop boasts the right conditions for spice storage.
Notable is their selection of whole and ground chile peppers, including Mexican and Asian varieties like Arbol, Cascabel, Habanero, Japones, Morita, Negro, Pequin, Pulla, and Tepin. In the salt corner are specialty offerings like Velvet de Guérande, Black Truffle Salt, Vintage Merlot Sea Salt, and Cyprus Black Lava Salt. Spice Station also carries Indian and Middle Eastern spice blends, house-made rubs and mixes, gift sets, and bulk teas from Tea Fountain of Mill Valley, California. Tawse says they are looking into carrying organic spices in the near future.
Personalized services include custom gift sets and free grinding. If you don't find what you want, the owners are open to suggestions and requests.
Have you been to Spice Station? Share your experience in the comments.
(Images: Emily Ho)