Do you remember the smell of cooking from your childhood? Whether it was your mother’s everyday meals, your grandmother’s treats, something your father would rustle up alone, or various relatives’ cooking for family gatherings.
There’s nothing like the scent of home-cooked food. And if you’re North African, that means spice - lots of it, fresh, and in perfect quantities (ie lots)!
Chances are, you can’t quite recreate those early-life food experience. Foods just don’t taste the same when you make them yourself. Even when you use the same ingredients, and follow the same recipe to the letter, it’s never quite the same.
The reason is simple: it’s the freshness of the spices.
The time, the effort, the patience and the years of experience that went into it are all vital factors, of course, but spices which are too old and have been exposed to too much air just can’t add the same zing. Prolonged exposure to air after manufacturing, long-range shipping in imperfect conditions and years on the shelf in porous storage containers all play a role in reducing the potency of spice mixes.
The simplest way to increase the flavour of your cooking is to start with fresher, more potent spices. That’s the Oea difference.
The Oea Journey
We started Oea to give spices the love they deserve.
We began by gathering recipes from across Libya, starting with our older relatives, family friends, and people in their communities. This turned out to be more complicated than expected - different regions, cities and even families all used quite different compositions for each of the main mixes (such as hararat and bzaar).
We experimented with recipes to try and find the most well-balanced flavour for each mix, and in the case of hararat had two such interesting ones that we began to sell a Tripoli and Benghazi variety (with Benghazi’s hararat mix having a much sweeter flavour due to the inclusion of cardamom, as well as other niche additions such as wormwood and rose petals).
We order our ingredients whole, in order to prepare them as close to the order date as possible, and make the spices in small batches rather than industrial quantities. Our aim is for our produce to always be less than 3 months old (and most of the time, less than 2 weeks).
We toast the spices, releasing flavour and removing excess moisture which would reduce their life - then grind them to the perfect size to dissolve into the food. After sieving to get rid of larger particles we package them and heat-seal the pouches for freshness.
The result is a range of intensely-flavoured spice mixes which can turn a simple dish into a culinary masterpiece. We’re not exaggerating - Oea’s spices will change the way you cook, and the way you think about food.
You can get our spices shipped anywhere in the world, and we’re currently the only company specialized in providing Libyan spices globally. We offer a spice selection box, as a trial of everything or a gift. And we're looking at other ways to make Libyan culinary heritage available, whether that's new spice mixes or even bsisa (recipe experiments ongoing!).