Oftentimes the best, most successful businesses are those born from an understanding of a lack of something in a particular neighborhood. Such was the case with the Oaktown Spice Shop, John Beaver and Erica Perez's charming new spice shop in the Grand/Lakeshore neighborhood of Oakland. The first thing you'll notice about the space, once a men's clothing and shaving boutique, is the distinctly handsome aesthetic. The fixtures and shelving are all salvaged, and John searched high and low and pulled from his own personal collection to find the vintage scales and spice jars you'll see scattered about. It's the kind of space where each detail has been tended to, and you can sense right away that everything is in its rightful place. In that way, it feels very special. Very well-crafted. Very welcoming.
During my time there, I tasted two different kinds of cinnamon, and smelled the freshest cumin and coriander I've ever come across. I also learned about Tellicherry black peppercorns, which John described as fully ripened with a more refined flavor than traditional black peppercorn. When I told him I wasn't aware there were so many kinds of peppercorns, he likened the difference to varieties of tomatoes and how drastically they can differ in taste. After talking with John for just a moment, you realize you're dealing with a man who really knows his spices and blends. From the common to the more obscure, you're in good hands here.
Star Anise and Nutmeg
When John found out I was a baker, we chatted all about different varieties of cinnamon and vanilla, and I'm so looking forward to trying them out in apple and pear pies. If you're used to buying bulk spices at Whole Foods or other upscale grocery stores you're going to notice two things right away when you walk into Oaktown Spice Shop: first the prices are far better. Second, the spices are far, far fresher. You can open up the jars and take a sniff and it's possible that you won't even recognize some familiar spices you use often. This happened to me pretty quickly. New Year's Resolution #62.