One spice that Ghaffer says that was incorporated into beverages just as much as it was into food is saffron, a deep crimson-colored spice sourced from crocus sativus flowers. "Saffron is the queen of spices," Ghaffer says. "My first memory of saffron was when I was about 12 years old. When we used to have guests over, my mom would prepare a special saffron tea—usually made with black tea, cardamom, and saffron threads or saffron rock candy. It’s a very rich and aromatic tea used to honor your guests, as hospitality is very important in Afghan culture.”
It's a part of her culture that Ghaffer is sharing with the world through her newly launched brand, Moonflowers. Moonflowers sources its saffron from the Herat region of Afghanistan, which Ghaffer says is one of the only places in the world where growing premium-grade saffron is possible due to the region's dry climate and soil—ideal conditions for growing this spice. Sold in small tins, the Moonflowers saffron tea can be brewed and sipped as a tea or incorporated right into cooking. It's especially delicious to use when making rice or chicken.
Even though saffron is sourced from a flower, it doesn't taste overly florally or sweet. If you brew yourself a cup of saffron tea, you can expect it to taste earthy and grassy with a touch of mint. You also won't find a tea that's a more beautiful golden-orange than saffron.
But the benefits aren't just superficial; this tea is brimming with health perks. One is that it's linked to boosting mood. Scientific studies found that saffron was more effective for helping with depression than some prescription drugs—that's powerful! Besides potentially providing a mood boost, saffron is also anti-inflammatory and linked to supporting heart health, brain health, and gut health.
"We are proud to work with predominantly female farmers in Herat, [Aghanistan] who otherwise would not have access to employment opportunities because of the high rate of illiteracy and the conservative social environment in the region."
Moonflowers saffron tea directly supports female farmers in Afghanistan, so buying from the brand has benefits that extend far beyond just doing something for yourself. "We are proud to work with predominantly female farmers in Herat, who otherwise would not have access to employment opportunities because of the high rate of illiteracy and the conservative social environment in the region," Ghaffer says. "Over the past years, women have become more and more involved in the saffron industry and have even created the Afghanistan Women Growers Association. We are proud to support Afghan womens’ financial empowerment to earn their own income and let people know that Afghan women have voices too and can achieve great things—and bring a beautiful product into the world."
As an Afghan refugee, Ghaffer says supporting these female farmers is her number one priority. "There continues to be ongoing safety issues for women in Afghanistan, and I think it is important to be able to use saffron as an instrument to accomplish real change," she says. "Moonflowers’ part in this is to help tell their stories and to export more product, therefore increasing employment opportunities which in turn will give women financial and economic empowerment. Increased demand and therefore increased production of the product will force developments in the industry to create more sophisticated jobs, such as in research or quality control." The brand also has a partnership with award-winning NGO, Skateistan, which empowers children in Afghanistan, Cambodia, and South America through skateboarding, recreation, and arts.
Of course, all these feel-good perks aside, the sheer joy (and delicious flavor) involved in drinking a decadent cup of saffron tea is enough reason to try it out. Want to make your beverage extra special? Try Ghaffer's recipe below, which also integrates peaches and lemon.
Sweet saffron peach jam recipe
6 lbs of peaches (about 18 peaches)
Sugar (40 percent of the weight of your fruit)
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp salt
1. Start with blanching the peaches: Bring a pot of water with the salt to a boil. Prepare an ice bath at the same time. Score the peaches with the end of your knife and create an "X" shape; avoid cutting too deeply in the flesh. Boil the peaches for one minute and then transfer the peaches to the ice bath. Remove the skin of the peaches using your hands. Place the skinned peaches on a cutting board and start slicing them.
2. Grind about 25 threads (2 pinches) of saffron with a mortar and pestle (you can also use the back of a spoon). You can add sugar to ease the grinding.
3. In a cast iron pot, place all your ingredients (the cut peaches, lemon juice, sugar, and saffron) and cook over medium heat. Stir well, so all the ingredients are mixed together. Cook the jam for about 35 minutes on medium heat or until it has reached about 210°F. Remove from heat and test the jam by placing a spoonful on a plate, running your finger through it. If the liquid doesn’t run back together, it is good to go. Enjoy on toasted bread, over yogurt, or stirred into oats.
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