Spice Mountain began on a beach in Goa, India 12 years ago. Magali Russie, then a passport officer at the Australian High Commission in London, and her partner Matt Norris, a London travel agent, had that day visited a spice plantation. Later, as they relaxed on Palolem Beach, the idea came to both of them at once. Matt had travelled extensively in India. Magali is originally from Mauritius, and had grown up in Melbourne surrounded by the aromas and flavours of spices.
Living in London they had come to realise that, although spices themselves were fairly easy to come by, top quality fresh products were much harder to find. The blends available were mass produced and run of the mill. It was difficult for Magali to recreate the dishes she had watched her mother prepare – using the spices she could find, she knew what she was making was just not the same.
With their heads still full of the scent and the sight of the plantation, Matt & Magali exchanged a look and a smile, both thinking, ‘Surely we could do that?’ In that one moment, Spice Mountain was born!
Filling their suitcases with the spices easily available in Goa, they returned to London. At first Magali was still working at the AHC, and began to roast and blend in their spare bedroom in her spare time. She thought of it as a hobby at first, but soon realised that she was very good at it, and those dishes her 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, Magali 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.
First day trading on Greenwich Market
Right from the beginning Magali decided that the most important thing to concentrate on was the provenance and freshness of the spices they would sell. Everything on sale was freshly roasted and hand ground, in small quantities, every couple of weeks, with only the best products Magali could find. This would be the major difference between Spice Mountain and anyone else in the same business – her personal touch, everything blended by Magali and carefully examined by the Chief Taster, Matt.
A year later, Magali finally got word back from Borough Market that a pitch was available. Coincidentally she was made redundant from the AHC at pretty much the same time, which ultimately turned her hobby into a career – she was free to devote all her time to her 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.
Early days on Borough Market
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 we 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.
The beating heart of Spice Mountain
As for the future? Well, that is something of an organic affair! That is to say, Magali and Matt have always thought the best road to follow was the one which their customers wanted them to. They believe strongly in listening to you their customers, both for your opinions on the current range, and also ideas that could be developed. Spice Mountain are proud still to be small enough that we can offer the personal touch, to pass on our love for what we do..
Wherever the road leads, , and however the business grows, one thing will remain constant – the principles Magali held initially are still stringently followed. As much as possible, Spice Mountain’s blends are still freshly roasted and hand blended, all of them are still enthusiastically checked by the Chief Taster, and the provenance of the spices is still paramount. A true labour of love!