A few days ago, I wrote a post about vanilla bean pods. Many of you have been asking what other spices I have been able to bring back into the country.
Legally of course. I’m not a spice mule!
Now as many Aussies know, our fine nation had some of the strictest quarantine policies around. Good luck trying to bring back souvenirs made out of shells, animal or plant material.
The folks working in customs aren’t total arseholes, it is genuinely important that we protect our unique eco-system by abiding by a few simple rules. Look at the spread of Cane Toads. We now have four states overrun with these filthy amphibians, and according to the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (what a mouthful), these toadies are expanding west at a rate of 40-60 kilometers per year!
The introduction of the cane toad has directly reduced the numbers of many native species, including the Northern Quoll, goannas and snakes.
In all fairness, the introduction of cane toads wasn’t the result of a customs slip (nor Bart Simpson), it was in fact the fault of the idiots working for the Bureau of Sugar in 1935 trying to eradicate the cane beetle from the sugar crops.
It is however a perfect example of how fragile our eco-system is! With that (rant) in mind, lets delve into the fantastical world of shopping for spices overseas!
Step one, scout around for local (often) open air markets. Find out where the locals buy their produce. If all else fails, hit the local supermarket. Take your time when perusing, use your nose and check for freshness and damage. Ensure packaging is tightly sealed - this will help you greatly at customs! Don’t be afraid to ask if there is more under the counter.
If your at the markets, try to find a supplier that you can buy the majority of your goods from. You’ll be able to barter for a better price when buying in bulk. Remain indifferent when bartering. You don’t need to be a jerk about it, in fact have fun with it and put on your best poker face. Don’t let the seller talk you into buying anything extra that you don’t want. In my experience it’s likely it’s a scam, or they are trying to move old stock.
We have had great success, and a few failures when bringing back spices. At all costs, avoid saffron. We once got swindled out of $25 buying what we thought was a bag of saffron, that turned out to be ‘saf-flower’.
The customs official thought it was hysterical, (jerk), although it did look pretty suss. We have however been able to bring back the following:
- vanilla bean pods (cha-ching!)
- cassia & cinnamon sticks
- whole nutmeg
- pepper - dried and in many varieties
- star anise
- whole dried, powdered and flaked chili
- coriander seed
- cumin seed
- ground turmeric
- dried lemon grass
- pink salt - it was in a sealed jar and infused with spices
- whole coffee beans
- loose left tea - many varieties, just make sure it’s very well sealed
- jarred curry paste
- booze, lovely, lovely booze.
Trust your instincts! You will have absolutely no luck bringing back any dairy or meat products. Fresh fruit and veg is totally out for the question. As a general rule, you should avoid dried flowers and seeds, although many of the spices listed above are seeds (go figure).
In addition we have been able to bring back handmade leather goods (huzzah!), hand made soap, wood carvings, boxes and beads, and my pride and joy from our most recent trip, insect and butterfly specimens!
It was a bit touch and go and I nearly kissed the customs lady when she said they passed inspection! Although it’s worth checking the endangered species list to ensure you are not infringing on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Of course, if you want more information you can check out the Australian Customs and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry websites. Don’t forget to declare, it’s not worth the hefty fines and if your smart, you’ll find most items will be cleared.
Happy shopping! Now can someone please find me some Milo nuggets.....?